Married to the Mets

Married to the Mets: We Never Met

CitiField hasn’t had a lot of good moments in its short history.

I can think of maybe a handful.  Yet in its short history, we haven’t had a defining moment.

No Piazza bringing-baseball-back-to-New-York home run.

No seven-run-deficit-in-8th-inning comebacks versus the Atlanta Braves in the middle of a heated rivalry on Fireworks Night.

No Game 7 of the 1986 World Series to get over.

No Game 6.

No Jerry Koosman leaping into Jerry Grote’s arms.

No Grand-Slam-Singles.

No Hendu Candu walk off.

Most generations of Mets fans have that defining moment from Shea Stadium.  Yet, not from CitiField.

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We discussed the games we’d been to.  The last game at Shea was a bittersweet memory in 2008.  The John Maine game in 2007.  The Mets NL East clincher in 2006.  Fireworks Night in 2000.  Several home openers.

We never met.

I sat in the Mezzanine at Shea Stadium for nearly eight years.  I was on the third base side, he was on the first base side.

We never met.

I was on MySpace and Facebook, but gravitated towards Facebook.  I had a built-in network of bloggers I was friends with, and was a fixture there pretty quickly.  He was a MySpace fixture.  We became friends on Facebook, but neither one of us could pinpoint when we became friends.  Suddenly, it seemed, we appeared on each others feeds.

We never met.

I had blogged on the Mets for a few years, and it gave me not only an outlet but a new network of people I had never dreamed of meeting.  Sure, I went to many Mets games, and I had a close-knit community in the sections I sat.  But the new network went to new people, close and far.  I was visiting friends on the west coast, and recognized people at games in the midwest.  He was distinct.  He carried bears around, and took pictures of them and wrote stories on them.

We never met.

You know where we met?

Ironically, it was Build-A-Bear Day, August 1, 2009.  I was sitting in the Promenade that day, as was he.  He was sweet, a little shy.  But we bonded over our new bears.

I wouldn’t say there was love at sight.  But we were friends.  And three weeks later, I had completed my West Coast road trip, and we attended our first game together.

As irony would have it, that was the 1969 Mets reunion game.  That same night, a friend of ours was hosting her son’s bar mitzvah.  I had missed the “cut off,” but truth be told, it wasn’t a huge deal.  I had met the child once, maybe twice, although later on that very friend who held that bar mitzvah that night later was a witness at our wedding.

We talked more than Mets that night.  After all, it was a game against the Phillies, and they kicked our ass as often as we changed our clothes.  We talked about comic books and Kevin Smith.  I told him a joke about Chase Utley and Taco Bell.  He told me there was such a thing as raspberry Pop-Tarts.  We also discovered that neither one of us heated up Pop-Tarts.  Mine were room temp; his were frozen.

The next day was a Sunday game, and I ended up going at the last minute.  He told me to come visit him.  So I did, and he had a gift for me.

It was a box of raspberry Pop-Tarts.

Looking back, it was sort of like when Lloyd Dobler gave Diane Court a box of Bavarian pretzels on their first date.

I can’t say that it was love at second sight.  But I do know it was sincerity at first sight.

As the season ended in 2009, he asked, “Well, what do you do in the offseason?”  That’s the first sign of a baseball fan: you classify the calendar year as “Season/Offseason.”  I kind of shrugged and said that I usually just go to the gym more, drink less and go to the movies.  I said that I usually go to movies by myself.  I wasn’t trying to elicit sympathy, because I actually kind of enjoy it.  I still don’t know if it was under the guise of “friends” or a “date” or if he felt bad for me, but he asked me to a movie.  It was a zombie flick.  I said, hell-to-the-no.

But I realized I could speak my mind with him.  I couldn’t do that with a significant other in the past without it blowing up in my face.

As time went on, we spent more time together.  As “friends.”  I’m not sure where the switch turned on from friends to lovers.  But I can tell you when I realized he was a keeper.

In the offseason leading to 2010, I needed to have routine outpatient surgery.  My doctor and his staff had prepared me, and I’d be out later that day.  He offered to stay with me.  I said no.  He said he’d be happy to take me back home.  I live about 12 blocks from the hospital.  I said no, thank you, I would be fine.

Till the nurse on staff said she wouldn’t let me sign my liability forms till I had someone there who agreed to escort me home.  A friend, a parent, a relative, anybody.

He had stayed in the waiting room with me, till he was given the okay that I was good to go.  I asked him for his work number that I hadn’t yet memorized and apologized for being so stubborn.

I equate that day to the time on Sex and the City, when Miranda needed help after her LASIK surgery, and she kept telling Steve she didn’t want to rescued.  “NO RESCUE!” she screamed at him as he tried to get her ready for bed.  That was me.  I didn’t feel like I needed to be rescued.  Till I realized, I could be in a partnership, and be in it together.

I looked at him differently after that.

By Opening Day, we knew we wanted to get married.  Four weeks later, we were.

He wore a Mets tie.  I wore a blue ring that was also “borrowed.”  Our friends and witnesses were Mets fans and we all had one goal that day.  After the ceremony, we needed to find the Mets game on a TV somewhere.  See, they had a weekday day-game against the Reds in Cincinnati.  The Mets lost that day.

Our one year anniversary was celebrated at another weekday day-game, against the San Francisco Giants.  He surprised me by getting our names on the scoreboard.

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Maybe our marriage isn’t perfect, but whose is?

We make it work, and the crux of our relationship is making each laugh and talking baseball.  In my life, as I had relationships with significant others, maybe a piece might have lacked.  I was always the bigger sports fan and had to make concessions to not watching games or talking baseball all the time.  That’s probably why I became a blog groupie when I did.  He understands that it’s not only a part of my life, but that I need someone who is just as passionate about them as I am.

I might not have needed to marry a Ranger or a Jets fan.  But I did need someone who was just as devoted to baseball as I was.  I was lucky enough to find a guy who loved the Mets just as much as I did.

It takes a special person to be a baseball fan.  I’m not talking about a Johnny-Come-Lately person who goes to games occasionally.   I’m talking about a fan who lives, breathes and eats baseball, is connected to their teams’ games 162 games a year, from April to September.  If your team is lucky enough to make the playoffs, you’re preoccupied till November.  Factor in pitchers and catchers and spring training, we’re talking eight months of the year, that there are some kind of game being played.  Even when there is no Major League Baseball, you’ve then got hot stove, and trades, and free agency…chances are, from February until December, it’s baseball season for you.  And then some.

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or family who is just as knowledgeable and passionate as you are, baseball is your passion, your religion for lack of a better term.  It’s a religion that preoccupies you 365 days of the year, and 366 in a leap year.  The only difference between an organized religion and baseball is that we worship 162 games per year.

We get older.  We get married.  We have kids.  At least, that’s what the greatest romance novels of all time have told us.   Baseball isn’t supposed to be as “important” as it once was.  Yet, in the Mets community, those who are in committed relationships are in just as much as committed relationship with the team as with their significant other.  Furthermore, a non-negotiable for many Mets fans is that they find someone who understands, or is as passionate as they are about their team.  (And most of all, not a Yankees fan).

I met my Mets soul mate in the summer of 2009.  Yet, despite all the commonalities we had over the years, our childhood memories being so similar and centered around baseball, we never met.

We met the Mets, then we met each other.

If you are a couple, and you’re fans, chances are, you’ll understand.

Married to the Mets: The Blog Groupie

It was really the Red Sox that got me into blogging and following sports blogs.

True story.  Though it was inspired by the Mets a bit.

In 2004, I needed an outlet.  A place to read, discuss and muse on the Mets.  I was working full time on Wall Street at the time, and the Mets were disappointing me.  It was the Art Howe years, and the Mets were just boring.  A state of ennui.   These years were really the true test of the fans, to go to Shea Stadium at times like those.  Looking back, it was the hey day of baseball games.  You went to games with real fans and not frontrunners like they were in the Bronx.

The Mets had made one of their most famous deadline deals that same year.  Kris Benson joined the team, and then-projected pitching phenom Scott Kazmir was traded for Victor Zambrano in what was called “Black Friday.”  In the previous season, I had become engrossed in New York National League baseball history.  The New York Giants.  Brooklyn Dodgers.  I had devoured Boys of Summer and Bums.   Later in 2003, the Rangers had opened their home season at Madison Square Garden.  That same night, I ran into a friend at the game who wanted to watch the baseball game.

You might know of it.  It’s known in the Yankee (and Red Sox) lexicon as “The Aaron Boone Game.”

I sat at the bar as I was outnumbered by Yankees fans, for sure.  I was told because of my New York National League roots that I was the “Coolest chick in the bar.”  Too bad, because I felt like I was being left alone at the lunch table, while my friend celebrated that Yankee walk-off victory that night.

