The in-stadium experience at New York Jets games has never been ideal. Whether it was the goofy “Game-Ball” attempting to lead cheers on the video board a few years back or the occasional saturation of away fans (remember Jets vs. Pittsburgh in 2007?), I wouldn’t call the Jets home-field advantage one of the league’s best. It wasn’t easy to play in “Giants Stadium” with red seats and an overall vibe that was catered to the other team to town.
There was a brief positive respite in 2009 and 2010, the final year in the old stadium and the first year in the new stadium. The best Jets crowd I’ve experienced in my life was a week 2 victory over the New England Patriots in 2009. It was a rare occasion where the crowd seemingly took over the game. The building shook. Tom Brady and the New England offense was forced into multiple false starts and delay of game penalties. The sirens rang every time Rex Ryan’s defense took the field. There was a unique level of energy that day. This positive environment generally carried over the rest of the season and into 2010, not surprisingly mirroring the success of the team.
The past two years and particularly last season, there has been a harsh regression to the mean. For some reason, the Jets decided to trot out a collection of C-List celebrities (Ralph Macchio, Kevin James, and John Cena among them) to lead pre-game J-E-T-S chants. Away fans began to dominate the stands (remember the 49ers game last season?) and Fireman Ed hung up his hat after constantly being harassed for wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey.
Think about that, the guy who has been leading the J-E-T-S chant for decades was chased out of his own building for wearing the jersey of the starting quarterback while the team was in the playoff race (which, shockingly they were until December last year). I’m not going to sit here and say Fireman Ed’s schtick couldn’t be irritating at times and there isn’t a level of silliness to a guy hopping on his brother’s shoulder and leading out the spelling of a team name. Yet, plenty of teams have their own stupid idiosyncrasies. This was our dumb chant. The dumb chant you learned from your dad, older brother or uncle when you were a little kid going to Jets games for the first time. The fans had ownership of it led by one fan in a sweet 80s Jets jersey with a cool hat on (yes, I thought that hat was cool as hell when I was kid at Jets games and you did too).
Regardless, Fireman Ed is relegated to just attending games as a “normal fan” now. He probably should have never ventured on Twitter but by all accounts he is a good guy who is just understandably exhausted. The same Jets fans who harassed him for the Sanchez jersey are the same Jets fans who cheered Chad Pennington hurting his ankle in 2006 because they wanted to see Kellen ‘Freakin Clemens play. Those fans now talk about Pennington in reverential tones because that is the cycle for certain Jets fans and many fans of other teams. Love the player. Then hate the player. Root for the next guy up. Miss the player when he is gone and wistfully reminisce about him years later.
Now the Jets organization has consolidated the J-E-T-S chant into an odd wave/YMCA hybrid where every section has a letter. A rule of thumb is that if there needs to be a client relation phone number listed to call for questions about a chant, it isn’t a good idea. Like many, I anticipate this to be a disorganized mess, where various odd “celebrities” or stadium workers are assigned as section leaders. Let’s hear it for Mitt Romney in the “J” Section! Mike Greenberg in the “E” section! LaMont Jordan in the “T” section! And bringing it home…Ray Romano in the “S” section! It’s Go Time!
Less can be more, New York Jets. Give us a good introduction of our starters with an uptempo current song. You can even keep the sirens for the first play of defensive series…and that’s enough. Leave the chanting to the fans.