It’s the holiday season.
We’re smack dab in the heart of football season, with playoffs upon us and must-win games with the Jets and the Giants next weekend (oh, did I mention that they’re facing EACH OTHER?? Yes, I’ll need to stay off Twitter for fear of feeding the trolls).
Yet this week, I have a “59 Days Still Pitchers and Catchers” Party to attend. Over the weekend, it was also a celebration of my birthday and Dee’s birthday, officially, at Strawberry’s Grill in Douglaston, NY. Of course, this is Darryl Strawberry’s namesake restaurant, run by him and his family, with Mets and Yankees themes throughout the restaurant (he did play for the Evil Empire after all).
Baseball is the Kevin Bacon of life: we are all just six degrees of separation from it all.
I detailed in my post from last week, The Decemberists, about Dee and I going to a football game for our birthdays. For years, we always hated that we had to be relegated to staying indoors for our birthdays because it’s so cold. That we always wanted to celebrate our birthdays at a baseball game but while we could say “It’s our birthday” any other day, it’s not truly the same.
When life gives you lemons, we make lemonade. Look on the bright side. There’s Christmas in July. Life is full of these hokey little cliches that infiltrate our lives. We may celebrate birthdays or Christmas or whatever denominational holiday you observe, but why does baseball get shafted? No, seriously. If we need a little Christmas right this very minute, why can’t baseball be alive and well in the winter time?
I’m not talking about winter ball. For those of us who don’t celebrate holidays or maybe just observe whatever for the sake of observing, most of us can subscribe to celebrating baseball 24/7/265.
Poet Laureate of Flushing, Greg Prince, attended the Second Annual Coop Dee Ville Birthday Spectacular and was also in attendance for the inaugural party in 2010. He once said that “Every poseur wants to be at Opening Day. Closing Day is a rite for the secret society of baseball fanatics.” While “Closing Day” allows us to reflect on the season at hand and think about the what-might-have-beens, Closing Day has an aura of sadness around it. Opening Day has all the hope of a New Year, a new rotation around the sun. Yet, conversely, it provides hope, Closing Day that is. It provides us with the idea that our team can get better, and we can become better fans as well, subsequently better people. Is that true? Is that hokey? Who knows? All I know is that I don’t believe in Santa Claus…but I do believe in baseball.
My birthday happens to coincide with the winter solstice. The days start getting shorter right before, then start getting longer and longer. Pessimists dwell on the lack of daylight. I like to dwell on the fact that the days will only get brighter from here on in.
And isn’t that what our problems have been with our birthdays before we met, Dee?? We focused on the fact that our birthdays get overshadowed by the larger and all-encompassing holiday season. Not on what we do have: lasting and fulfilling relationships, mostly from being sports fans. I met my husband by being a Mets fan. And most of the attendees at the soiree on Saturday night were less than Six Degrees of Separation from my being a Mets fan.
There’s my dad, who was there. As legend had it, I was in the womb rocking out to Rosalita while my mom attended a Bruce Springsteen concert. When I was out of the womb, my dad sat crying in front of the television on June 15, 1977. I used to mock him for it, but now I understand. I haven’t had that moment as a Mets fan, but I have been betrayed by my ownership team like Dad once was. But he made me a Mets fan, for better or for worse.
As a Mets fan, I liked to write about baseball. I started following blogs in 2004, and started my own in 2007. As a result, I became part of the Mets-erati, the “Lost Generation” or “Jazz Age” versions of baseball writers. Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing introduced me to the Chapmans, who have enriched my life to the extent that they are my family, not just my “summer” family. The Chapmans introduced me to friend Phil, another Mets fan who introduces me to several adult beverages and road races. I guess they’re like my Yin and Yang. Bad influences too, but bad-in-a-good way.
My associations with the Chapmans and Greg also gained me a friend in DyHrdMet from Remembering Shea, a collective of Mets memories, honoring the past and making sense of the present. We may be told to get over the past, but DyHrdMet appreciates the balance of what history and romanticism means to a Mets fan.
From blogging made me part of a die-hard crew of Mets fans who act like we survived a war or something. There’s always some kind of tie that binds us, and DyHrdMet does that, but it also gained me a friend from the Twitterverse in Richie S from Random Mets Thoughts. We are Mets fans, we are music fans…but most of all, he is a dad who made his daughter a Mets fan. I’m sure she sometimes feels the same way about that fact like the way I do with my dad and the Mets: we equally love and hate them both at times (the team and our dads for introducing us to this life of sometimes-Jobian-existence). Richie fits right in with the rest of us, obsessing about the Mets in a mid-winter board meeting as he called our soiree.
From Twitter and blogging, I met Nik Kolidas, who is a damn fine musician, but also a knowledgeable Mets fan and blogger. From these ties, I started writing at KinersKorner.com, and we started our own podcast The Kult of Mets Personalities. It’s a roundtable of fun and funny people who understand the bigger picture of Mets fandom and baseball fanaticism.