So fast forward a few months later.  July 31, 2004, came and went, and I was upset.  My team had failed me, again.  Bob Ojeda was on the FAN, talking about how he believed that the Mets organization just had “bad information,” when Zambrano blew his arm out just a few days after the trade.  While Kazmir went on to stupify the Red Sox, who were on their way to making the playoffs a second year in a row.

I spent many hours in the office that year.  Yet, I couldn’t get on chat rooms or forums.  Most of them were blocked in corporate America.  I did find something a bit unusual, while clicking on some story links following the fall out of the Mets season, and following how the Red Sox were doing.

It was called a “blog.”

I found one called Metsblog, and NJ.com had its own called Always Amazin’.  While clicking on those sites, it brought me to other blogs.  SellTheMets.com.  FireArtHowe.com.  Kranepool Society.  The Metropolitans (where I frequented and probably made my mark as a “blog groupie”).  Metsgeek.  Y2K: Promote the Curse.   Some of these links exist to this day.  Others have gone by the wayside.  Many others have expanded or rebranded.

During the 2004 post season, I found many Red Sox blogs.  Sons of Sam Horn.  Surviving Grady.  Misery Loves Company, which was a Mets/Red Sox joint blog.  I loved the self-deprecating and dark humor of the Old Towne Team’s fans.  The Mets fans were just funny though.  The blogging community was easier to follow, simply because there were fewer blogs to follow. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was special.  It was not only special to see the evolution from walking off the field, defeated, just one year prior, but special to see all these blogs serve as a community for these fans to congregate and make the large world smaller and closer.

I was pretty useless at work.  I spent most of the days trying to feed my lust for Mets information, and trying to craft writing styles, and even stealing some jokes that I found at these forums.  Like how I have borrowed “Just Forfeit” or “Fuck these guys, I’m going to Donovan’s” from other fans, some people think they are my own.  I don’t make a habit of stealing material.  But I found that people weren’t hiding behind the screen of the computer by saying daring things that they would never say in the face of these people (though, truth be told, I see plenty of those people now).  I found that sports and especially baseball fans really wore their heart on their sleeves, and bared their souls in the comments and in response to the blogs that were objective in some ways, but came from the fan experience, so there was a lot of soul to the posts.

The Metropolitans was a place I congregated.  From there spawned many spin off blogs, like Frasier to Cheers.  Ed’s Blue & Orange Cafe.  Yes, Joe, It’s Toasted!  The Metropolitans invited me to join my first ever Fantasy Baseball team.  I was the token female, but it took them awhile to realize I was a girl.

In fact, I had chosen the moniker “Coop” so I wouldn’t be “the girl” in the forums.  Most of you follow me or became friends with me because of my writing style, which is how I talk, really.  When I was throwing certain players under the bus or screaming about Willie Randolph, they got me.  There was no male/female dynamic or even worrying that they would think of me different or that I was after a player because he was hot.

In mid-2005, I had gone to a game by myself and had taken score.  Some were surprised that I had been a fan just for the game.  Some were surprised I knew how to keep score.  Nobody would have paid me any mind if I was there with a man, like my dad or my boyfriend.  Meanwhile, my dad had taught me to keep score, and I had gotten my boyfriend into baseball.

I didn’t have to explain myself.  Till I did.

One day, in mid-2006, during the Mets tear on the NL East and baseball, I had been a frequent visitor to the site Yankees 2000: Promote the Curse, which was a Mets blog claiming that the Yankees win of the World Series in 2000 on Mets home field was the reason why they hadn’t won since.  (Makes sense, with 20/20 hindsight, since Shea no longer exists).  One of the bloggers called me “Man” or “Hey dude” or “My man Coop.”  I got a kick out of it, but I had to come clean.  I said, “Hey, I’m a chick, for the record.”  The next day, I got a marriage proposal, sight unseen, from one of the co-bloggers.

That same year, Brooklyn Met Fan gave me a whole new family.  There was not only BMF, there was Matt the Met Fan, Blondies Jake, Irish Mike, USMF, Bill L, El Duderino, Ft. Greene Met Fan.  Plenty of women in the forums, and could keep up with the Mets and baseball talk with the boys.  Gender mattered, but it didn’t.  They were always so open and friendly and treated me as an equal.

The Metropolitans was my second home though.  I felt like I was friends with everyone on there.  Toasty Joe’s blog was fun too.  Sort of a Metstradamus-lite, whom I had become friendly with as well.

I had commented so many times on these sites that I thought…maybe I could do a blog of my own.  I had opened an account on Blogger, and I could name it anything that I wanted.  The name, the name, the name…

Since people had told me since I was very young that I looked like Drew Barrymore, I had watched many of her movies.  My favorite around that time was Fever Pitch, the movie centered around the character played by Jimmy Fallon’s fandom of the Red Sox.  I loved the banter between Red Sox fans, I loved how he changed during the baseball season, when he saw all his friends that he missed in the offseason.  And how when after years of darkness, comes light.  As a Mets fan, though we had taken care of some of that dark period by beating the Sox in 1986, Red Sox Nation got over it by slaying the dragon of 1918.

Jimmy Fallon’s character said something at the beginning of the movie.  “This is my summer family.”

And I had my name.  I had reached out to the Mets blogging community in 2007.  They had saved me that year, from myself really.  My long-term relationship had fallen apart, and I had custody of 81 Mets home games in the form of tickets.  I had to find people to go with me.  Bloggers came to my rescue.  I had met Metsgrrl, who saved my Masters completion gift of going to see the Mets play in Milwaukee and Chicago that summer.

I had run into Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing several times at Shea, and we had become fast friends.  Irony was that the very first time I met him, I was wearing the FAFIF shirt to a game.  It was also the beginning of the end in 2007, against the Phillies.  I met Dana Brand through my work at Flushing University, and I had met a whole new world where people actually asked to see my writing.  Joe D of Metsmerized Online compared me to a cross between Alanis Morrisette and Courtney Love, if they were Mets bloggers.

The bloggers became a secondary family to me, people I enjoyed seeing.  My network expanded and expanded where I was recognized in other cities, like Philly in 2008.  Or when I was at Dodgertown in 2008, and Metstradamus introduced himself to me.   The expansion went into Facebook and Twitter, where I had taken like a fish to water.  With how big the world wide web had expanded, I’ve gotten many haters.  The haters make it worth it for me to love my new friends, my secondary family that the blogging community has provided me.

By the time I retired My Summer Family in 2010, every schmoe had their own blogger or WordPress account, claiming rights to the once tight knit community.  Hey, more power to them.  I stepped away because I wanted to find my most authentic voice again, which was what made My Summer Family special back in 2007.   Maybe it was special to some of the people who followed me.  For me, it became work, tedious and wasn’t unique anymore.

I do sometimes like to look at the site, like it’s a relic from a former era.  It takes me back to how much I loved having my own blog at the beginning, and how I was feeling back then.  Much like a diary or photos from a year gone by, my thoughts on the Mets still appear from time to time.  Much like listening to a song from my childhood, the years 2007 and 2010 on my Mets fandom are still catalogued for me to review.

And if anyone knows what happened to Mike and Benny and everyone else from the Metropolitans, tell them I miss them and wish they’d reappear.

Married to the Mets: There’s No Crying In Baseball

Years after the fact, my dad told me a story entitled “The Midnight Massacre.”  He said that on June 15, 1977, while I was asleep in my crib, he cried while watching the nightly news.

If you are a Mets fan, I won’t insult your intelligence about what that night was.

Yet, when he told me this, I couldn’t help but giggle.  A grown man crying at another grown man getting traded to play for another baseball team?  Concept seemed foreign to me.

Until a while later, the Mets won the 1986 World Series, and I was blubbering like an idiot.  I was ten.  I still haven’t forgotten that feeling.  Probably the closest I felt to that at Shea Stadium was when it shut down in 2008.

So I guess Jimmy Dugan was wrong.  There IS crying in baseball…but with shades of grey.

Fast forward to 1988.  The date was July 24, and it was a Sunday.  “The Franchise” Tom Seaver came back to Shea Stadium, if only to be honored one day for his induction to the Mets Hall of Fame, a precursor to his ultimate induction to the big house, Cooperstown (the name, however ironic, is merely coincidental).  I’ll never forget how I never saw him pitch for the Mets, but I saw him take the mound one last time.  I thought he was gonna throw, but instead he bowed to the edges of the stadium.

Wow.  It was chilling.  And I cried.  I never saw the guy pitch for my team, but I cried.  Of course, this was no different from the water works my dad supposedly shed in 1977.  He partook in that ritual too.

