If you’re down to remembering what it was like to remember everything that had come before, then it’s the penultimate Flashback Friday of 2007 at Faith and Fear in Flushing.
I was having a nice, friendly conversation with someone I’d known a long time in the fall of 2002, mostly but not primarily about baseball. I’m pretty sure he brought it up. My friend, someone I’d known for ages, was empathetic toward the Mets and didn’t like the Yankees but wasn’t and isn’t what you’d call a baseball fan. So when I made some casual analogy between a certain murderous, genocidal war criminal who attempted to wipe out an entire people in the 1930s and ’40s and George Steinbrenner, he was alarmed. You know Greg, he said with genuine concern in his voice, I think you take this much too seriously. Maybe you should get help.
Maybe you should get lost.
I didn’t say that. I like this person (my friend, not Hitler). And I understand that someone who isn’t a Mets fan would find what I said alarming, insensitive or even disgraceful. But that, I realized, is what you get for talking about the Mets with people who aren’t Mets fans.
So I decided not to do that anymore. Well, not forever. That would be rather confining and almost impossible. But that October, unburdened by a postseason (Mets long gone, Yankees recently eliminated by those helpful Anaheim Angels), I began to look toward December, toward my turning 40. Was there something I wanted more than anything for that milestone birthday nearly five years ago?
Yes, I decided. I wanted to be surrounded by Mets fans and only Mets fans. I wanted to make insensitive comparisons and not have to explain them. I wanted to speak in shorthand for a couple of hours, to drop names like Sergio Ferrer and Richie Hebner and not receive a blank stare in response. I wanted to transport a little summer into winter.
That’s all I wanted for my 40th birthday. And I got it. On Saturday afternoon, December 14, 2002, I gathered people from just about every chronological stage of my life into one room, at Bobby Valentine’s restaurant in Corona. The only thing the 20 or so of us had in common was a love of the Mets.
That’s all you needed to get past the velvet rope of my mind.
It was an awesome day. It was an awesome experience planning this thing and an amazing feeling that so many RSVPs came back yes. I felt a little silly reaching out on my own behalf…
The Mets and I mark 40th birthdays in 2002. The Mets made a mess of theirs. Help me do better with mine.
On Saturday, 1-4 PM, December 14th, you are invited to Bobby V’s in Corona (in the Ramada Inn across the Grand Central Parkway from Shea) to my 40th Birthday Luncheon and Tom Martin Celebrity Roast.
Because ever since I was sentient enough to know better, the one thing I’ve always cared about is baseball — baseball and the Mets, as Terry Cashman would put it. As I am happiest when I am wallowing in Mets baseball (yes, even in 2002), I wanted to share this self-aggrandizing occasion with others who can relate. This is a Mets Fans Only event.
Surely you’ve spent birthdays and holidays in the company of your family and other loved ones who just stare at you when you blurt out the name “Duffy Dyer.” Well, I want this birthday to be all about Duffy Dyer. And Ron Hodges. And Luis Rosado. I want there to be arguments over backup catchers. Or blissful agreement regarding utility infielders. Teddy Martinez, Bob Bailor or John Valentin? That’s up to you.
The point is I want baseball for my 40th birthday (which is actually New Year’s Eve, but I’ll be early for once in my life). What better way to have it than with my fellow sufferers (and occasional exulters) at the most baseball place I can think of in the middle of December? Trust me — even if you didn’t care for Bobby V the manager, you’ll go nuts for Bobby V’s the restaurant. (He invented the wrap, you know.)
Your coming would mean a great deal to me. The whole afternoon can’t be any more embarrassing than last season was.
…but I guess I wasn’t the only Mets fan who wanted a Mets day in December.
Stephanie (who not only didn’t discourage this self-indulgence but encouraged it wholeheartedly; I love her so much) and I secured a cake and put together gift bags featuring cans of Rheingold and packs of baseball cards. I wrote up what was supposed to be a brief program that went on for fifteen pages, classed up by a cover that mimicked the Mets’ own 40th anniversary logo, engineered by my talented art director friend Jim. Folks showed up with some incredibly thoughtful presents — an autographed, game-used Rafael Santana bat; a personally inscribed copy of Lawrence Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times; a set of 1977 Royal Crown Cola ballplayer cans; publications heralding the coming of the brand new 1962 New York Mets; a stack of impossible-to-find Rainmakers CDs; a portable keyboard brought along for the day so the bearer, a wonderful musician, could lead a singalong of “Meet The Mets” (thus earning that man the enduring and endearing sobriquet “Jane Jarvis”) — but what meant the most to me was their incredibly thoughtful presence.
These were people with whom I’d gone to school, worked alongside, exchanged impassioned e-mails, engaged in frantic trade-deadline phone conversations, cheered, high-fived and commiserated. These were my Mets friends. These were my friends. They came from Long Island and Queens and Brooklyn and the Bronx and Westchester and New Jersey and Maryland and California, for goodness sake. They came from the ’70s and the ’80s and the ’90s and the young century. They came from Shea Stadium, which was both spiritually inside us and visible across the Grand Central outside Bobby V’s front window.
I’m not a party person, so I had no idea what to do beyond reserving the room and ordering lunch. I don’t think I’d been in on the strategizing of a birthday party since Pin the Tail on the Donkey was de rigueur. I wondered if I needed to do something else, to have something else, to plan something else. I think we did all right just being Mets fans in December for a few hours.
I never had a day quite like that celebration of my first 40 years on Earth, practically my first 40 years as a Mets fan.
But I’ve had a lot of days close to it, beginning February 16, 2005, the day Jason and I began Faith and Fear in Flushing. Every day in this space, particularly the days that come after the end of one season and before the beginning of the next one, is kind of like that Saturday afternoon. It’s Mets fans and nothing but Mets fans being Mets fans. And it, too, is awesome.
It is with no offense to my family that is Mets tone-deaf, nor the other good people I encounter in the course of a day, a week, a month or a year who have mostly other things in their heads or on their plates, but I must declare the camaraderie and bonhomie that I share with my fellow Mets fans via and because of FAFIF is something beyond compare in my life. This blog has brought me into contact with a stratum of Mets fans I never knew…and brought me closer to those I already did.
Boy, am I happy about that.
Sometimes it’s a celebration. Sometimes it’s a wake. Always it’s a privilege to be a Mets fan among Mets fans like you. Thank you for accepting our invitation to this party. Thank you, too, for staying.
I’m going to be 45 this December. I don’t need to organize a gathering of Mets fans I know and love to make me or any of us feel as if we belong. I’d say all of us together have it covered like a tarpaulin draping the infield on a gray Friday afternoon.
You may have noticed I tend to quote lyrics and dialogue and whatever else pops into my head and apply it to baseball. To end this final baseball Flashback of 2007 — which like so many before it has dealt on some level with the subject of growing up and growing older as a Mets fan — I guess I’ll just quote myself from that program I wrote for my 40th birthday party. Even if it’s five years out of date, and even if you weren’t with us at Bobby V’s that Saturday in late 2002, I think its essence still applies to you if you are one of the Faithful at Faith and Fear in Flushing:
I love, when all is said and done, my forgetting to grow out of baseball and the Mets. The thing I loved when I was six and sixteen and twenty-six and thirty-six and now on the eve of the big four-oh looks like it’s here to stay. Don’t you think?
I love that you’ve been a big part of it for me and love that you cared enough to share this realization with me. Thank you and arrive home safely.
Next Friday: The 2007 Flashback countdown concludes with a trip to a long, long time ago and the No. 1 Song of All-Time.