When I talk about my sports fandom, I often refer to the year 1983. I was seven years old, just finishing up first grade. I had to write a stupid little “my favorite things” essay (well, what a seven year old could anyway).
I wrote about what I liked (cats, chocolate and the beach). But I also had to write about my mom and my dad’s likes. My mom said that my dad liked the Mets.
I didn’t know what “Mets” was. My teacher did though. When she graded it, she wrote on the paper, “My dad is a Mets fan too.”
Pretty sure it was a short time later, my dad was watching TV, and I sat on the couch with him. I asked him what he was watching, and he said he was watching the Mets game. He took it upon himself to tell me that under no circumstances was I to ever be a Yankees fan. And to a kid, especially in the tri-state area, the Yankees logo was crammed down our throats as much as McDonald’s or even Kellogg’s cereals.
I liked my dad, though. So I figured, if he liked those guys (the Mets), then I liked those guys too.
And thirty something years later, I still like those guys. Thanks, Dad.
Looking back, when I wrote the essay (which I remember was late in the school year), and the year (1983), it was a significant time for the Mets and their fans in general. “The Franchise” Tom Seaver was brought back as a sign of goodwill for fans on the direction of the team.
Probably also around that same time, a beloved folk hero was traded to the team. His name was Keith Hernandez.
My sports fandom often intersects with my love for music. My dad is a blues musician, and my mother has a pretty great singing voice. I’ve probably been exposed to everything from Beethoven to Beatles from the time I was in the womb by the time I started school. The same year I started to understand what baseball was, I discovered something else…two things, actually. Music Television (I WANT MY MTV!) and new wave music.
Mostly Duran Duran.
School shopping for second grade that summer, my mother would bring me to the mall. The Macy’s kids department was an annex of the big department store. I hated going shopping with her. Mostly because she’d make me, as a seven and eight year old, stand around and wait while she discount shopped. The only little bribe I’d get is that she’d sometimes get me cookies from the cookie stand. And no, Monmouth Mall did not have a food court at the time.
One day we had to go to Macy’s kids store, I saw something on the televisions that played identical simultaneous videos. I saw a bunch of little girls, around my age, congregating around the video display. I told my mom (who never could understand that I was a tomboy and most comfortable in stuff that wasn’t a dress, and really didn’t care for shopping) that I was going to the video display. She had no objections. Looking back, she could probably get more of my school shopping done without my snotty attitude about not wanting to be there.
The video playing was “Hungry Like The Wolf” by Duran Duran. I had heard the song several times on the old Z-100. It was catchy. I liked it a lot.
However, I had no idea what the band who played said song LOOKED like.
I developed my first crush. And a girl standing next to me asked if I had heard of Duran Duran. I remember what she looked like. Freckles, brown hair, probably at the horrible awkward stage I’d later hit at age 10. I told her I had. She then proceeded to give me a crash course about the band and the names of the members. Simon. Nick. John. Roger. Andy, who was married.
Funny how much of this conversation I remembered, since these days I barely remember what I had for breakfast. I was really captivated by the imagery of the videos. Chances are, if you grew up in that time period, you were too.
The song and video that stood out for me was “Save A Prayer.” The haunting song and melody, the soothing synth played by Nick, the sensual dance of Simon and Clare, who according to this girl I was watching the videos with, were “boyfriend and girlfriend.”
After that visit, I started buying magazines like Tiger Beat and 16. They were the only places I could get my Duran Duran fix. At the Collingswood Auction, I bought “Rio” with my allowance money.
When I was seven, I was introduced to two things that helped shape my personality forever. At the time I didn’t know it, of course. It took me several years before I did realize this.
Also as a girl from a small town in New Jersey, liking a British new wave band and Major League Baseball team? Yeah. Made me a little weird.
While 1983 might have shifted my personality, it wasn’t until 1984 that I went to my first live sporting event at Shea Stadium. Of course, it was a Mets game. I was destined to be a Mets fan. This was one of Dwight Gooden’s few starts that he was shellacked in that year (where he went on to win Rookie of the Year), but it was also a game against the Houston Astros whose starter was none other than former Met, Nolan Ryan. Now, I had literally no idea who that guy was then. But boy, when I look at the history of this team, of course he would teach little Doc a lesson on the mound the day.
The Mets lost, 10-1. We left probably around the 8th inning to beat traffic. I dozed off in the car, and woke up somewhere probably in Brooklyn. The old WHN was on, because we listened to the end of the game as we left. My dad said, the game is over. I asked if the Mets won.
Yeap, I was a fan.
I noticed there was a giveaway in a few weeks. If I remember correctly, it was Memorial Day weekend. Sports bag day. See, a 10-1 loss wasn’t enough to keep me away. I wanted to go back. Seriously. I was a masochist even back then.