I didn’t just cry for the moment.  I cried for what I missed.  I cried that because of selfish reasons, for me and for the selfish reasons why Seaver was cast away several years before I became a fan.  I cried because so many Mets fans were able to see the greatness of Tom Terrific, in person and all those special years, and I missed it all.

Yet, this was also the power of the story of Mets fans.  I could listen to the old days from the fans’ perspective, any fan, about the past.

One story I liked to hear was when Uncle Gene and Dad would talk about when Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets in 1983.  I can’t really think of something similar that was so game-changing in my generation.  Johan Santana kind of shut down the blogsosphere when the trade went down, but given how the team has performed (and not to mention his unlucky injury history since then), it’s vastly different from how Mex changed the landscape of the 1980s Mets.

I heard stories about Tommie Agee’s Upper Deck home run, I heard stories about the Polo Grounds, I heard about the black cat at Shea Stadium that ran behind Ron Santo in 1969.  I’d only heard stories about 1973, as I was only minus two years old.  Yet it was Tom Seaver’s retirement ceremony that got me thinking that I missed something very special, and I didn’t have to.  I was certainly old enough to appreciate what he would have been had he never been traded and retired around the time I was starting to be a Mets fan.

Selfish reasons, natch.

By 1992, we had word that George Thomas Seaver was going into the Hall of Fame.  My dad was pretty much on the horn arranging our pilgrimage to the place of baseball worship.  I was there once as a child.  I was simply “okay” with baseball at that time and didn’t appreciate it.  This time, baseball and I were totally cool with each other, and I appreciated its part in my life a lot more.

That same year, the song “This Used to Be My Playground” by Madonna was on top of the charts, the theme song for A League Of Their Own.  I remember telling Dad that we should see that movie, about the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League and their triumphs during a time when the world was at war.  Yet, I don’t remember seeing it in the movie theaters with him, but I do know we both ended liking it a lot.  Anyway, the song by Madonna, along with countless other baseball-themed songs like “Centerfield” by John Fogerty, was played on a loop during the pre-ceremony.

It’s funny what my dad remembers about that weekend that I don’t.  I remember driving up during basically a monsoon.  I remember we ate like the best wings I ever had in my life, at a place called Burger Heaven, go figure.  I remember spending a long time at the Museum, but what I didn’t remember is why we had to go to a field in the middle of nowhere to see the ceremonies.  I thought maybe that’s the way they did things.  Dad reminded me there was some construction at the museum, otherwise it would have been held there.  Heh.

I do remember it was warm out, and like a moron, I had decided to wear jeans.  I was fine with it though.  We sat for a long time, as we had staked our spot out hours before.  A gentleman with a flag that simply said “41” was next to us.  I remember seeing some highlights on ESPN later, and saw the “41” flag flapping around (but I didn’t see us).   I remember someone telling us that he felt bad for Rollie Fingers, who was also inducted that same day.  The crowd was clearly blue and orange.  (I might have seen a few Reds 41 in the crowd, though.  Dad might remember better than me.)

I remember Rollie Fingers talked about his mother in the middle of his speech, who was deceased.  Seaver, in a later interview, said that he could have never done that, whose mother was also no longer with us.  Seaver did mention her, however, at the end of his speech.  His voice cracking as he ended with the two words, “My mom.”  It was touching, to see these players that most of the crowd considered heroes to show that they, themselves, were capable of showing emotion.  Certainly, it wasn’t the only time fans had seen Seaver overcome with emotion.

They had seen it live on June 15, 1977.  He admonished himself.  “Come on, George.”  He allowed himself this one break, though.

In my lifetime, the Mets haven’t done a good job of developing their own players or keeping them around.  Case in point: Seaver, George T.   I certainly had favorites on my teams, I had projected to other lifer players on other teams — you know, those quintessential players who defined a team as much as the team defined him.  Cal Ripken.  Tony Gwynn.  (Sad to tell Montreal that we shared Le Kid, though.)  I started to follow the Iron Man around 1987, though I was aware of his existence prior to then.  I loved Ripken.  I was a Mets fan first, and a baseball fan second ultimately.  And ultimately, as a baseball fan, you had to love Cal Ripken.

He was born to be an Oriole, growing up in a suburb of Baltimore.  His daddy was a baseball lifer too.  I loved that he called his dad “Senior” instead of “Skip.”  It certainly helped too that in my 11 year old eyes, he was easy on them (yeah, I said it).  I remember I begged my dad to draft him in his fantasy league when he used to participate in that.  I was intrigued in 1987 when his father managed his two sons on the same team, when little brother Billy joined the Orioles.

Though I had kept an eye on the Orioles, I hadn’t gone to a game at Camden Yards (or any Baltimore stadium for that matter) until 1997.  I make it a point to visit there at least every other year.  Mostly as an homage to my favorite player.  Also, as a way to get me out of New York sometimes.  It happens, as New York City can wear thin on your patience at times.   Possibly my road trips to Camden Yards led me to give in to my wanderlust for baseball stadiums.  At current date, I’ve been to 18 stadiums, some still with us, some dearly departed, like our Shea.

Keeping with the trend of road trips and baseball worship, in 2001, Iron Man had gone on his farewell tour.  Many cities showed their respects for one of the last great heroes in baseball.  I’m sure there will be others.  Yet between Ripken and Gwynn, I’ve yet to see any other class acts that could have measured up to those gentlemen.  However, I had a great idea.  Sort of.

Dad said, hey how about we go see Cal Ripken’s last games at Yankee Stadium?  I had a better idea.  “How about we see his last game in BALTIMORE?”

That year was odd.  Baseball was shut down because of the terrorist attacks on the United States.  We banded together like no other time.  Mike Piazza for the Mets might have ushered baseball back to New York City with his home run, but Cal Ripken’s retirement ceremony befitting an all-American hero was postponed.  The last game in Baltimore was no longer.  It was now in October.

I traded in my tickets for others.  I mean, this is how SURE I was that I needed to be there to see him retire and his last game.  The opening ceremony was special.  They officially retired his number, and brought his family in.  Senior was long gone by then.  I only found out recently that his #7 was taken out of circulation with the Orioles, but not officially retired, after he passed away.  Mrs. Ripken, his wife, his kids, his brothers and sister.  The whole family.  Jim Palmer said a few words, a lifer Oriole himself.

The game ended with Ripken on deck.  The postgame ceremony showed him walking into the outfield, with Orioles greats such as Brooks Robinson.  It was a touching and moving ceremony, befitting a man how transcended the sport.  I got choked up only when Dad told me that we’ve seen a lot of these type of games together.  Like Seaver’s ceremony.  Cooperstown.  Ripken was my favorite though, because selfishly, I wanted a player like him on MY team.  Seaver may be the closest thing, but for me, it’s just not the same.  I never saw him play or when he was on the team, I didn’t know him from Adam.

I can see now, that crying does happen in baseball.  When Mike Piazza played his last game in a Mets uniform, I teared up.  I often admit to people that I didn’t truly appreciate what Piazza did for the team until his last season.  When we lost Shea Stadium, it was dusty for sure.  I was verklempt at the ceremony in 2010 when Doc, Darryl, Davey and Cashen were inducted in the Mets Hall of Fame.  I don’t know if I’ll get choked up at John Franco’s ceremony.  Unless, of course, the Mets give him a video remembrance and the good and fun memories I have of Franco are highlighted.

I never made it to Cooperstown for Cal Ripken’s and Tony Gwynn’s induction.  I don’t remember why I didn’t go.  Perhaps I didn’t think it was appropriate.  Maybe let my space go to other fans.  I remember what Gwynn said in his speech to his home crowd when they sent him off to Cooperstown.  He said, “You’ll all be there with me.”

Baseball players may come off as dumb jocks sometimes.  Yet, they can say things that are so poetic and carry so much meaning in our lives.  Or a simple self-admonishment like “Come on, George,” can speak to the frustration of a fan base for a lifetime.

Married to the Mets: Hey Blondie

“HEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!! BLONDIE!!!!!!!” They chanted as they ran up the stairs after a Mets/Cubs game in 2005.

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Rumor has it that I didn’t get a full head of hair till I was about two years old. I had peach fuzz to the extent that my parents were afraid I might never grow hair. I did though, grow hair, that is. I was a nice flaxen blonde in my youth. Nowadays, I need to buy it.

There’s a rumor, also, that somewhere someone once said that blondes have more fun. Since the only time I’ve ever been a true brunette (I have no idea what color my hair is), I can’t attest to it. What I can say is, though, that being a Mets fan has made things more fun in my life. No matter how they perform, I can guarantee that most of the time, I am having fun.

Also, when you have some semblance of blonde hair, you get called “Blondie.” A lot.

