Fans

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.

Advertisements

A Series Teaser

I’ve been pretty quiet about the Mets this offseason.  Mostly because they, themselves, have been quiet.  As my friend Richie S over at Random Mets Thoughts says, wake us when there’s news.

The last thing I want to do though, is become complacent in my Mets writing.  I mean, when something does happen, it’s easy to be reactionary.  Which I realize has been part of my problem in the last few years: too reactionary, not enough creativity.  Even when I’m reactionary though, I can be creative.  Yet I started A Gal For All Seasons to be proactive and come up with original content.  It can be stifling at times, but it forces me to think out of the box.  Sometimes, though, forcing yourself to do something can be counterproductive.  But I keep plotzing on.

In the middle of the 2011 season, over at sister site Kiners Korner, I did a series on the Most Notorious Mets.  It was fun and lively and generated a lot of dialogue.  Then someone approached me about writing a book.  Granted, it wasn’t anyone in the publishing industry, but when I was tapped to add a piece about our friend Dana Brand in his memorial book last summer, I knew I could probably do it if I had a better focus.

So I’m using this platform as a vehicle to help me refine my craft.  It may not be the Great American Novel I swore to my English professors that I would write someday…but it could be a fun lively story that is appreciated by the Mets community.  Which is all I really need is to write something to connect with the community.

Despite whatever negative, positive, or somewhere in between there will be in Mets news this offseason, I will try to keep things light and original and try to post a new synopsis weekly about my ideas.  Stay tuned!

Giving Thanks

This might have been a phone conversation I had with my dad the other night.

Me: “So I’ll be seeing my friends Fred and Jenn this weekend.”

Dad: “Fred Solomon??? Man, I feel like I know that guy.”

Funny, because “Solly,” as we like to call him, has never met my dad (neither has his wife, Jenn).  Yet, because of this wonderful thing called social media and Facebook, it’s introduced me to a universe of friends that I probably would not have known otherwise.

And at the root of it?  It’s our shared fandom of certain teams.

Fans at a Jets game (From L to R): Kevin, Coop, Mr. E and Kace

When I was a kid, my dad would take me Mets games at Shea Stadium.  Mr. E, as we call him, has a natural approachable and friendly personality.  Anyone who meets him loves him.  He’s just the right mixture of lovably wacky and heart-of-gold.  This weekend, he turns 60. He’s showed me what it’s like to be a die-hard fan of sports and what it takes to be a friend.

I’ve probably loved him and hated him equally for making me a Mets, Jets and Rangers fan though.

Yet, when we used to go to these games, he’d go with his best friend, affectionately known as “Uncle Gene,” and I’d tag along.  They’d keep me occupied with Cracker Jacks, fountain sodas and ice cream (did I mention how hyper I’d be at these games too?).  They used to sit in a section with these guys Dominic, Rob and Mike.  You’d never know it, but they just met and socialized at the games.  They always seemed like they knew each forever.  But it was sports.  Sports is what drew them together, and what was an initial common bond.

Sadly, they lost touch over the years, but I can’t tell you how many times Dominic, Rob and Mike popped into a conversation with Mr. E or Uncle Gene while we talked about going to Mets games.  I always remembered though that I loved the in-the-trenches humor that Mets fans have, and it kept me around, even in down times because it was always a common thread we have.

My dad also got me going to Rangers hockey games and into the Jets a long time ago.  After the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008, I said, “It’s bad enough that you made me a Mets and a Rangers fan…but a JETS FAN???”  Pops took me to my first Mets baseball game and Rangers hockey game…but I took him to his first Jets game last year.  So I guess one good turn deserves another.

Mets Fans at AT&T Park (From L to R): Ed, Coop, Senor Solly and Mrs. Senor Solly

So this brings me back to Fred and Jenn, or Senor Solly and Mrs. Senor Solly.  I don’t know if I’d know them outside of sports.  I’d like to think somehow our paths would have crossed but outside of our mutual fandom, sadly I don’t think that would be the case.  So even when my teams are horrible and they suck and they piss me off, I have the relationships and bonds I’ve formed as a result of them.  Yet, because my dad has been “introduced” to them as a result of tools like Facebook or even about me bringing them up in conversation, they are kind of like my versions of Dominic, Rob and Mike.  Though maybe if Facebook existed back in the ’80s, we wouldn’t be wondering “What happened to those guys??” and maybe seeing them at games more regularly.  Last we heard, Dominic got married and was living in Greenwich, Connecticut, and had two kids.  That was back in 1994.  His kids might have graduated college by now.

This is the time of the year we are supposed to give thanks to what we have and friend we have met and for our family, but most of all I am thankful that my dad got me into sports.  I may get mad at him for rooting in exercises in futility sometimes…yet, I also know the thrill of winning, which is why I stick around and it makes the bad times worth it.

But most of all, it got me to meet some lovely people over the years.  If you are not a sports fan, then perhaps this is a bit out of the realm of your comfort zone.  There may be common bonds you form with different groups of people.  For us, we get together, and bitch about our teams, and reminisce about the good ol’ days, and then we find we have more in common than we ever thought.

