EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Bill Belichick once famously quit the New York Jets, without ever coaching a game, by scribbling "I resign as HC of the NYJ" on a piece of paper.
The Jets' most attention-seeking fan, "Fireman Ed", aka former New York firefighter Ed Anzalone, used 275 words to do essentially the same thing. In a self-penned column in the Metro, the free newspaper handed out mostly at subway stations, Anzalone announced he will no longer attend games as "Fireman Ed."
Anzalone became famous for leading the "J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets" chants at home games while wearing a fireman's helmet.
Anzalone cited the coarsening of conditions at Jets games due to fans' anger at the team's struggles this season and the quarterback controversy between starter Mark Sanchez and backup Tim Tebow. Anzalone wears a Sanchez jersey to games and said he left Thursday's blowout loss to the New England Patriots at halftime due to heckling.
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"This is an indication of how society has lost and is continuing to lose respect for one another," Anzalone wrote. "… The fact that I chose to wear a Mark Sanchez jersey this year and that fans think I am on the payroll – which is an outright lie – have made these confrontations more frequent. Whether it's in the stands, the bathroom or the parking lot, these confrontations are happening on a consistent basis.
"Although I can 'hold my own,' I do not want to lose my temper and make a stupid mistake," he continued.
Anzalone said he'll still attend games, just not wearing the helmet or to lead cheers on the stadium Jumbotron. He has been a Jets fan since 1975. The team has failed to win a Super Bowl during that time (its only championship came in 1968).
The defection of Fireman Ed is the latest in the Jets' bizarre, circus-like season which has included as many soap opera turns as ugly defeats. The fact that a fan would need to write a column explaining his rationale for quitting what is an unpaid, unofficial "job" is comical yet predictable.
The Jets are a disappointing 4-7 on the season and the offseason signing of Tebow has made little impact on the field while leaving the team dealing with repeated sideshows and unnecessary dramas – from teammates anonymously ripping him to an apparent fan division so deep that even Fireman Ed is wary of having to fight someone in the stands.
"We have had much worse teams than this and I never left before," Anzalone wrote. "I pride myself in that, because I am not a quitter."
The Jets have had far worse teams through the years. Yet maybe none has been quite as strange as this season's club.
At least Belichick, who cited uncertain ownership for quitting in 2000 after just one day on the job, practiced brevity in his announcement. Fireman Ed went on and on. Belichick wound up the head coach of archrival New England, where he's won three Super Bowls and dominated the AFC East.
That decision truly hurt the franchise. This one is simply absurd.
"I will always love the Jets because they are in my heart, and I will attend games as usual, just not as Fireman Ed," Anzalone wrote. "God bless and, as always, let's go Jets!"
It's a circus perhaps only the J-E-T-S could create.
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