I stood out like a sore thumb because I was a tomboy growing up. Along with my long hair, usually pulled back in a ponytail, I wore a hat, usually of the Mets type. Dad would go to Cap Day, and I’d often inherit the cap. The standard uniform was jeans, some kind of sports shirt and my cap. Kind of like when you see me at CitiField these days too.

When I was 12 years old, I had big hair. Like big-Aqua-Net-extra-hold-supported-Jersey-hair hair. My mother spent a lot of money on my hair being permed, and I spent a lot of time in the bathroom styling my hair. When the Mets had bucket cap day in 1988, I was thrilled, because it complimented my hair style so well. (More than I can say about the actual style. I mean, seriously, did we really think we looked good??)

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By the time I was out of high school and in college, my hair was straight as a pin. Save some stints where I would just go to those walk-in places in the mall and ask them to chop my hair short, it had lots of long periods. In Mezzanine 22, I once wore a cap with a ponytail sticking out, and Richie (the yeeeeee haw! guy who sat behind us in Row C) yanked on the tail. The temptation, he said, was too great to do so.

This was 2002. At that point, I was in a relationship with the guy I call the “Big Ex” in my lexicon. We had lived together at that point, and to say he wasn’t a big baseball fan was an understatement. At first, he had a whole self-righteous attitude towards organized sports, but once he saw there was alcohol and usually a food bribe from me, we went to a few games. That was when we had met Frank, Tommy and Kim from the Woodside Crew. The infamous crew that gave us the famous saying, “Fuck these guys, I’m going to Donovan’s” when the Mets are doing particularly bad.

We went to a lot of games back then, probably because my dad and I had our Saturday plan at that point, and my dad was off doing other things on the weekends. Not to mention the Mets were just horrible then. Not just bad in the traditional sense. Boring beyond belief. The only thing that kept us going then was the relationship with the folks in 22. They made the games more fun.

I was going through a lot back then too. Stuff at work, where I was very unhappy. But also stuff in my relationship. We ended up together for almost seven years, but it was still relatively new then. My hair ended up getting a brunt of the frustration. Short. Blunt. Bangs. Grow it back. Cut so short to barely to put back. Blonde. Blonde streaks. Brown. Brunette. Straight color. It wasn’t nearly as bad as when I was in college: I had been a redhead at some points (and let’s not talk about when I went nuts and dyed it blue).

Being a blonde was part of my identity. But like many chapters of my life, I was constantly reinventing and trying to find myself. It’s difficult to do that when you’re in a relationship with someone. Especially when there’s not a lot of compromise. So my hair took a lot of the hits to the experimentation.

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But there was compromise when we went to Shea. We started out driving there, but ultimately, the train won out. We discovered the Long Island Rail Road that dropped you off behind the 7 train, closer to the park. I think this was 2005, and I was blonde again.

Things were going south in the relationship. The Mets, though, were finally looking up. Carlos Beltran was new, and while the Scott Kazmir trade the year before had left us Victor Zambrano, new General Manager Omar Minaya had made a splash with Pedro Martinez, future Hall of Fame pitcher fresh off an improbable championship run with the Boston Red Sox the year before.

It was fun going to Mets games, but I can’t say I went to many that season. I know that I went to a lot, and I still had the Saturday plan with Dad. The Ex and I went to games, but I remember going to many by myself. I had no problem doing things by myself, but looking back, it was really the beginning of the end when I started doing my own thing over the weekends, and he was more than happy to give me my space.

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By the 2006 All-Star Break, it was evident the Mets were running away with the division. Adding big bat first baseman Carlos Delgado, the emergence of Beltran (who had a very quiet debut year in 2005), and lightning in a bottle help from Jose Valentin, the Mets were the toast of New York. I had no problem getting him to the games, since we were having a lot of fun. He had given up drinking, but at that time, drinking was part of my boisterous fan persona. I guess I had retained the attitude of Mezzanine 22, though my Saturday seats were in Section 10 at that point (the “family-friendly” section). When we found ourselves at games midweek, we thought, hey maybe we should look into season seats. Those turned in Mezzanine 14 Box, with Diamond Club access, which ultimately translated into CitiField seats.

I kept the tickets. He got the TV in the breakup in 2007.

I didn’t cut my hair off till 2008, though, when I found out he got married without my knowledge. Never thought it should have been me, but definitely thought I should have known.

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The year 2005 was the turning point. Things were miserable, just as the Mets were getting good. They were a distraction. I went to games by myself, and he let me. One day, I wanted to go to a game. He was cranky. I told him I wanted to leave him. We talked it over.

We decided to try to make it work. In all honesty, when I look back at that day, it should have ended. Yet, what did we do? We went to see the Mets play the Cubs on a Friday night. They won that game. It was fun to watch. I believe we sat in the Mezzanine. I had blonde streaks. But I was also tan, so my blondeness stuck out like a sore thumb.

This was a night we took the Long Island Rail Road in. One of the drawbacks to the service was it left every hour, even after the games let out, which was difficult to time (even though the travel time was 15 minutes from midtown, a distinct discount from the nearly 30 the 7 train took).

Back then, remember the old set up at the 7 train? There was that weird platform, and you had little crowd control. There would be bottlenecks after every game. This was no exception. Yet, we had about four minutes to make a train, and an ocean of people to swim through to get there.

Seemed impossible.

We tried to cross the street, and there was still a little wait on the stairs. The time was ticking.

Till one of the loudmouths started yelling at his friend in front of us. Apparently, it seemed, there was a trivia question to which his friend didn’t know the answer.

“TODD HUNDLEY!!!! HIS DAD!!! THE CUBS CATCHER – CUBS CATCHER!!!! THOUGHT HE TAGGED AGEE AT THE PLATE!!! HIS NAME!!!”

It looked as though he forgot former Met Todd Hundley’s dad’s name.

I knew it. I thought someone else would chime in.

Till I found myself yelling out, “Yo!! It was Randy! RANDY!! HUNDLEY!!!”

The guys did the double-finger point and yelled, “HEYYYYYYY!!!! BLONDIE!!!! AHHHHHHH!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!!!!!”

Holy cow. I think I started a riot.

The crowd all of a sudden busted up the stairs. We had about a minute to spare. Running across the wooden almost-boardwalk to the LIRR platform, we just beat the train by a hair.

Probably the first time we smiled the whole day.

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In 2009, I was talking to one of my coworkers on an elevator. I was on my way to a hockey game. Everyone in the office knew me as the resident Mets fan, but the hockey thing caught him by surprise. I shrugged and said, yeah, I’ve liked the Rangers since I was 12.

My coworker asked, “So let me get this straight. You have baseball season tickets. You have hockey season tickets?”

I shook my head. “No, I just buy a few games from my friend during the year.”

“But still, you willingly go.”

I nodded.

“Why are you still single?”

I brushed it off, laughed. Truth was, I wondered that myself. We hear that women who like sports are, like, the most desirable and least attainable prime mate out there. I had been seen as “the friend” for a long time, or the buddy who was fun to go to sporting events. Truth be told, even with the Big Ex, I had a tough time imagining myself ever getting married. The irony was I had more of a relationship with my teams than I did with any man.

I guess my point is never say never. But I also wondered why people just can’t be content with a woman choosing to be single.

I had an ear-length bob then. In 2009, I was also a brunette.

Married to the Mets: Worse Than Chernobyl

I became a Mets fan at a very interesting time.  Essentially, they ruled the city.  When I was young, I didn’t know a New York City that wasn’t all about the Mets and the Yankees, storied pinstriped team in the Bronx, played second fiddle.

Till, of course, they weren’t.

I have a family member who shall remain nameless, who claims to be a lifelong Yankee fan. Funny, I don’t remember him rooting for them till 1996.  And I DEFINITELY remember wearing our Mets gear together, rooting for them on WOR.  I do remember at one point he told my dad and I that he admires us for sticking with the Mets for so long.

You know, it’s not like we had a choice.

For me, though, the choice was simple.  I stuck around for a multitude of reasons.   Most of all, that I didn’t want to give up on the team. Also because the fans I met made me laugh like nothing else.

It was one thing watching games with my dad, Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa, and hearing the wisecracks from all of them during the games.  Even when we met Dominic, Rob and Mike in the stands at Loge Section 22, the Mets deep-in-the-trenches army-like humor kept us going.

I’ve been a Mets fan for nearly 30 years.  (Let that one sink in for a moment).  In those years, they’ve had two World Series appearances, a few playoff runs, but mostly, futility mixed in with a splash of ennui.  Yes, it’s tough to be a Mets fan sometimes.  Yet, the fans, the true bleeding blue-and-orange fans kept me coming back when I had every reason not to.

