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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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Sucks To Be Them, Good To Be Us

So the Phillies managed not to be swept a four-game series by the Mets. So the Phillies can continue to entertain the possibility that they are in a three-way race for the Eastern Division lead. So the Phillies, for one more day, can avoid their date with destiny.

The Phillies are the Chinese food of the National League. A half-hour after hating them, I've forgotten I ever saw them. Mets fans seem to invest a great deal more antipathy and anxiety in them than merited. They're dangerous, just not lethal.

If I sound a little more mellow and less vindictive than an annoying loss merits, so be it. Part of it is the way the June Gloom (4-14) 180'd into the June Boom (8-1). The rest we'll call goin' fatigue (as in “I got fatigued goin'”). Philadelphia is close enough to Long Island so that goin' on two consecutive railroad daytrips is not wholly inconvenient, but it ain't a mere hop on the 7 from Woodside either. I'm glad I went and glad I went again to the first and third games of this series. Of course I am. I was riding a four-game losing streak in Philadelphia before this weekend, one that dated back to August of '86 when Fred was just intrigued enough by the notion of a ROAD TRIP! to join me for the hell of it. The Mets lost that night. They lost 10 years later when I convinced Stephanie that the fourth-place Mets, the fifth-place Phils and the sixth-rate Vet were worth three hours of our attention. They lost three years after that to cap off a frighteningly memorable week of losing that nearly killed off a wonderfully memorable year. And they lost three years ago when Steph and I were determined to add spankin'-new Citizens Bank Park to our ledger.

Leaving Pennsylvania twice with wins, no longer Oh-and-Philly after 21 years, was a most welcome feeling. Being surrounded by Mets fans in another state was most welcome, too. These weren't home games but they weren't away games. They were Fourthmeal. If the gift shops weren't lousy with Phillies merchandise and the public-address guy hadn't overdone the introduction of “J.C. RoMMMMEEEERRRRoh!” you would have thought it was a neutral site. My Saturday section from top to bottom was about 3:1 Mets fans. The men's room line afterwards was so orange and blue that I felt compelled to feign amazement when I saw a Phillies cap within the friendly confines. I was honestly surprised when “Takin' Care of Business” wasn't cranked after the last out.

The only obnoxiously vocal Phillies fan I encountered Saturday sat behind me (natch) and his expression of frustration boiled down to this: “Mets…BOO!” Lame? You bet, especially when repeated about fifty times for two innings until somebody countered him with “Phillie fan…BOO!” Beer consumption also distracted him.

Though I came home Friday night giddy from my fling with the Cit and the day-night sweep it encompassed, by Saturday I was able to take in their ballpark/our second home with a little more reserve and perspective. As was the case in 2004 when I first encountered it, I came away thinking this is The New Normal, meaning Citizens Bank is the bare minimum of what a modern retro ballpark should be. It functions very highly. It offers all the stuff you would need or want (at costs slightly less than you would think and they give you noticeably more of whatever you're buying). It is run beautifully. It certainly kicks the ass of what it replaced, more important to the local fans than to the daytripping dilettantes like me.

But it's not special. PNC is special. Camden is special. Phone Company of San Francisco is special. I go to those places and want to pitch a tent and camp out on their grass until they nudge me gently awake the next morning for batting practice and pierogi races. Citizens Bank is, in a perfect ballpark world, adequate to the task at hand.

Come 2009, let's do what we did three times this weekend and beat the Phillies. Let's be more than adequate in our next ballpark. And if you can pile as much soft ice cream into a batting helmet as they do, that would be much appreciated.

Sitting in the outfield for two games was instructive to our future since Citi Field will put a lot of seats out there and there won't be nearly enough seats to begin with. I sat high in Harry the K's territory yesterday, the height-equivalent of the mezzanine, probably, and it wasn't too bad a view (unless you're a stickler for what happens in deep left). What they say about the bandbox nature of CBP resonates in person. Every popup looks like a home run. Every fly ball is a home run unless we hit and one of their leaping demons lunges and grabs it. Every home run looks like it's headed for the stars. Ryan Howard not only would have hit his Saturday shot out of Shea, I think he it to Shea.

