Friday, June 21, 2013

RIP James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini was an actor whose performances over nine seasons helped bring a great renaissance to American drama on television. We don't have to exclusively mourn the absence of great theatrical works by, say, an Arthur Miller or an August Wilson anymore. Now we can always rent seasons of Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. He never got to play another vital role in any medium again, despite a few exceptions here and there. But he and Tony Soprano became equally iconic as a result. We just never thought we would lose Gandolfini before he got a chance at another great role onstage or in movies or on TV. It's a shame that his character was more indestructible than he.

But Gandolfini was also a Jets fan, and that makes him that much more special to the small number of North Jersey Gang Green devotees who are wondering where the hammer will fall on us this year. As we recall - and as it's been noted many times - because of Gandolfini's devotion, Eric Mangini was given a brief appearance on The Sopranos right after the 2006 season, when the coach was still considered, as Artie Bucco calls him, the "Mangenius."

The link above does not include what Tony says to Carmela when he returns to the table: "More like Mangina." It hardly seemed fair or decent for Tony to have said it, but then he was always several steps ahead of everyone else. He had to be. Maybe Tony wasn't a true follower, but Gandolfini was, and we can hardly bear to be without his great, comforting presence in the stands, let alone as a great actor and self-made guy of the highest sort. He was the ideal Jets fan.

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