In the 1980s, you couldn’t really knock the team because they were so good.  Shea Stadium, however, was fair game.  In the spring of 1986, the Chernobyl disaster hit Kiev, Ukraine…and Banner Day at Shea.  “Shea’s Bathrooms Are Worse Than Chernobyl,” one of the banners read.  I don’t remember any other banner that year but that one.  It was priceless and still generates some laughs from those of us who saw it.  Till the very last day of Shea, the bathrooms were the butt (no pun intended) of the joke with many fans.  In fact, I appeared on a blogger’s roundtable with such personalities as Matt Cerrone from Metsblog, Joe Janish from Mets Today and Ted Berg from SNY on Mets Weekly in 2008.  Janish made a joke about the bathrooms, and needless to say, we all chuckled.

At the root of it all, Mets fans are humorous.  We’re funny, and we’re a bunch of wise guys, and we need to make the impossibly tragic funny, in order for us to survive it.

Over the years, I’ve met so many people, fans just passing through (sometimes, I was one of those fans), people I sat with an entire season, people I sat by just once, often leave me with such indelible prints of my brain, that I still think of them from time to time.

Like the guy I sat behind at Camden Yards one year during an extra inning game in 1998.  Ironically, ex-Met Jesse Orosco (in the twilight of his career) came into the game via middle relief (in the back end of the game of course).  This gentleman threw his hands up in the arm in disgust, yelling, “Just forfeit!! Just forfeit the game!”  Though I was in Maryland, he sounded like Benny from Brooklyn, as “forfeit” sounded like “faw-fit.”  Needless to say, this has been rehashed several times over the years, usually when the Mets bring in someone with a two run lead in late innings.  Used in conjunction with the likes of Guillermo Mota, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, among others.

There was Richie in Section 22 in the Mezzanine.  Between him shouting “YEEEEEEEEEE HAWWWWWWWWW!” at the top of his lungs at inopportune moments (keep in mind, this was in 2002, when NO ONE was going to games, and the Mets didn’t give us much to cheer).  My personal favorite is one that we use to this day.  During a random Saturday game, probably against a futile team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a 6-0 deficit for the Mets to overcome in like the 6th inning.  Richie’s response was a classic one.  “We’re down 6-0, in the 6th inning to the Pirates. WE GOT ‘EM RIGHT WHERE WE WANT ‘EM.”

Woodside Tommy, also from Mezzanine 22, was one of the smart ass ringleaders.  At a game in Coney Island, when Howard Johnson was the manager of the Cyclones and Bobby Ojeda was his pitching coach, Tommy yelled to Ojeda in the bullpen.  “HEY!  BOBBY O!!!!!! GIMME A HIGH FOUR!!!”  Of course, in reference to Ojeda snipping off his finger prior to the playoffs in 1988.  When I told Tommy he was an asshole, Tommy feigned innocence. “What? What?? What am I gonna say?  Gimme a high FIVE????  Ha ha!”

The man had a point.

There was the Opening Day when my ex was wearing his Brooklyn Dodger cap.  My dear uncle Gene, as everyone knows, was a New York Giants fan back in the day and still has some massive hate towards the team from the borough of churches.  My smart ass of an ex (there’s a reason why he’s that) said, “Hey Gene, I got another one of these caps for you at home if you want it,” fully knowing that Gene hates the team.  Gene said, “Yeah, good, I need some kindling for my fireplace!”  Then he had his maniacal laugh that only Gene can have.

There was the night in 2006 when I was sitting in the Field Level at Shea Stadium, and Jose Lima gave up a grand slam to Dontrelle Willis, the starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins that night.  I had to be carried out of the stadium, but not before it took me until the 7th inning before I realized Lima was NOT in the game since the 2nd inning basically.

I was not only that drunk, but  I still have some massive Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder from that one.  In fact, I believe that was the night I coined that term, shorthand is “PTMD.”  Many, many Mets fans have their own personal PTMD moments.

You know you have them too.

Lately, some of my catch phrases have taken a life of their own.  Like the ever-infamous, “HOLY SHEEPSHIT AND BALLS” that started on Twitter.  It started off as “Holy sheepshit” when something fun happened or surprising was going on.  Since then, it’s mutated.  The balls I added on because, I don’t know, I thought it was funny.  For the record, it’s supposed to be read as “Sheep shit and sheep balls,” not a purely baseball reference, as I’ve been known to tweet that during football and hockey.

While I’m thrilled to be a part of people’s lexicon while watching sporting events, I have a mouth like a truck driver that for some reason people take a holier-than-thou approach to in dealing with me.  I have to say, hey, lighten up, it’s the heat of the moment.

Like you’ve NEVER done that.

Hell, I sat in the trenches with many Mets fans in the late ’80s and early ’90s, even the early aughts, with this army-like humor.  I was even at a Mets/Braves game in 2007 when the aforementioned Mota came in and proceeded to make the game VERY interesting.  When we all talked about it later, after the Mets won of course, it was like surviving a war.

Mets fans are like army buddies.  Some of these people are the best buddies I’ll ever have in my life.  You can have inside jokes about the Mota game, or the Lima Time game, or that time on Twitter when <blank> happened and we all said “HOLY SHEEPSHIT!”  Or later, it’s mutated into Twitter memes, like our friend @JedSmed who creates different Mets hash tags when there’s nothing going on.  Or when Matt from the Daily Stache started #ReplaceShitWithMets trend or the #JustinTurnerFacts.

Like army buddies, you gotta keep things interesting to get through it all.

The next generation of Mets fans will be introduced to Banner Day in 2012, just like I was back when I first became a fan.  I couldn’t tell you what banner took the prize during that scheduled doubleheader in 1986, or if there were really cool banners.  No.  All I remembered was a plain white bed sheet with black shoe polish-like substance with the words, “SHEA’S BATHROOMS ARE WORSE THAN CHERNOBYL.”

You had to be there to get it.  Just like with most things that come with being a Mets fan.  You can look at one another, or bring up a difficult memory or even a fond memory, and know what it’s like.

Yet, I’m sure at the end of the day, we’ll take Shea’s bathrooms back any day, Chernobyl or no.

Married to the Mets: 1987

I’ve been thinking a lot about the year 1987 recently.  When a child of the ’80s is asked about the Mets, 1986 is often talked referred.  As well as it should be.  Yet, there was something about 1987 that holds a special place in my heart.  It was the first in a long stretch of home Opening Days that I’d started going to.  This was also the year that the Mets had their Championship Ring ceremonies prior to their home opener.  I sat in Upper Deck in Row Z that day.  I’m sure Row Z didn’t actually exist but rest assured, it was specifically the last row.  So with my piddly Kodak Disk camera, I couldn’t get a good shot of the field ceremony if I tried.  To be in digital cameras in that time period…

I found myself spending a lot of time at Shea Stadium this year, which was slowly becoming my summer home.  As I mentioned before, my dad and Uncle Gene had a ticket plan in the Loge, Section 22, on Sundays.  The third ticket was for Aunt Melissa, who was staying behind more and more with the baby, Paul.  Typically, that third ticket was given to me quite a bit.  I’d go in threes with Dad and Gene.  Sometimes my mom would go too.  Most of the time, it was my dad and me making the drive to Shea every Sunday morning.

As a child, I loved getting a car as a passenger.  As an adult, I drive simply out of necessity and convenience, not necessarily because I want to.  I moved to a city simply so I wouldn’t be forced to drive as much.  Yet, over a recent long weekend, I trekked through the borough of Staten Island a bit, crossed the Verrazano and into Queens to drop off a rental car, and it brought back memories of driving to Shea with my dad on Sundays.

 

As I crossed Staten Island, I remembered sitting in Dad’s truck, with a book in my hand or maybe notepad and pen, reading my Nancy Drew paperbacks or jotting down some thoughts.  I pointed out the building that looked like steps going into a mountain.  The Verrazano, while not nearly as breathtaking as the Golden Gate Bridge (my favorite bridge in the world), still takes my breath away.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll be running across that bridge in November of this year.  I remembered crossing into Brooklyn via I-278, known as the “BQE.”  I remember seeing a train in the background while crossing I guess what is part of Bay Ridge, and made the connection that it’s the F train.  There was a sign for Bruno Truck Sales that towered over the road, but I always thought the sign was funny for some reason.  It’s still there, and it still makes me smile.

Looking across the East River, you can see Lower Manhattan and the South Street Seaport, the first time place I ever visited in Manhattan.  Someone told me as a kid that you could walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  The idea seemed so foreign to me, but I did manage to do it a few times in my adult life.  Tillary Street exit, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, finally we cross into Queens.  Inevitably, I’d hear about the time Bob took a wrong turn and ended up on the Long Island Expressway on the way to a game.  They missed the first inning, and of course Darryl Strawberry hit a grand slam that same inning.

