How we’ll miss you, Crazy Old Guy A.K.A. Disco Stu A.K.A. Phil Tozzi, as I just learned:
The ball hit Phil Tozzi’s head so hard that he struggled to stand back up. It was 1999, and he’d been playing in a rec-league softball game. His 6-year-old son watched from the stands. Tozzi spent the next three years white-knuckle dizzy until doctors finally discovered the problem: His brain had slumped into his ear canal. They opened his skull and fixed him. “All of a sudden,” he says, “I was like, ‘I’m alive, damn it! I’m alive!’”
With the dizziness gone, Tozzi found that all he wanted to do was dance. “When I was a young Italian stallion, I danced then. But this was a reboot.” He turned himself into a traveling spectacle, hitting nightclubs in Vegas and the stands of Yankee Stadium in outfits that would outshine Elton John’s. But his regular stop became his favorite team’s home arena: He went to almost every Nets home game, shaking his fiftysomething booty like Saturday Night Fever is a muscular disorder.
Last season, (Phil) Tozzi told team executives that he can’t swing a season ticket at Barclays Center’s higher prices; Ehrline said that they’d “work with him on a package that may make some sense,” but that never happened. “So, looks like it’s over for me and the team formerly called the Nets,” Tozzi says. But he’s not done dancing; the Nets were just one stage. “The real dancing, the real me, comes when I don’t care,” he says. “I’m just channeling that feeling. I’ll do it on the side of the road. I’ll do it in the supermarket. Nobody tells me when it’s time to dance.” This summer, he took his kids on a vacation out west. They went to a Dodgers game, and he wore a blue Austin Powers shirt. Around the seventh inning, the cameras found him, and there he was again, boogying on a Jumbotron.
For those of you that never had the pleasure of attending a game in East Rutherford or Newark, you may not have known the glory that was Phil Tozzi. He was there every game, as much a staple of the franchise as bad defense or low attendance figures. He contorted and jackknifed his body in ways most people would be embarrassed to admit wasn’t a serious medical issue, but he always did it with care (or perhaps the lack thereof necessary) and confidence. Though it seems like he may have danced his last Nets game, I imagine there’s a chance we’ll see him again.
I mean, we still have Mr. Whammy.
Read More: NY Mag — Too Cool for Dancing — Net loss.