I did cherish the ability to get up and walk around and still keep an eye on the action. Two years ago, just as my blogging had begun to bring me into contact with new and wonderful people whom I would be meeting for the first time at Shea, I had arranged to hook up with a friend in the middle of a game. He and his wife had tickets in one place, I had them in another. “I'll see you in the top of the fifth behind Section X,” I said. And we did that and it was lovely but we were each craning our necks at the one nearby monitor to peek at what we were missing. That part wasn't lovely.

On Friday, I went with one of my oldest friends in the world, Dr. Fred Bunz, whose only character flaw is not being a Mets fan (but his willingness to humor and indulge me forgives that quickly enough). We watched a couple of innings from our seats and then got up to find some food and then found there were dozens of little spots where we could land-graze-amble-chat-repeat, yet stay on top of what was going on (I groaned when I heard the crowd roar, until I realized it was our crowd roaring at the Mets' three-run fourth). Since I don't get to see Fred very often now that he's ensconced in Baltimore, I was more interested in talking with him than I was in watching every pitch, thus the Cit's situation struck me as ideal. We didn't get back to our seats until the sixth and I didn't feel I had missed all that much.

Quick aside on Fred's non-Metsdom and how it can be mistaken by association with me. I had arranged, thanks to all this blogging, to hook up with a reader and online pal who was also making the trip from Maryland (the guy with impeccable taste in t-shirts). I introduced these two to each other as “you're both from the same state.” My new Maryland buddy immediately asked my old Maryland buddy, “do you see the Mets in Washington a lot?” I could tell Fred hadn't heard him clearly because he said, “not that much, it's kind of far away.” I told Fred later that I didn't think he quite caught the question. Fred didn't. He thought he was asked if he took the Metro to Washington a lot. Fred told me he was glad he didn't accidentally blow his cover. I'm somehow relieved that I can still maintain a few relationships that have almost nothing to do with the Mets…and that they are with people who will gladly accompany me to Mets games.

Saturday I did my walking around and face-stuffing early then hung with my new favorite family of Mets fans, the Chapmans of Central Jersey. Mom Sharon, whom you've also seen in the world's greatest tee, invited me to join them and a slew of disparate types in Section 242 where she had secured a big block of tickets. When I mentioned I'd be coming by train, I was immediately invited to get off at the NJ Transit stop near them and spend some time at their house, which was a trip unto itself. They built a patio that looks a baseball diamond (Dad Kevin pointed out that it's 69 feet to their backyard/centerfield fence, as the sign on the fence helpfully indicates). Their living room is a Mets shrine (three Bill Goff prints commemorate the three ballparks where each of their children saw his or her first game). Their youngest, Ross, is a bona fide genius of the game (for example, he won't ever buy a Ford, he informed us, because of Derek Jeter's incessant shilling for the car). And all of them couldn't have been nicer or more thoughtful hosts. As with Fred and bmfc1 Friday, seeing the Chapmans Saturday made this detour into the belly of the East a very homey adventure.

Now the Mets wing west, four up on the Braves, five up on the…who was that we just played again? Congrats to Jose, David, Carlos and Billy on their All-Star berths. A hang-in-there-and-channel-it-for-good to John Maine who was denied a selection but deserved it far more than Cole Hamels, the punky LP from Friday night (nice control, schmuck). Our All-Stars and their occasionally stellar teammates have played almost a full half — 80 games. I have been to more than a fifth of it — 17 games. Me and the Mets, we're having a pretty good season together.

12 comments to Sucks To Be Them, Good To Be Us

  • Anonymous

    Greg – it was our honor spending the afternoon with you. We were happy that you were able to make the trip :)

  • Anonymous

    And special congratulations to Mr. Delgado; with his home run today he reached 420 career big-flys and that ties him with none other than the disappointingly DL-ed Mike Piazza. Hopefully Big Mike will get back at some point this year to make it a race between the two of them.
    And yeah, Citizen's Bank is decent. I'm not crazy about the dimensions though. I'll take the unforgiving depths of Shea any day.