All these names and streets, neighborhoods and pictures in my head all hit close to home.  Since they are part of my home.  I may have grown up in New Jersey, but I’ve lived in the greater New York area for several years now, and feel as though this is the place I should have been all along.

I fell in love with New York while driving to Shea Stadium as a child.  I always knew I would be here someday.

I’ve also become jaded, going to baseball games so often.  I get there with maybe just minutes to spare, and in an ideal situation, it will be either during or after the Star Spangled Banner.  Hey, I’m as patriotic as the next person, but I typically go to games now to watch said games, and then complain about the train ride home.  When I was a kid though, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to get to Shea several hours before a game started.

My dad, famously, got to Shea almost as soon as it opened.  I guess back then, at 10:30 am, one could get a beer fresh off the tap (as the beer vendor in the stands used to say).  I found out from my friend Steve at CitiField that the stands wouldn’t sell him beer till the clock hit 12.  I remember this because as soon as the clock hit 12, he said he’d see me later.  I also remember that Shea Stadium used to sell those Dolly Madison Dixie Cup ice cream, chocolate and vanilla with the wooden spoon.  RC Cola with the plastic on top that you peeled off.  My dad used to make megaphones out of the soda or beer cups, and we’d chant “Let’s go Mets!  Let’s go Mets!”  When it was cold, hot chocolate was sold.  And one day while we sat in field level, one of the vendors found a great sales pitch: “WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE BUY SOME POPCORN!!????!”  I think Dad bought two boxes to shut him up.

There was something I look back as being special about 1987.  It was different, almost sad in a way, to be at Shea Stadium.  One of my heroes, Doc Gooden, started off the year in rehab…not for injuries, but for drugs.  Gary Carter was starting to deteriorate.  There were rumors of clubhouse turmoil with Keith Hernandez, the veteran leader of the team, and young guys like Darryl Strawberry, who had attitude problems.

They were still good, but even as a child I could tell the magic and dominance was gone.  It was a different mission in 1987.  Yet, I was a part of it, and in the thick of it for the first time in my life.  It was the first time I realized that my team could disappoint me.  Sure, I knew about falling short in 1984 and 1985, the first two years I really understood baseball, but wasn’t every year supposed to be like 1986?  Even if the answer was no, it should be.

This was also the first year that I really started to understand who I was.  Believe it or not, I was kind of a shy kid.  I was shy around kids my own age, but around adults I was fine.  Pretty ass-backwards.  To say I didn’t have many friends my own age was an understatement though.  Baseball was an escape for me.  My dad would take me, and just leave me to my own devices.  I’d cheer, I’d keep score, I’d drink my soda.  Yet, there were some games I was just too cool for school.  I’d have my Walkman and listen to mix tapes as the games went on.  In my mind, these are the games the Mets lost.

In September of 1986, there was lettering in the outfield that said, “A SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER.”  I remember the three guys who sat in our section, Dominic, Rob and Mike, said they should have “A SEPTEMBER TO DISMEMBER” in the outfield.  I still don’t know if they picked that up from somewhere, but I certainly never forgot it.  I think I stopped paying attention that year around the time of the Terry Pendleton home run.  I don’t remember going to many games that year in September.

Something else had happened, though, bigger than me just going to more Mets games.  My dad and I became buddies.  I think he started to like me then.  Okay, fine, he probably liked me before, especially when I begged him to teach me to play baseball since I never got chosen for teams in school.  I wanted to be good, hopefully to someday play myself.  Yet, looking back, it was also an odd time not just for the Mets and their home life, but my home life.  I started to pick up that things at home weren’t exactly pleasant.  My parents were not in a happy marriage, and I could tell.  You know, that whole business about staying together for the “kid’s sake” is just a bunch of crap.  The kids know something is up.  Or maybe just me.  It was something you didn’t talk about, but I knew.

By 1989, my dad had moved out, and it was just my mom and I, and our cat, Cody.  I know the Sunday ticket plan wasn’t much longer for the world either, as I’m sure they were no longer ours in 1991.  My dad and I still bonded over the Mets though, when I stayed at his place we watched SportsChannel, and we’d go to games.  By that time, we had discovered that driving through Manhattan and taking the Williamsburg Bridge was a better route for us than going through Staten Island.

Those long Sunday morning drives though.  It gave me two things: love for baseball and love for the city.   I’m deeply committed to both right now as an adult.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Married to the Mets: That Old VHS Player

If the “Married to the Mets” series was ever put into a book, this chapter would be a postscript, an epilogue if you will, a footnote to the series.  See, I hadn’t planned on writing this yet, or at all.  This week I had planned to write on some of my Shea memories but as John Lennon once said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

It was April 9, 1985.  My dad couldn’t go to Opening Day that year for whatever reason.  This was the time before smartphones, spoiler alerts and simply by staying away from the TV or radio for a few hours.  We had set our VCR to tape for the few hours on WOR-9.  “Catch the rising stars…”  That was the slogan that year and the silly jingle before the games.

For the next few years, that VHS would be my closest friend and confidant.  It knew what I wanted when I got home from school (soap operas), when my mom would take me to the mall (one of my least favorite activities at that age…trust me, I’d have rather been making mud pies) and there was a show that was on, or when my dad and I couldn’t watch a game.

The VHS was there for us on Opening Day 1985, when Dad couldn’t go to the game.  So we watched and learned that not only the Mets won that day, but that their new catcher, Gary Carter, hit the game-winning home run in the 10th inning.  I didn’t know it at the time, but after the game I certainly learned about how Neil Allen, the pitcher who gave up the home, was one of the pieces in the deal that brought one of Dad’s favorite players over to the Mets: Keith Hernandez.

See, the story behind Opening Day 1985 was one that Mets fans geek out over, the type of thing that I call “Mets porn.”  The type of story that lasts and takes a life of itself in Mets folklore.  One of those moments that we had at Shea Stadium, whether you were physically present or not, you could have that connective factor with another fan.

The VHS was a substitute, an absentee parenting tool for me.  If I couldn’t watch games, I could catch them later.  If I just wanted to tape games, I could watch them over and over.

That contraption in the living room (where I also sat on the floor watching many Mets games as a kid) was also one that allowed to relive these moments.  Have us recapture former glories, for better or for worse.

In 1986, I probably sat my ass in front of the television, cued up the VCR and had it play games over and over.  Dad attended the NL East clincher game in 1986 with Uncle Gene, I had to tape it, just in case he said, he was on TV.  I didn’t get those two tearing up the field or standing on second base, as per Gene-oh’s wishes.

The entire National League Championship Series was taped as was the World Series.  Dad was also at a few of those games, most importantly, he was at Game Six (which ultimately got us tickets to the definitive and final Game Seven).  We had to tape Game Seven, after all, we were going to be there.  No, we did not see ourselves on TV.

But when the Mets had failed glories in the ’80s and missed chances, I was able to watch those tapes and reminisce.  I was getting a crash course in the idea that being a Mets fan wasn’t always about domination, it was about ennui and falling just short of it.  I was led to believe that 1986 was the beginning of an era…turns out, it was the climax, with the denouement happening shortly after.

Those tapes allowed me to shape my Mets story, to shape my Mets fandom.  I was able to pop in a tape and remember how cool it was, and how young I was to not fully grasp everything that was happening around me.  I may have been in the stands on Game Seven…but I really couldn’t tell you what it meant to me until I was much older.

I remember having the Making of the Let’s Go Mets video…that video played on a constant loop almost. I used to love the beginning of it, when Gary Carter would give the kid a packet of Mets baseball cards, which started the song.  Ah, the age of innocence, as it was in Jeff Pearlman’s book The Bad Guys Won told us about how the Mets behaving badly in the making of the video.  After the “First” Game Six against the Astros, I read about how they tore up an airplane.  I guess I could see how that would happen.  When I watch that game, I, too, have a primal energy to swim across the ocean or run a marathon.

We bought the 1986: A Year To Remember video too.  I was heartbroken when the VCR got hungry one night and chewed it up.

Prior to the ’86 season, we had bought An Amazin’ Era, about the Mets first 25 years of existence.  That tape actually taught me a lot about the history of National League baseball in New York.  I still have that somewhere, and bought a VCR just so I could watch it again.  Now I think there’s a DVD on it.  I especially loved watching the build up to the ’80s years, which only covered up to and including the 1985 season, my first visibly remembered season.  I especially loved the emphasis on Gary Carter.

I loved watching those VHS tapes when the Mets weren’t that great and when they weren’t quite worth watching.  That was quite a bit.  I also taped the 1988 NLCS.  Perhaps not surprisingly, I didn’t watch those games over again.  Except for maybe Game Three.

