Times Square was ablaze in green and white Thursday night as diehard Jets fans gathered at a pep rally to cheer on Gang Green as the team prepares to face the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game .
Sunday will mark the Jets' first appearance in a title game since 1998. With a win, the team goes to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1968 season – and the city held a rally to send them off in style.
Jets super-fan "Fireman Ed" Anzalone, perched on his cousin's shoulders as he appears during all home Jets games, led the crowd in the resounding J-E-T-S chant that made him famous as the Jets flight crew dazzled spectators with their pom-poms and sharp moves.
"In 1982, we knocked on a door," Fireman Ed bellowed, referring to the Jets' heart-wrenching loss to Miami in the AFC Championship game that year. "In 1998, we knocked on a door. It's 2010, we're knocking on the door. We're pounding on the door. The third time's the charm."
The crowd booed upon mention of the Colts, who won Super Bowl XLI, and, by some standards, helped net the Jets a wild-card playoff berth by resting their starters in the second to last game of the regular season, paving the way for New York to employ a win-and-we're-in strategy. But all that's over now. Only Sunday matters.
Flanked by Jets running back great Curtis Martin, Jets owner Woody Johnson, Gov. David Paterson and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, Mayor Michael Bloomberg energized the crowd in a back-and-forth "are you ready" chant.
"Whenever the Jets play the Colts in a big game and the Colts are supposed to be unbeatable, the Jets win. We all know what happened in '69, don't we?" Bloomberg asked the cheering crowd, referring to the Jets one and only Super Bowl victory over the then-Baltimore Colts in Miami that year.
And for any Colts fans who don't think the Jets can pull off another unlikely win, the mayor urged them to visit Revis Island -- the place where opposing star receivers disappear when matched up against the Jets formidable cornerback, Darelle Revis.
Jets' sparkplug Leon Washington, the versatile running back whose season came to a woeful end when he suffered a compound fracture against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7, was also on hand for the rally. And good news, fans – he's off crutches.
"One thing about that Jets team this year … is the belief that we're going to win," Washington said. "Every Sunday we go out there … we believe we're gonna win."
There have been some heart-breaking disappointments in the past, however, which Gov. David Paterson, a self-described lifelong Jets fan, mentioned painfully. But he said this time is different.
"We're going to get there this time," the governor said.
The Jets have long been considered the "other" New York team, secondary to the New York Giants. But this year it's all about Gang Green -- and Tannenbaum, the architect of the 2009 Jets, appreciates that.
"When we take the field to take the Colts on Sunday, not only are we playing for each other, we're playing for you, the best fans in New York, Jets fans," Tannenbaum said. "I wouldn't trade our team for anybody else in the NFL. We're going to go out there, we're going to play our hearts out and we hope to see you in a couple more weeks."