A former firefighter stationed in Harlem, Anzalone has been leading chants since 1989, which is also the year ESPN’s Chris Berman gave him his now famous nickname. He’s been a fixture at home and road games ever since (though he’s taken a few years off here and there), often leaning one leg up on a railing as he launches into his signature, “J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets!” chant.
“When you don’t win a championship for 54 years—and you share a stadium with the Giants, who’ve won four—it’s not easy,” Anzalone continued. “But that makes me love ’em even more. It shows your passion, your loyalty.”
While most fans at the tailgate were wearing jerseys (some were even courageous enough to sport new starting QB Zach Wilson’s number), others chose to don t-shirts that more accurately depicted their state of mind. One read “Oh The Pain” in the shape of the Jets logo, while another spelled out Jets as “Just Endure The Suffering.”
Everyone was eager to share—almost as a form of catharsis—their own unique stories of where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the season-altering Rodgers injury. One fan said he was listening on his car radio and nearly swerved off the road. Another was half asleep on the couch and thought it was a bad dream.
“I was at the game and got to my seat a little late, right at the start of the Jets’ second drive,” said Tim Mullins, a lifelong fan from Manhattan. “I guess I basically missed the Aaron Rodgers era!”
And while Jets fans are split on how the team should proceed, particularly at the quarterback position, there was a growing consensus at the tailgate as to why the Jets are mired in disaster.
“Joe Namath sold his soul to the devil, plain and simple,” said fan Steve Mulvey, only half joking. “Joe said, ‘I’ll star in those ads for pantyhose and fur coats if I can get one Super Bowl—and then the team will never win one again.”
As if to explain himself, Mulvey added: “I’m a Mets fan, too, so… I’ve got issues.”
Regardless of why the Jets have experienced prolonged agony, Anzalone said his mission the rest of this season is clear: Keep fans optimistic and cheer the Jets on to as good a finish as possible, maybe even sneak into the playoffs. And as more and more fans packed into the tailgate, Anzalone grabbed a microphone and led one of his signature chants. A few fans with Chiefs jerseys wandered in, to a spattering of boos, while a cover band started up a rendition of Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” (maybe a fitting song for Jets fans).