  • Anonymous

    When you're a glutton for beer and junk food such as I, the ability to graze, wander the concourses and watch the game uninterrupted is no small thing. The Cit's capacity for this is admirable, as is the food selection. Skydome and whatever the White Sox park is called also feature this splendid design function.
    I'm not usually much of an egalitarian, but I do like the way they let people with lousy upper deck seats into the field box level concessions in Philly. Just because you didn't drop $75 for a ticket doesn't mean you should be limited to hotdogs and stale pretzels.
    I think youmay have overestimated Met fans' antipathy for the Phillies. Despite their being our geographically closest rival, I've always found them a ho-hum opponent. Which absolutely infuriates Phillies fans (what few there are who pay attention in between Eagles games) who mortally despise us and our city. I remember freshman year at college in PA, being stunned by the vitriol of the Philles Fans and their vociferous hatred of the Mets. Up till then, I barely gave them a second thought; they were like the Pirates or Expos to me.
    Speaking of Big Mike… the Daily News considers it a done deal LoDuca will not be back, based on front office inaction on his contract situation. If this (sadly, stupidly) is the case, maybe some good (nay, great) can come of it: instead of trading for Ronnie Paulino, whoever that is, maybe Mike and Castro can split time for a year?!

  • Anonymous

    I think it's possible Lo Duca could return. I don't believe a word the Daily News says anyway.
    Spooky Parallels, i've been saying that about their stadium since I was first there a couple of years ago. It's a nice place to visit, but I'm glad it's not my home, and it's nothing special. Much like the team it hosts, sure they're a major league team, but they're nothing much to talk about.
    Shame John Maine got snubbed, but I figured it was going to happen. With three starters and Wagner, I knew they weren't selecting a 5th Met, shame he's not on the final ballot though.
    I have also been to 17 games, although only 16 of them Met games. I have a lone Nats v. Marlins game to my credit.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of Harry the K, I had the pleasure of watching the Phils' telecast of Game One, which featured a visit in the booth from Keith Hernandez. When introducing him, Harry built him up with references to his 11 gold gloves and five all-star appearances, and Keith returned the favor by noting that Harry was the voice of the Chunky Soup ads.

  • Anonymous

    Hey! At least they have more than 41,000 seats! CitiField will fuck every non-millionaire Mets fan in the ass we'll be Yankee fans by 2010.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous – I will become a WNBA fan before I'll become a Yankees fan.
    No can dunk, but play good fundamentals.

  • Anonymous

    The Yankees are getting a new ballpark in '09 too, and I don't think it's supposed to be any bigger than Citi. I don't imagine it will be easy to get seats to see either team in '09. But the new-ballpark novelty will wear off, it always does. And maybe two new yards will spread the novelty-seeking around.

  • Anonymous

    As I recall, the new Yankee Stadium is slighly larger, seats maybe 46,000.
    We're just gonna have to commit to mini-plans or season tix. Eh, my daughter doesn't really need to go to college.

  • Anonymous

    New YS capacity will be 51,800. Hence more of them will be on the streets, making us all less safe.
    More info here.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, that's annoying. Yankees out-capacitying us. I know that “every seat's [supposed to be] a good seat” in Citifield, but I hope it doesn't become like getting Red Sox tickets (i.e. a life-long struggle).

  • Anonymous

    You will be stubhubbed up the ass to get into a Mets game. When the novelty wears off, you will still be stubhubbed up the ass, as all the seats will be owned by corporations and professional scalpers. And BTW, the yankees will have 53,000 seats in their new shopping mall. In two years, folks, reality will set in and you'll realize that when you didn't speak up, you should've. Also, why a “Jackie Robinson Rotunda” and the Ebbetts Field look? I was born a Mets fan, not a Los Angeles Dodgers fetishish. People complain about the Mets being the invisible team in NYC. The Wilpons seem to enjoy that status–less fans in the stands, less Mets identity. It's putrid and classist. CitiField is an abomination as a ballpark, but I'm sure the shopping and $12 hotdogs will be like sooo kewl.