Day Six: Questioning My Fanhood After the Fall of Fireman Ed

by Tom Noonan

There’s a scene in Robert Siegel’s oddly excellent Big Fan where Patton Oswalt’s troubled Giants diehard shoots his Eagles counterpart, Philadelphia Phil, who has disrespected both Oswalt’s character, Paul, and the Giants on numerous occasions throughout the film.  For a brief, horrifying second, it looks like Paul has actually killed his arch enemy, but the ammo is soon revealed to be red and blue paintballs meant to stain the green worn by the other side.  It’s a weirdly thrilling scene that also serves as one of the best commentaries on “fanhood” ever put on screen.

Over the weekend, Fireman Ed quit the Jets, and the way I thought about my fanhood changed instantly.  In his letter to the world, but more specifically the portion of the world that roots, plays, coaches, and manages for the New York Jets franchise, Fireman Ed wrote that it was “the confrontations with other Jets fans” that caused him to retire his white and green helmet.  He has been wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey all season, and the remarks made to him during games and the quarterback’s poor play finally reached a breaking point.

Reading this, as an Eagles fan, I thought about the implications of quitting on my fanhood because of other fans.  These are supposed to be the like-minded people who live and breathe the way you do.  They’re like a much larger, more cooperative spouse that laughs, cheers, and cries with you, but, this weekend, one of the NFL’s most prominent fans asked for a divorce.  I started asking myself what being a fan, what giving yourself to a team completely, actually means.

Then I came back to Paul and Philadelphia Phil and the paintballs.  I thought about how being a fan is about wanting to paint the world with your team’s colors, to leave your city’s mark everywhere.  It is about pride and respect and sharing experiences with insane amounts of people who you can never hope to fully understand but totally, unequivocally understand on one semi-important level.  It’s not about holding a loaded gun to your enemies because that trigger is not yours to pull.  It’s no one’s to pull.  Fanhood is about the bigger entity, what the logo represents but can never fully contain.  It’s about feeling a part of a whole that is only important because it’s made up of pieces like you.  Fireman Ed lost that feeling.  I hope I never do.