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.