I have no idea if those tapes even exist.  Several moves and my mother having a penchant for throwing stuff that bothers her out may mean they no longer exist.  Luckily for us, there are those who wish to make a profit by packaging these games in DVD sets.

That VHS player would keep me company and give me hope for the Mets when I didn’t have much hope or interest in the team.  It brought me back to a simpler time, when I was young, and sometimes seeing them makes me think of a time gone past, not so much of when the games actually occurred, but what I might have been thinking one night when I was left to my own devices, and wanted to see a game.  I could think back to cold winter nights when I didn’t want to watch anything on television, and perhaps wished baseball season was closer.  I could think back to when I was feeling lonely and wanted to recapture a fonder time in my life.  I could be sad and just wanted to put a smile on my face and watch the films, and remember just how good it was.

It’s funny because I’ve been watching a lot of old videos on the Mets recently, due to Gary Carter’s passing, and I love hearing the old broadcasts, and having the smile on my face because I know what to anticipate.

These games have shaped the narrative of my life, and much of it was sitting in front of a VCR with a remote control and recapturing the past and perhaps part of my youth by keeping them around as long as I did.

Married to the Mets: The Primitive Version of the Internet

I can’t tell you how many nights, days, weekends were spent sitting on the floor of my living room as a child, watching Mets games on the old WOR.  Remember that?  It’s funny watching the commercials pilfered from YouTube.

Catch the rising stars…watch them shine on Channel 9!

Baseball like it oughta be!  Bring it home, Mets! TV-9, bring it home!

There were many more, mostly celebrating championships past (1987) and less bravado as the steam came down.  One of the common threads in those boisterous Mets years of the 1980s was that my dad and I spent countless hours watching games in the old place we lived at while my folks were still together.  During the playoffs in 1988, we spent most of the NLCS watching them at Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa’s old house in North Middletown, New Jersey, with their then-toddler Paul.  (He’s 25 years old now.  Ugh.)

During the amazin’ 1986 run, I remember hearing raucous stories of my dad and his friends at Gene and Melissa’s, doing the pogo hops as the Mets rolled over Houston, and wishing I was there.  My mom, for whatever reason, wished to keep me away from that atmosphere.  Try as she might, I had a lot more fun with my dad.  He was a permissive parent, and my mom was stricter, though she let me get away with a lot more than most parents I suppose.  I was lucky to watch Mets games when I got home from school.  But I was a good student, so I could be trusted to finish my homework during the games or afterwards.

In 1988, we watched Game Three of the NLCS over at Gene and Melissa’s house.  It was a chilly Saturday afternoon, and I remember seeing my hero, A. Bartlett Giamatti, toss Dodgers starting pitcher Jay Howell out of the game for a tar ball.  (The headline the next day my mother actually saved for me: “Tar-Rific,” a play on my first name).

But I remember that day for other reasons.  I remember participating in the passing-Paul-around-celebrations that took place after the Mets scored runs.  (Another item of note I’d heard about during the ’86 run).  Afterwards, Gene fired up the barbecue grill and made burgers.  Melissa sent me down the street to the local corner store for some soda, chips and said to get something for myself with the ten-spot she gave me.  I chose a Chocodile.  It was one of the best memories of my childhood (up to that point), that day.

The next night, my dad had tickets to the game.  ONE ticket, for himself.  Yes, my puppy dog eyes worked, and I went.  I wished I didn’t.  This was the infamous Mike Scioscia game.  We sat in the Mezzanine on the third base side.  I started a chant inspired by the big ladies we met in Philadelphia in September of that year.  “ONE DOWN! TWO TO GO! ONE DOWN! TWO TO GO!”  The Mets promptly got the Dodgers to hit into a double play.

By 1989, my dad had moved out and whenever I stayed at his place, I’d watch the old SportsChannel on game nights.  In 1990, I made my mother cancel our HBO account so I could watch the Mets games that were on SportsChannel (we couldn’t afford both, but HBO was back on in the offseason).

In 1994, I went off to college.  We didn’t have cable in our rooms on campus, but it didn’t matter.  This also coincided with the “Strike,” you know, the one that cancelled the World Series that year.  I know there was a year or two I didn’t go to Opening Day.  Honestly, I have no recollection.  But I do know for a fact that I didn’t go in 1998.  I was working two internships and finishing up my independent studies.  I had more on my mind than just baseball.  It was a move later that year, the trade for Mike Piazza, that got me going to more games.

Then 1999 came around.  I was living in Red Bank at the time, with a roommate, but with adult responsibilities and my first “real” job.   My dad and I were going to more games, and it was a fun time to be a Mets fan.  In fact, it was the first Opening Day I had been to in at least two years. From 1999 onward, it set the most consecutive string of Opening Days since for me.  We went with Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa, Paul, his brother Kyle and their little three-year old brother, Brett.  I remember watching Robin Ventura.  Uncle Gene liked him.  Dad called him, “Ace” after one of our favorite movies.  I responded with, “All righty then.”

We laughed.  A lot.  That’s something Dad and Gene do.  They laugh.  A LOT.

That year was a special year, 1999.  For obvious reasons for most Mets fans, that I won’t insult your intelligence by detailing.   It was special for me for a few reasons.  One was I spent more of my time sitting on the living room floor of my own apartment, watching Mets games again.  I was going to more games, mostly with my dad, but I also attended games with my mom’s two brothers, my “real” uncles, Mike and Scott.   Then I watched Game 163 that year over at my then-boyfriend’s house.  The relationship didn’t last; but my memories of that postseason did for certain.

The NLDS was special.  We made it a point to watch Game Four (the “Todd Pratt game”) over at my new place.  Melissa wanted to see my new place anyway, and to get an idea of what she could charge in rent for her house.  See, they were looking to sell the old grey lady of a house.  I didn’t think I’d actually believe it, till it actually happened.

But the little one, Brett, got sick during the first inning, and Melissa took him home.  Kyle and Paul stayed behind, along with my dad and Gene-oh.  We watched, and watched and watched.  I probably bit my nails to the nub.  We didn’t really say much.  There wasn’t much to say.  They were going into extra innings, and the prospect of going to Arizona to face Randy Johnson was almost as bad as the idea of facing Mike Scott in a forced Game Seven in Houston during the ’86 playoffs.  Almost.

But then…could it…is it…could is possibly be…Hineys cautiously lifted up from the couch or lounge chair, as we watched Steve Finley’s puppy dog face, when he realized the ball he was certain was caught was not.

Thus the celebrations.  The pogo hops.  Zorba the Greek-like dances.  This time, though, we couldn’t toss Paul around like a football in celebration.  In fact, he was 13 years old, he probably could have tossed US around.  This meant that we were facing the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.

It also meant we were back at the old house in North Middletown for the NLCS.  It turned out it was the last time, as Melissa was serious about selling it.  They would be out by the year 2000.

We may have watched the NLCS of 1999 in the same living room we watched the 1986 and 1988 playoffs.  Yet, so much had changed in that time period.  Kyle and Brett hadn’t been born until after 1988.  And while Paul was born in 1986, he had no visible memories of the 1986 championship.  This was for all intents and purposes their first run as Mets fans.  I had gone to high school and college, graduated from both, and was living on my own and doing adult things like drive and pay bills.  Yet, it was like nothing had changed.  The neighborhood had stayed the same, with the same corner store that I had bought my Chocodile 11 years before.

Something else curious happened.  There was a computer in the old living room.  Computers were not so mainstream at the time, and the Internet was fairly a new phenomenon.  During the playoffs, I helped Paul with his English homework.  By the end of the night, I was crafting an email to NBC about how horrible Bob Costas was during the game.  “Bob Costas is the winter of our discontent” got many laughs from the peanut gallery at Bray Avenue.  Aunt Melissa started to lament how much she missed Tim McCarver.  I wonder if she says that now watching him on FOX.

During Game Five, the infamous grand slam single game, we had ordered dinner early in the evening…till the game went on forever and a day.  Melissa swore that if they went to a Game Six, she’d make dinner and dessert, so that we wouldn’t be starving.  The kids begged to stay up to watch the end.  Both Paul and Kyle had vested interests in the game.  Paul was a Mets fan, Kyle for some reason was a Braves fan.  Of course, this was another game that had there been a toddler, we’d have tossed him or her around the round while the Mets won that game in dramatic fashion.  Instead, we did our pogo hops and Zorba the Greek dances.

For Game Six though, I remember Al Leiter starting off skittish.  I remember screaming at the TV.  I remember Paul and Kyle being sent to bed since they had school the next day.  Oh please, when you were that age, were YOU sleeping?  I was standing at the edge of the room where the living room and their bedroom door met, and Paul kept opening the door to see what the score was.  The Mets were slowly chipping away at the lead, but 1999 was demised that evening.

