You might look at the title of this post and wonder, as a UK based fan, what on earth I could have to say about the impact of Fireman Ed and the JETS chant considering the biggest influence is (or was) felt by those at MetLife Stadium week by week. However, as I tweeted already, it was that chant, led at that time by Fireman Ed himself, which first made me first feel like a Jets fan. I’ll admit, on that warm August night at Met Life Stadium in 2010, I had not a clue what was going on beyond that the Jets were playing the Giants but nevertheless the atmosphere and experience was enough to captivate my interest. Then, not long into the game, something started, something which sparked life around the whole stadium. J….E….T….S…. (you all know the rest). By the second reprise I was standing, wearing my crisp new white Mark Sanchez t-shirt purchased for the occasion, shouting ‘Jets, Jets, Jets’ at the top of my voice. There was something about that moment, the way the chant galvanised the fans in one voice, that completely swept me up in a wave of Jets mania, which I haven’t jumped off since. From then on, Fireman Ed was an integral part of the Jets for me (much as Rex Ryan was), appearing from time to time during TV coverage much to my excitement, until he hung up his helmet in 2012. Completely understandably, due to the abuse he frequently suffered from so called fellow fans, but nevertheless a huge loss to the Jets family. When I visited Metlife again last year, the chant was still there (the Jets ran a competition for other fans to lead it each game) but it wasn’t the same. Ed was the face, the voice and the driving force and somehow some of the passion was lacking. The fact his stepping down was reported nationally is indicative of his impact. Having listened to him speaking so passionately on ‘Lets Talk Jets’ (@talkjetsradio) podcast about his love for both the Jets and the tradition of the chant, I got thinking about his importance, not only to myself, but to the wider Jets community.
British sports fans are familiar with the concept of the chant or song sung by fans of a particular team and for most English soccer teams, the singing of these is central to the game day experience. Some are less than polite in their content but it’s hard not to be moved by unified Liverpool fans singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’ or ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ ringing around Twickenham, even if you root for the other team. As I child I stood behind the goal at Elland Road singing, or more accurately, shouting along to ‘Marching on Together’ and had a whole repertoire of other chants, mostly in the anti-Manchester United genre. So for me, the J.E.T.S chant seemed a familiar part of a sporting event. What all these have in common is their unifying effect on the fans of a team. In some way they bring everyone together in a common aim, even if that is being less than complementary to the opposition. Around the NFL, from what I’ve witnessed, most fan interaction seems more focused on what is happening on the field (important too); making noise when defending third downs and cheering first downs, penalties and touchdowns. Of course there is the ‘Who dat?’ and the ‘Who dey?’ and various other chants around the league but as a Jets fan hearing ‘J.E.T.S’ has the same effect as ‘We hate Man U’ had for me as a mini Leeds fan. It brings us together.
It’s ironic really that someone trying to do something to unify the JETS fan base was effectively forced out by the very people he was trying to galvanise. Yes, he is a divisive figure but for me the value of fans unified by a common call can’t be underestimated. I truly hope that the ‘Bring back Ed’ petition (@firejohnidzik) is successful, but even if Ed himself decides not to come back, let’s hope that the Jets do something to keep the tradition alive properly. Listening to MetLife regulars speak of their disappointment in the current game day experience and holding up what is done at other places such as Seattle as a gold standard seems sad considering that we have that special and unique thing. One thing I know for sure is I can’t wait to proudly scream ‘J.E.T.S Jets Jets Jets’ at the top of my voice at Wembley in October and I hope that the next time I get over to New Jersey, the chant has been bought back to life, whether the man in the fireman’s hat is leading it or not.