James Gandolfini, a great actor and a football fan


James Gandolfini, the acclaimed actor who died on Wednesday at the age of 51, may have more fully embodied the role of Tony Soprano than any other actor ever captured any character. The Sopranos is among America’s most influential television shows, and it’s impossible to imagine the show without Gandolfini at its core.

But Gandolfini was also a great football fan who loved the Jets and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers coach who was at Rutgers when Gandolfini rose to stardom on The Sopranos, praised Gandolfini for using his fame to help attract attention to the Rutgers football program.

“I am sad to hear of the passing of Jim Gandolfini,” Schiano said. “He was a great supporter of Rutgers Football long before it was fashionable to be so. His generosity in helping us lent relevance to our football program at a time when it was desperately needed. In addition to his acting acclaim, he will be remembered by all Rutgers people as a compassionate alum and a great New Jerseyian.”

Gandolfini spent many of his autumn Sundays attending Jets games, and former Jets coach Eric Mangini appeared in one episode, with Tony seeing “the Mangenius” out at dinner and deciding to go say hello. The Jets released a statement saying, “We’re deeply saddened to hear about the passing of our friend James Gandolfini. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family & friends.”

His New Jersey mob boss character Tony Soprano liked football, too, although that was in large part because he profited from bookmaking. When episodes of The Sopranos featured characters watching football, HBO had to show Canadian football because there was no way the NFL was going to license its game footage as part of a mobster’s gambling activities.

Those clips of Tony Soprano watching the CFL were a rare few inauthentic aspects of a great television show. The man who made that show work will be missed.

29 responses to “James Gandolfini, a great actor and a football fan

  1. I remember the episode where he excused himself from his table at a restaurant to introduce himself to the ‘Mangenius.’

    Was hoping to hear a single shot ring out while Carmella waited for him to return.

  2. Hard for me to envision him as anything but Tony Soprano, but from all accounts he sounded like a great man and friend to those who knew him.

    51… what a shame!!

  3. “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!” *looks to opposing team fans* “Any of you got a problem with that?”

    Sigh…would have been awesome to see. R.I.P.

  4. This great actors passing at 51 is a brutal reminder that we each need to live every single day of our lives as fully and well as possible because you just plain never know when your own time will run out on you. RIP, RIP.

  5. I couldn’t be more sad about this. Superlatives are often tossed around in times like these that in many cases, aren’t deserved. But when people say what a great actor he was, that’s no exaggeration. He was AWESOME. If you haven’t seen True Romance, please do and tell me the scene where he and Patricia Arquette go at it isn’t insane and JG made it terrifying just with a look and his creepy calmness. And of course his portrayal of Tony Soprano was iconic. And by all accounts, he was a wonderful person. There aren’t many celebrity deaths that piss me off. When I think about what we will now miss out on, I realize this is one of them. Ugh. RIP and safe travels.

  6. Did anyone at pft read the interview when he said he got into acting to take out his aggression so he wouldn’t beat women anymore. This was NOT a nice guy. Good actor maybe. But to celebrate a woman beater is sick.

  7. In his 2012 AP interview, Gandolfini said he gravitated to acting as a release, a way to get rid of anger. “I don’t know what exactly I was angry about,” he said.
    “I try to avoid certain things and certain kinds of violence at this point,” he said last year. “I’m getting older, too. I don’t want to be beating people up as much. I don’t want to be beating women up and those kinds of things that much anymore.”

  8. I’ve been watching the Sopranos reruns on HBO in the evenings the last few weeks (they are playing them in order every week night) and it just sucks that he’s gone. I heard he was working on a new series with HBO and now I can only wonder what that might have been like. Godspeed.

  9. Did this guy cure cancer and solve the Middle East problems. Jeez he was an actor. Are you all really that enamored by Hollywood. Is it sad he passed away, yes it is. Just like the thousands of others that did yesterday. The perspective in this country is just ridiculous.

  10. So in a thread about James Gandolfini his fans shouldn’t praise him, bcedge68 ?

    Did you mistake this for a thread about cancer or the situation in the Middle East?

  11. For anyone, anyone to lay a “thumbs down” to any post above, shows a pathetic, small-minded, hatred-filled, puke who wastes oxygen.

  12. R.I.P.
    I recall him dining w/ Carmela at Artie Bucco’s restaurant while “Mangenius” was there.

  13. One of the greats whether people know it or not.. True Romance was a classic, mexican was good and The Sopranos was great.. im gonna miss this guy not only because he was a great actor and man but because he represented the classic, jersey italian guy who always rooted for the Jets through the ups and downs, throwing his hands up whenever they lost, harnessing his inner Tony and saying “whaddaya gonna do?”

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