When Worlds Collide

As a sports nut, I have many rooting interests, sometimes conflicts of interest (especially regarding what game I need to prioritize if multiple events are being shown) and mostly conflicting seasons.  Meaning, end of summer isn’t just about beginning of football or baseball wrapping up, but it also means that hockey is in my cross hairs.

What’s also interesting is how many people seem to think the same way I do about these events.  It’s tough to find many Mets and Rangers fans.  It’s a lot easier to find say, Mets and Jets fans, even Mets and Giants fans, but Mets and Rangers are usually as far apart as I don’t know, Yankees and Mets.  See, the Mets were an expansion team, and the Rangers are an Original Six.  While both have their unique and sometimes quirky history, they are as far apart on the spectrum as any team’s history can expect.  However, the way they operate is very similar.  They both have clueless front office and ownership is family-oriented, meaning sometimes the best decisions are not necessarily made and it’s done more to protect the family than of making their investment better.

Yet, when Alvin, a Mets friend of mine, suggested a few of us get together and see a Rangers preseason game in New Jersey versus the hated Devils…I couldn’t say no.  Preseason games usually aren’t my thing (ESPECIALLY when I have to travel for it), but the people I went with are really good folks and I wanted to see them too since it had been awhile.

 

Preseason games usually don’t mean anything to me, but when I’m with such good company, it makes the trip worthwhile.

Now first things first, the moment we enter the place, it was like we owned it.  Ranger fans are very territorial, and I would say even with the success the Devils have had in recent years, the population is 50/50 at most Devils/Rangers games, and I would even venture to say the over goes to Ranger fans (it’s typically more economical to visit the team on the road in NJ, and especially convenient to the NJ portion of the Ranger fanbase).  In fact, when we walked in, a Swedish news reporter asked us about Henrik Lundqvist and why we followed the Rangers.  Of course, we all offered our opinionated views on why we love the Rangers.

The arena, Prudential Center, is much nicer than the previous hole the Devils used to play in, the Swamp, er uh…Meadowlands “I’m Calling It Brendan Byrne” Arena.  Of course, I am biased with it because while I think The Rock is a nice place, it’s nowhere near as cool as MSG.  The thing I will give it over MSG is that a) it’s newer and b) is easier to navigate than MSG.  During the playoffs last season, I was claustrophobic walking around the Garden.  This place has never given me the shrinking walls syndrome that MSG always does.  The food is also marginally better at Pru too.  Yet, I feel like I am at high school gymnasium when I attend games there, with their Devils Dancers and the overall homage to Jersey they have.  I’m from freaking Jersey, and I hate that this is the representative “Jersey team” and that it’s crammed down my throat.

 

Nice arena, but certainly not my cup of tea.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand which is the game itself…

Well, Not Henrik played, Uncle Daddy Marty (aka Martin Brodeur) did.  We got to see Ryan Callahan and his Sweet C.  Even some role guys like Mike Del Zotto showed up.

   

Some aspects of history were brought up, some sad, some kind of interesting.  One thing was that we heard most NHL teams had a dedication to those we’ve lost this summer, most specifically the plane crash that took the lives of the Lokomotiv Russian team.  It was a tearjerker for sure, and even highlighted one of the ’94 Rangers, Alexander Karpovtsev.

For the interesting part…not many people know that prior to his now synonymous #30, Brodeur was #29 at the first point of his career.  I bet this chick thought she was all hard-core wearing not only her fugly red and green originals, but that she was on board with #29 before everyone else.

As legend has it, the Rangers won in the 3rd period with a go-ahead goal and all was right in the world.  Well, I was annoyed and a bit bored since Pru did not get the memo that a) I was there and b) would like to be served immediately if not sooner between periods (especially when all I want is a goddamn soda). Plus, I had to run 10 miles the next morning and needed to get a good night of sleep.  Trust me, this stuff doesn’t happen during the season.  Plus, it was kind of entertaining to see the Devils fans treat this game like a Stanley Cup playoff.  I just had fun hanging with the people who make it worthwhile for me to root for a team and be an active participant as a spectator.

Some other observations I made, albeit quickly and with a watered-down preseason team: Passing looked smoother, they took more shots (no la-la-la pretty set-up dancing) and their power play looked at least a bit tighter.  Clearly, the boys did their homework over the summer break.

Yet, the same night, the Mets were supposed to play, and did not because of a rain out.  Typically, we are going out all out trying to keep up with the scoreboard watching, even though the Mets game meant nothing, even though it’s a meaningless game in September.  But for all intents and purposes, we were also sitting at a meaningless game.

It took more meaning with the people I was with, who also have active interests.  This is what happens when my sports worlds collide.

Oh and not only did my sports worlds collide, my arena worlds collided when the only true dancer of hockey, the Blue Seats’ own Dancin’ Larry, came and regaled us with a few moves at one point in the game!

Preseason games aren’t always to warm the teams up, it’s to warm the fans up too. Judging by the turn out for this particular game, I think it’s shaping up to be a fun season.