Social media added another layer of Mets fandom to the next level. While blogging may have exposed our thoughts, Facebook and Twitter among others have provided our hearts as well. Alvin and Anne Marie are both Mets and New York Rangers fans. Jason is another friend who is a hockey fan (Devils – boo! but Mets fan too). So I have not only gained new Mets fans in the mix, I have people I can watch and go to hockey games with. Sweet.
Lastly, I invited a friend I’ve known for years, Martin, to my shindig. He had hurt his ankle early in the week and didn’t know if he’d be able to make it. He said after a few days of rest, he had cabin fever and wanted to come. As he came, everyone wanted to know his baseball affiliation. He said, “I’m a Mets fan too. But that’s because Coop tells me to be one.” Another one bites the dust, kids.
I met Ed through outlets like Metsmerized Online and Facebook subsequently. We got married. Good for us. But as a result, I met other people through the Metsmerized community. I met my soul sister Dee through those channels, but I also gained two other people as a result of knowing her: mother Arlene, whom I refer to affectionately as “Aunt Arl” but also her best friend from childhood, Angie. They often say that life is full of happy accidents. Seriously, how much of it can be truly planned if it’s so unpredictable? But I never knew that being a baseball fan would get me a husband, a best friend and de facto sister, someone I look on as a mother, and a new friend to boot. Happy accidents, indeed.
Then bring that back ’round to my dad, Mr. E or Mr. Coop or Eddy or Alan Eddy Cooper Jug Band leader. My dad knows everyone. I can’t tell you how many times as a kid we’d walk into a store, and he’d spend 20 minutes chatting someone up about something. He’s not one of those “weirdos” you want to look the other way on the train. But if he can find that connecting quality with someone, you’ll have a friend for life. Dad was amazed looking around at the cast of characters at Strawberry’s on Saturday night. If you think about it, Darryl Strawberry played for the Mets, and we all loved Straw. As a result, he opens a sports bar in Queens, home of the Mets. A bunch of Mets fans meet in a roundabout yet seemingly so simple we wonder why it took so long to begin with. As a result, we act like army buddies. Dad said, “This is different than in the ’70s and ’80s. We didn’t have cell phones or Facebook. But we did have bars.”
During the night, another guest who should have been there but was 3000 miles away, brother from another mother and concerned Mets fan Senor Solly, kept jumping into conversations. He’s never met my dad, but he helped me serenade my dad for his birthday this year. Senor Solly has not met the majority of us, physically (my dad was amazed my husband and I were the only people, actually), but he’s touched our lives in numerous ways. Simply by being a Mets fan. And by Sharon telling him to go fuck himself.
Baseball is an amazing sport. It brings people together, whether or not you’re affiliated with the same team. I got overwhelmed at one point thinking about how my life has changed so dramatically in the past decade or so simply by the baseball team I root for. They drive us nuts sometimes, but I often say that the best times to be a Mets fan is during the down years because that gives you character and introduces you to characters. No one can ever say we’re not devoted. At the same time, it’s the middle of winter, there are football playoff implications, there is hockey to be watched (and even watched Bradley Richards score a dramatic .01 of a second left in the game winning goal against Phoenix on Saturday), we had birthdays to celebrate and holidays to worry about. We talked baseball.
Maybe world peace is a distant phenomenon that can’t ever be attained due to the natural aggression of human nature. Eh, that’s a bit overdramatic. Maybe if baseball were the universal language, it could get us to that point.
Kevin Bacon may own the whole six degrees thing in cinema. But baseball owns the six degrees of life. Therefore, baseball is the Kevin Bacon of life.
And we all love bacon. AmIRite?
Such a good piece! I’m grateful that I’ve met so many people through this team that I can almost forgive them for making me miserable (the team, not the people). The connections work like a familial spider’s web, we all just become friends, not even remembering how we met in the first place.
You’re so right about dad/daughter. Maddie has damned me to hell on many occasions for making her a Mets fan, yet this fandom has produced some of our greatest experiences. If I can be invited to her party and hang with her Mets fan friends like Mr. Coop does with yours, I will consider myself to have succeeded as a parent.
I’ve often said that it’s the down years with the Mets that bring us closer together. I meet the “real” fans, the people who live, breathe and eat and aren’t frontrunners. This team builds character and builds characters, like my dad as you mentioned. It’s funny how I have only known the majority of you for a few years, but we’re mostly brought together by the Mets. I hope they know that, even in misery, we enjoy each others company, which gives credence to the terms “misery loves company.” Tell Maddie it gets better. We hope.
Sorry I missed it, Coopz. Sounds like the stuff of which legends are made!
PS — seeing as I’m not on your blog roll (harumph!) here’s a shameless plug: http://mets360.com/
FOR SHAME CHARLIEH!!! (on me) Actually, I can’t believe I forgot to include it. I tend to visit the site daily to see what content is up. Yes, you need to come next year. Not a request. AN ORDER!!
Maddie always tells me that all she has is 1 division title and 1 wild-card round win. I usually come back with how I’ve been a fan for 40 years, and don’t have much more than that.
I’m a Mets and Rangers fan. That’s bad enough. The one thing I haven’t forgiven my father for? Making me a Jets fan. Yet I stick around because “this might be their year.” Sigh.