New York's Big 3: Unofficial Mascots
In the wake of Fireman Ed's retirement, I felt it appropriate to deliver a salute to some of New York sports' biggest personalities. The unofficial mascot is a position that brings with it honor, respect and a borderline celebrity status. Their personalities grow so large to the point where they become an actual, tangible piece of the franchise's image.
But with the power that comes from accepting this role comes great responsibility. The unofficial mascot cannot merely turn the game off like a casual fan sitting comfortably in his living room.
Even during the lowest of lows, in the midst of extended losing streaks and lifeless play, fans will turn to these figures as someone to whom they will follow for guidance. There's no massive contracts or exorbitant endorsement deals; only pride and team loyalty. So with that, let's take a look at New York's big 3 of unofficial mascots.
Might as well start with the man of the hour.For decades, Ed Anzalone has graced the crowds in the Meadowlands with a passionate, animated AND synchronized cheer.
Writing as a Jets fan, I can relay first hand the feeling of excitement as the crowd quiets to a near silence just moments before the stadium erupts in "J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!" Like the calm before the storm, it's a feeling of anticipation unmatched in any other setting.
Ed earned his praise years ago when he began routinely appearing on the stadium's big screen, leading the raucous home field crowd in a unified chant. Years later, he has become a staple at Jets home games, one time receiving a game ball from Rex Ryan after the team beat the Patriots in 2009.
The retired firefighter has unfortunately decided to call it quits after this tumultuous season has resulted in numerous confrontations with disgruntled Jets fans. Most of these fights have been spurred on by Ed's decision to continue wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey, despite the quarterback's inconsistent play and seemingly endless blooper reel.
fans have even gone as far as accusing Fireman Ed of being on the Jets payroll with the assigned task of building a support system for the struggling quarterback.
This most recent string of incidents has pushed Ed over the edge to the point where he has deleted his Twitter and regressed to being a normal fan.
Despite a messy breakup with the Jets faithful, Fireman Ed will always be remembered for his incredible passion, unwavering enthusiasm and unrivaled ability to unify an entire stadium in the common goal of creating a home field advantage.
Spike Lee is known by the masses as a producer, documentarian and a recognizable face in Hollywood. But anyone relatively informed in the sports world pictures the man in the thick-rimmed glasses sitting court side at a Knicks game, rooting the team on to victory.
Lee's fight to expose some of the underlying racial issues experienced in modern society through his films pales in comparison to his epic battle with Reggie Miller during Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.
On that historic night in June, Reggie Miller went off on a hot streak for the ages. Scoring 25 points in the 4th quarter alone, Miller single-handedly willed the Pacers to a win and a 3-2 series lead—one they would inevitable relinquish.
Throughout the entire display of athletic heroism, Miller could be seen jawing with Spike Lee, to whom the superstar would later attribute some of the motivation for that night's magic.
Spike Lee has become as consistent a tradition of Madison Square Garden's recent history as misguided free agent signings and disappointing seasons.
If you purchase a ticket for section 203 at Yankee Stadium, the $14-$18 face value with an additional surcharge from StubHub.com buys you way more than a backless bleacher seat and an obstructed view.
The "Bleacher Creatures," as they have so endearingly been nicknamed, with Bald Vinny at the helm, begin each game at the stadium with a series of chanted player introductions that elicits a response from each of the nine guys on the field.
Vinny Milano has spent years creating a culture just beyond the right field fence at Yankee Stadium—a culture he has turned into a lucrative t-shirt business. By visiting section203.com, fans can immerse themselves in a community created by the man with the sleek dome and blacked out sunglasses.
Furthermore, Bald Vinny has carried on a tradition of inviting celebrities and relevant sports icons to join him in leading the nightly cheer. Up until its recent banishment as part of the new stadium's policy, the end of roll call used to feature an enthusiastic "Box seats suck!" aimed directly to the left at the higher-priced seating location.
Bald Vinny and the rest of the creatures have established themselves as the haven for "true" Yankee fans.