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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Who's Gonna Tell Tanana He's Not No. 1?

When I turned thirty, my family threw me a wonderful surprise party. The coup de grace was the presentation unto the birthday boy of a small silver box with a Mets logo taped to the top. In it were fifteen pairs of tickets. Thirtieth birthday, thirty tickets.

Thirty tickets for the 1993 season.

The first game was awesome. It was Opening Day, the first one I ever went to. Everything about it was perfect. Itzhak Perlman played the national anthem. Dennis Byrd, the Jet who had been nearly paralyzed the previous season, was presented with a Mets jersey with his number (No. 90) and declared a Met For Life. The Colorado Rockies were making their debut; there was a stampede on programs by the collector-minded, but I got there early enough to buy one. Dwight Gooden threw a shutout. Bobby Bonilla made a sliding catch in right. The Mets were 1-0.

I went to the next game, too, having bought tickets for it ahead of my birthday. It had been my Christmas present to my co-workers. We shut down the office for the afternoon, sat in the sun, were handed commemorative pins marking this as the first Colorado series and watched Bret Saberhagen toy with Rockies hitters. The Mets were 2-0.

Then the fun stopped.

Picked by consensus to finish first, the 1993 Mets slid helplessly down a greasy tube of misery, taking their fans with them. Or what fans were left. Every time I dug into that silver box, I couldn't help but notice how there were progressively fewer and fewer people at those games. It was getting harder and harder to find anybody to go with me, and I don't think it was my breath. By June 27, with Anthony Young pitching just horrendously enough to lose a record-setting 24th consecutive decision, the Mets had fallen from 2-0 to 21-52.

I was there for that one, too.

1993 is the season from which the perception of the Mets has never quite recovered. After seven years of plenty, they stumbled in '91, but were given the benefit of the doubt, especially after their bold Hot Stove moves of signing Bonilla and Murray, trading for Saberhagen and bringing in Torborg to manage. That didn't work so well, but 1992 was seen as kind of a freakish, injury-plagued aberration. That October, Al Harazin went out and acquired Tony Fernandez, so surely 1993 would be the year the Mets got back to being the Mets as we knew them.

They did. The Mets as we knew them in 1962. The last lingering fume of excitement from 1986 had at last evaporated. All goodwill toward Mets was exhausted. It was official: We were no longer hot stuff.

First, it was news, the way a car wreck gets your attention. Torborg was fired. Harazin was gone. A.Y.'s losing streak and Bobby Bo's threats to Bob Klapisch and the general dissolution of civilization was a spectacle. Then spectacle became farce. And then most people stopped paying attention, save for the occasional bleach blast or fireworks explosion. It was a long, barren summer at Shea Stadium, where those of us who were favored with fifteen pairs of choice tickets had more legroom than we could've imagined.

Prior to '93, I'd never been to more than seven games in any one season. That year I attended sixteen, paving the way for the late '90s when going to Shea became more habit than event. The repeated visits to a mostly empty, totally depressing ballpark steeled my resolve and hardened my Mets identity. Where did you rats go? Sure the ship is sinking, but look! No lines at the concessions!

But it was painful. As Don Henley said, there's just so many summers and just so many springs, and both of those were wiped out before they started in 1993. There was a midweek afternoon game in St. Louis in May that I just plum forgot to listen to. That may not sound like much, but that sort of thing never happened to me. Never. But it was the kind of year when one's capacity to care shrunk in inverse proportion to the staggering number of losses and, worse, the immense sense of embarrassment.

It bottomed out when David Letterman returned to the airwaves. You'll recall he left NBC in late June and emerged on CBS with an earlier time slot, a brighter spotlight and a louder megaphone at the end of August. His easiest laugh that September, with everybody watching him, was the New York Mets. The joke went national and now transcended sports fans.

From Top Ten New York Mets Excuses, 9/23/93:

* All those empty seats are distracting.
* Play so much golf during season thought lowest score wins.
* Baseballs are harder to throw than explosives.

The Mets are still Dave's go-to punchline. They are permanently suspect as a going concern because of that year when they went 59-103 and looked worse than that. They've been to two post-seasons and a World Series since then, but when they got tangled up in '02 and '03, I am certain the hypernegative reaction associated with the losing was charged by a straggling toxic cloud that settled over Shea in 1993. Sort of like what Chernobyl left in its long-term wake.

This is the part where I tell you all that didn't matter, that I had my tickets and I loved going and that in spite of it all, it was the best time I ever had because I could be one with my team and say I was there when nobody else was.

But I'm not going to tell you that at all. I hated the 1993 Mets. I could barely tolerate showing up for their games, especially when I had to beg, badger and cajole friends, family, acquaintances, passersby and loiterers to join me to use those tickets. By the end, I'd just as soon go to a funeral. No, really. My Great Aunt Tillie passed away in the second-to-last week of the season. Services were being held for her at a Queens Boulevard funeral home on the morning of the Mets' final Sunday home game. Having given up on the prospect of companionship for my last pair of tickets, I decided I'd make this a doubleheader of my own. First, I'd pay my respects to Tillie. Then, a short drive to Shea, where they were inducting Tug McGraw into the Mets Hall of Fame. I could at least enjoy that alone.

One problem. President Clinton was in the midst of promoting his national health care plan (you know, the one that now covers every citizen of this great nation so nobody goes uninsured). Part of his PR swing took him to Fresh Meadows where he was going to wander into a diner and just happen to tell customers why they should support his initiative. I'd never quite known where Fresh Meadows was (I always thought it was just a more polite name for Flushing) but it's apparently near Shea. As a result, the police blocked every roadway anywhere near the stadium. The Grand Central was cordoned off. Roosevelt Avenue was a no-go. The game had already started. I took one more shot at it from the Van Wyck.

At last making my way up an entrance ramp (I could still get there by the fourth or fifth inning), traffic was halted again. Whizzing by went the presidential motorcade. I waved. When we were allowed to move, I, like the Mets, headed south and returned home, never presenting my last ticket for tearing. Having missed Tug's induction, I decided I wasn't going to see anything more interesting than Bill Clinton's limo that day.

Wouldn't you know they won without me?

The 1993 Mets were not great, none of them, certainly not that year when I trudged dutifully past the uninterested ticket-takers and surly ushers to sit in my assigned seat sixteen separate times because that was the gift I was given.

No foolin'.

To Tanana and his bottomless barrel of slop, Saunders with the whole in his bat, Jackson's old-lady issues and Terrel Hansen, the man who wasn't good enough to play for the worst Mets team of my sentient lifetime — and to all of your teammates: Maybe we're not even now, but after a dozen years of brooding, I feel a little better about having devoted so many hours of my thirty-first year on the planet to observing, let alone encouraging your foibles and your futility.

But just a little.

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