Thousands of fans flooded the New York Jets' training camp in Florham Park to send off Gang Green as they fly to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in their first AFC Championship Game since 1998 and fight to play in their second Super Bowl in team history.
Fans with painted faces, a kid who begged his dentist to paint his braces green and white, a man with a Jets green cast on his broken arm and other diehard believers created a "runway" at the training facility to help their Jets take flight. Players ran through the crowds shaking hands as ebullient fans bellowed with excitement for a team playing its best football in 40 years. It was electric.
In one booming, unified voice, fans, led by "Fireman Ed" Anzalone, unleashed the chant that has helped carry the New York Jets through season after season, for better and for worse.
"J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets," they cheered repeatedly, louder each time.
Brimming with the brash confidence that makes him a New York-style leader, rookie head coach Rex Ryan showed some love to the crowd.
"We came out here … we had one goal," Ryan said. "Our goal is to win the Super Bowl."
Jets fullback Tony Richardson spoke on his team's behalf. He acknowledged that the season, like life, has had its ups and downs, but thanked fans for their loyalty throughout the rollercoaster and pledged that the team would represent all of them in their journey to Indianapolis.
"As we get onto this plane, we're taking each one of you guys with us because you guys have supported us throughout the season," Richardson said.
Some fans, fanatic in their revelry, even got to personally wish their heroes well.
"It was awesome," one lucky fan said.
Jets fever swept the city after the gang beat the Cincinnati Bengals to net a wild-card berth on Jan. 3. And the team's unlikely playoff run continues to infuse a special kind of energy into New York. Earlier this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson helped throw a massive pep rally for Gang Green in Times Square. Jets running back great Curtis Martin, sparkplug Leon Washington, who the team lost to a Week 7 injury, Jets owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and super-fan "Fireman Ed" were all on hand to invigorate supporters and cheer on the team that defeated the then-Baltimore Colts to win their first and only Super Bowl in 1969 and now battles for a shot to do it again.