Saying goodbye to Jets fan James Gandolfini

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Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

The Jets faithful lost one of our most well-known fans yesterday with the shocking news that New Jersey born actor James Gandolfini, most notable as star of HBO’s The Sopranos, died of a heart attack (or stroke) while he vactioning in Italy with his sister and his son.

“We’re deeply saddened to hear about the passing of our friend James Gandolfini,” the Jets official Twitter account stated last night. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family & friends.”

To explain to younger readers who didn’t watch the show. “The Sopranos” was a runaway success and essentially changed the face of television.  Up until then, cable was the home for re-runs and bad programming, but the Sopranos was the show that changed the paradigm and allowed for modern shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Game of Thrones to exist.  The Sopranos was inextricably linked to the culture of the United States between 1999 and 2007 and was appointment television for many and it was vital to what HBO is now today.  Matt Cerrone of Metsblog wrote one of the most poignant articles on the ending of the show.

While Gandolfini, 51, was most known for his role in The Sopranos, he was not at all similar to the character he portrayed as is clearly in evidence during his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio.  For more quotes about who he was, read the compilation of them on Warming Glow.

Gandolfini has long been a sports enthusiast, attending many football, hockey and Rutgers games in the past ten years, many with this family.  According to a 2004 interview with ESPN, while Gandolfini liked other sports, he said he was devoted to football.  “I like football,” Gandolfini told ESPN’s Miki Turner. “But very little else.”

His devotion to the game showed.  As a Rutgers alum, Gandolfini was a well-known booster of his school, even appearing in some ads and a series of promo videos filmed by Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli.  Gandolfini also was the narrator of the NFL Yearbook for the 2011 season of the Jets.

But of all the on-screen work he did related to sports, the one many know him best for and the one that Jets fans hold dear was this scene on a 2007 episode of the Sopranos.

It’s short, but it’s a great scene, particularly the “I should go say hello” line.  Even at the bottom of Tony’s sometimes sweet, but often misguided sociopathic heart, the mob boss of northern New Jersey was just a another fawning fan like the rest of us.

We are saddened by the loss of Mr. Gandolfini and pray for his family and friends.  He will be missed, and has a special place in the heart of Jets fans.

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