I wasn’t so much sad that the season had ended.  I was very proud of that team.  What I was mostly sad about was the prospect of Gene and Melissa moving.  Yes, I know I didn’t grow up there.  Yes, I know it was very selfish to think that way.  So many of my early Mets memories were formed there.  I had sat on the living room floor in front of the television during many baseball seasons, but the times we watched the games over at Gene and Melissa’s house was an event.  There were so many fond memories formed over there during the years.  I didn’t grow up there specifically, but I did grow up there in a sense.  So did my Mets fandom.

A year later, when the Mets were in the World Series, we watched Game One in the living room of the new house.  We sang The Star Spangled Banner before the game.  Infamously, we sent my dad to the kitchen when he got up to use the bathroom and the Mets led off the inning with a base runner.  He chanted “Lets go Mets” from the other room, while we chanted in the living room.

The vibe was different, but the family stayed the same.

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It was only fitting that we saw Gene and Melissa at the last game at Shea.  Eight years had passed, but so much had changed in those years.  I’d started blogging on the Mets almost two years prior.  The Mets had gone on an improbable run in 2006, only to fall in disappointment in 2007 and 2008.

Shea Stadium was coming down soon after the Mets finished up 2008.

Me with Aunt Melissa, Uncle Gene and Pop on Shea Goodbye Day

Coop and Mr. E in the Coop Box at Shea Mezzanine 14

There were many different ways to watch games with the advent of smartphones, Internet TV and streaming videos, among others.  I preferred to watch Mets games on their pretty new network, SportsNet NY, the old fashioned way: on the floor of my living room.  Oh, all right, I probably sat on my couch or lounge chair during games too.  Okay, fine, in a bar too.

I texted a lot too during games; Twitter wasn’t exactly in fashion yet.  My phone served as sort of a command post during games.  I had met a whole new group of family members through my blogging and newfangled media such as Facebook.

Prior to the Internet’s existence, my personality was shaped by being a Mets fan, but watching the games with so many memorable characters I’ve ever known in my life.

When the last “pitch” was thrown at Shea by Tom Seaver to Mike Piazza, my dad hugged me and said, “You grew up here.”  It got dusty for a bit.  Funny, they didn’t start to tear down Shea till a few days later.  Perhaps they got a head start on it during the closing ceremonies.

Maybe I grew up at Shea Stadium, but I became a Mets fan watching games the best way that I possibly could: with family and loved ones.

Some of the best memories are simple ones.

Married to the Mets: The Beginnings

My dad took me to my first ever game in 1984.  Technically, he tried to take me in June of 1980, the day after Steve Henderson hit his infamous walk-off home run (The “Hendu Cando” game).  As legend has it, Mom and Dad got lost in Chinatown, got into an argument, and we ended up back at home…not before a compensatory trip to McDonald’s.  I was four.  I didn’t know the difference.  Mets, McDonald’s.  Either way, I was going to eat junk food.

I guess I started to get the baseball itch when I was seven, also the same year I discovered Duran Duran and Brit New Wave pop.  Both things helped shape a lot of my personality, and you see a lot of those qualities in me today.  I remember writing a paper (if one can even call it that, at seven years old) on what my dad and my mom liked to do.  My mom liked to bake and shop, while my dad like baseball, and is a New York Mets fan.  I remember my teacher gave me an A, and said that her dad, too, was a Mets fan.  I started watching more games and asking my dad about guys like Tom Seaver (whom he went to see his first Opening Day back with the team since 1977 that year) and Keith Hernandez (who was some guy that was traded midseason, but I had no idea what that meant).

In 1984, I saw Dwight Gooden lose a few times live at Shea Stadium.  But I still bought the hype, drank the Kool-Aid, and was a full-fledged Mets nut.  And I wished that I had known about Strawberry Sundae night in 1984.  I would have been ALL over that game.

By 1985, my dad had invested in a Sunday game pack with his best friend and his wife, my beloved Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa.  When Melissa couldn’t go, I’d often go in her place.  This became more prominent in 1986, as she had given birth to their first child in the year after, my “cousin” Paul Gene.  I saw something interesting.  My dad became friendly with these guys who sat next to us in Loge Section 22.  I’ll never forget their names: Dominic, Rob and Mike.  Dominic was a typical Brooklynite, who had an accent that I loved.  Rob was a quiet and subdued guy, but treated me like an adult when I talked to him.  I don’t remember much about Mike except that my child’s memory has drawn him into a big oaf.

We have places like McFadden’s at CitiField these days, and the Caesar’s Club and what not to go to if you’re lucky enough to have access to on some level.  Back then, there was Casey’s on the Loge level.  I remember taking many walks with my dad to Casey’s as he went to get his rounds of beers for the guys.  That was something else I remember.  That everyone bought everyone rounds of beer.  The big foamy cups dedicated to Bacchus, and so I wouldn’t feel left out, I got many RC Cola cups in return, still my favorite soda.  Sometimes, we’d take walks down to Field Level for the old Frusen Gladje stand, where I swear still was the best cookies n’ cream ice cream I’d ever had in my life.  I was also partial to the pizza roll (which was this deep fried egg roll loveliness of pizza sauce and cheese and dough) and the old French fries (screw Nathan’s and Box Frites), all served to us by the ever present Harry M. Stevens attendant.

I am a Capricorn and rumor has it we’re an observant astrological sign.  When I wasn’t paying attention to the game at hand (in 1985, there wasn’t a whole lot of reasons to pay attention, since the Mets were winning a lot more that year so it was a lot of standing up for home runs, especially from my favorite Met ever, Gary Carter), I was paying attention to the relationships unfolding next to me.  I was too young to understand, but I did see my dad and my uncle forming relationships with these guys next to him in Section 22.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it seemed to me that when you had the common bond of a sports team, you had a friend for life.

This may come as a surprise to some people who know me in real life, but I was a pretty shy kid.  I didn’t have many friends, and it was hard for me to relate to kids my own age.  I blamed a lot of it by being socialized with adults growing up, being an only child and all.   As I grew up, when people found out I was a baseball fan (and most importantly, a sports fan and liked many different teams), it was a common thread, a bond which we could all agree upon and talk about.

I always went back to those relationships that my dad formed in the stands with those guys he’d met, simply by accident since they all had Sunday plans and sat in the same row of Loge 22.  It was present in my mind when I met Frank, Tommy and Kim — the “Woodside Crew” — in 2002 sitting in Mezzanine 22.  There was Richie and Roger and the Bensonhurst crew.  There was Julie and Ben and Mark and Eddie in Section 10 of the Mezzanine for Saturday games.  There was Drew and the Bayside crew in Mezzanine Section 14.

Being a Mets fan has shaped a lot of my personality as an adult; but the memories I made by sitting with these folks, simply by chance, really had an impact on my life.  I guess I’m writing this as a way to let them know, if there’s any way they can know about it.

The last we heard of Dominic, Rob and Mike was in 1994.  Opening Day that year, I went with the usual suspects — Dad, Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa and their two kids Paul and little Kyle (who isn’t so little anymore) — and we had seats in Upper Deck.  I believe this was the year we sat in the second to last row in those sky boxes, to which Uncle Gene said his famous, “I specifically asked for the last row!”  Walking up the ramp, Dad spotted Dominic and Rob.  There was a lot of hugs, hand shakes and “How are the kids?”  Et cetera, et cetera.  I was about to graduate high school that year, and it made them feel old I’m sure.  Dominic was living in Connecticut and had two kids of his own.  Mike was up to the same BS.   We never saw them after that day.  I doubt I would even recognize them now.

Times change, people change.  One of the fringe benefits of being a fan is sharing a moment that’s bigger than you with tens of thousands of other people.  Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to find those special someones who become important to you outside of the baseball game.  Mets fans may be the geekiest fans out there, but we also share more of a common thread than I think any fan base.  This fan base was born of Brooklyn Dodger and New York Giant fans, and both of those teams skipped town over 50 years ago.  There was pain, and baseball died in a lot of people’s hearts when that happened.  But as James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, the one constant throughout the years has been baseball.  Baseball has marked the time of America as it’s been rebuilt, erased and rebuilt again.

The one constant in my life has been being a Mets fan.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.  I also wouldn’t trade meeting those three goons in Loge 22.  I doubt they remember me, but they left an indelible mark on my heart inadvertently.  Those friendships formed led me to open my heart to many Mets fans, and caused me to write about them and expand my network of friends.

A lot has changed since I was nine years old.  But the constant in my life has been the Mets.  I’m married to them, in a way.  And whoever is my friend or acquaintance has to understand that.  Everyone has their quirks.  My quirk is being a Mets fan.