Yet, 1984 was one of the most memorable summers I can remember as a child. If you are old enough to remember it, it was an influential time for you too. Besides learning about the Mets, and what pennant races were, Ghostbusters was a popular movie that came out that summer. I remember listening to bands like The Cars, and Duran Duran had a popular song called “The Reflex” (not one of my favorites, even to this day). Videos were becoming the norm.
What was also influential that I think if you were a young child, really gave you a crash course in Americana. It was not only the Reagan – Mondale election year, the Summer Olympics were also held in Los Angeles. I really had no idea how powerful that was for American pride that year. Basically, we all shit out red, white and blue. It was ridiculous.
Two American music artists had captured our imagination.
One was my New Jersey hero, Bruce Springsteen.
Another was an enigmatic artist named Prince.
I can’t listen to either Born in the U.S.A. nor Purple Rain without thinking how that year influenced me not only as a child, but how much it holds over me as an adult.
I always kind of associated both of those musicians together. I didn’t realize why, until I read this great post that was written two years ago by Ryan McNutt, about how their artistry intersected, though being completely different styles of music. You could appreciate and love both. They were artists of the people. Vastly different musicians, but influential around the same time.
I didn’t know this at age eight. All I know is that I really dug songs like “When Doves Cry” or “Purple Rain,” and I really loved “Dancing in the Dark,” and hoped that one day I’d be all like Courteney Cox and dance with The Boss on stage.
I kept saying that our heroes were going away. In 2011, we found out that a Mets legend from 1986 was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he passed away soon after. When I heard about Gary Carter, I called my dad and cried. Everyone has a cliche story about Kid Sunshine, and mine was that I met him after a game where he served as a guest coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones. I basically babbled about how much I loved him in the ’80s and how much he meant to me. Right before he was diagnosed with cancer, he sat in for a Mets podcast with my old Kiners Korner team, and I told him about one of my fondest memories of being a Mets fan was about him (Mets home opener in 1985).
If you like narrative, he hit that home run off Neil Allen, who was one of the trade chips for the guy indirectly responsible for me being a Mets fan today, and that’s Keith Hernandez.
Seeing Doc Gooden pitch in 1984 is why I stayed a fan.
Some of the most influential years of my life happened while I was a child. Many of my likes and dislikes, and outright loves, happened to come along in 1983 and 1984.
When I heard about Prince Rogers Nelson’s death today, I was sad. More than that, I thought of the arc his music had served in my life. The intersection of music and sports for me, takes it all. Minnesota sports teams also felt an impact from his artistry.
Fitting that it’s raining in Minneapolis today. pic.twitter.com/s5KFurDhHi
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 21, 2016
“Long reign the purple and gold.”
Thanks for everything, Prince. You’ll be missed.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) April 22, 2016
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) April 21, 2016
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) April 21, 2016
I wouldn’t say I was the biggest Prince fan. But I was a fan. I had seen Prince, thankfully, in 2004. When I heard he passed, I sat on a city bench and watched videos of some live shows. You just needed to get close to Prince when you heard about it.
When Joey Ramone died, I had enormous regret that I had never seen the Ramones live. I had plenty of opportunity. I figured the Ramones would never die.
I really liked the Eagles. Then Glenn Frey had to go and die this year. Never saw the Eagles live.
I remember telling my dad in 2005 that we needed to see Paul McCartney. Dad’s favorite Beatle, George Harrison, died, having never saw him live (he didn’t tour much, but that’s besides the point). My first show was Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band in 1989. The Beatles have served as a soundtrack in my life (no pun intended).
From 2004 to 2006, I went to so many live shows that had influence on my adult life. (McCartney was one, and Duran Duran’s original line up reunited in 2004, which was good because I wouldn’t see them until they reunited with Roger Taylor…I’m weird, leave me alone).
The way I described Prince was like attending a party for tens of thousands of people, where the guest of honor was celebrated all night. When George Harrison died, my dad said he felt as though a part of his youth had gone. I felt as though a part of my youth was gone when Gary Carter passed.
And today, a big part of my identity as a sports and music fan has gone with Prince due to that one crazy summer and year of 1984.
The postscript to my Prince affinity happened in Halloween of 1986. Just four days prior to October 31, the Mets had won the World Series. If you know me five minutes, you know how much this influenced my personality then and now.
I had gone to a Halloween Party where there was a DJ, and I was dressed as a Met. (My mother always made these elaborate costumes, and this was one of the lazier costumes I had worn, but whatever). The DJ made a special shout out to “all you Mets fans out there!” Clearly, that was me (no one else was a vocal about being a Mets fan than I was, plus I was wearing the costume, so there).
The song she chose was “Let’s Go Crazy.”
It’s tough to think of a world without Prince in it. As I said after Michael Jackson’s death, Michael will never truly be “dead” because his music lives on forever.
Same with Prince. And my memories tied to him and my love for sports will stay with me as long as I am here on Earth.