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You Have Six Months to Bone Up

Ya gotta hand it to the Mets. They invested wisely and now they’re taking one for the team, so to speak.

I don’t remember anymore how much they’re paying Johan Santana [1]. It is so not important. Contracts and salaries are the stuff of winter, and winter, whatever stubborn grimness continues to transpire outside our windows, ended ages ago.

If Johan Santana’s Opening Day [2] doesn’t light up your face, then you’re immune to spring fever. And if what the Mets are doing regarding their final game ever at Shea Stadium doesn’t make you see their management in a different light, then you’re as impenetrable as his changeup.

I’ve been reticent to mention it because nothing was official (of course I didn’t believe [3] Johan was coming here, not really, until he threw strike one past Hanley Ramirez), but since it’s happening, I guess it’s all right to let you in on it. Hell, we’re 1-0 — everything’s all right.

First of all, I didn’t think the Mets were aware of us or any blogger save for Matt Cerrone. Turns out they are. They read a lot of these blogs, including this one. A note was dropped my way by somebody there regarding the Shea Stadium countdown [4] and one conversation about Shea led to another and a proposal was made and negotiations ensued and this is what’s going to happen:

If you don’t have a ticket to the Shea finale, you still have a chance. That’s the good news. If you do have a ticket, you’re not necessarily in. That’s the bad news, I suppose…though you’re certainly not on the outs for good.

My three years of haranguing about Shea and how the Mets have neglected to pay it and its (and their) history proper homage finally got to somebody up the food chain, so they agreed with a plan that will ensure that the only people who get in on the final day are the people who deserve to be there. In other words, they’re refunding everybody’s money in the coming weeks.

Have they gone crazy? Crazy with altruism? Not exactly. They’ll still sell the tickets, but they are being very careful about who gets them and they won’t demand an arm and a leg for them, so kiss “platinum” goodbye come 9/28. My higher-up in the Mets’ front office (forgive the secrecy, but I promised not to reveal any names) said the idea that the secondary market for tickets was going to drive prices way up “bothered some people”. It was decided that with Santana on board, the Mets could afford to be confident, that they are going to sell close to 4 million tickets no matter what this year, that they could be choosy about who gets in on September 28.

That’s where I come in — among others. We’re the ones who get to be choosy.

See, there’ll be no advance ticket sales, which is why the refunds are going out. That applies to the seven-packs and the Sunday plans and even the season tickets. If you bought any on StubHub, those are also invalidated. Instead, admission will have to be earned.

Mets fans who want to attend the final Shea game will have to show one week before and submit to a seven-day battery of tests and interviews, conducted by me and Jason and a whole slew of bloggers. The Mets admitted that while they think they’re pretty good at running a baseball team and building a stadium, they have no clue about their fans. So they left it to the people who represent the fans and care about the fans and the team and all its history — the bloggers — to run the show for this one day.

For example, Dave Murray, who’s a uniform expert, is being flown in from Michigan [5] to inspect wardrobes. If you want in, your closet better have plenty of Mets stuff. Mark at Mets Walkoffs [6] is being enlisted for to administer a 410-question trivia quiz…walkoffs, comebacks, the whole gamut…and you better know why there are 410 questions or you’re immediately disqualified. Mike Steffanos of Mike’s Mets [7] is working up a logic/mental agility examination to avoid the infiltration of total idiots. John of Metstradamus [8] and Dan the Lonestar Met [9] will lead a panel that gauges whether your behavior will be a boon or a burden to your row. Just about every blogger who’s also a longtime fan — Steve Keane at Eddie Kranepool Society [10], Coop at My Summer Family [11], Toasty Joe [12] just to name three — is going to have a hand in determining admissions.

Faith and Fear’s role is multifold. Jason, having done such a splendid job of cultivating the youth of America vis-à-vis the allegiance of his son Joshua, is going to interview kids to decide if they’re really going to remember this day years down the road and if they’re going to blossom into full-bore Mets fans for the rest of their lives. He’ll also be going through baseball card collections. I’ll be assigning a series of essay questions, one per hour (10,000-word minimum), pertaining to love and passion for the Mets, though I’ll leave the grading of the papers to Dana Brand [13]. Otherwise, I’ll be primarily assessing applicants’ hearts, minds and intentions, sort of like the airport marshals in Israel who look into passengers’ eyes to get a good read on them before they can board. I’m also going to need to see some ticket stubs from previous decades, prorated for age and income — but I will want proof that Shea has been a part of your life for a long time. Extensive anecdotes will be accepted in lieu of actual paper, though paper helps.

The details are still coming together, but we’ve got a great crew working on this. Loge 13 [14] has agreed to chart seating assignments, Mets Geek [15] will calculate a fair pricing structure, Ray of Metphistopheles [16] is in charge of retrofitting Shea Stadium for the occasion (green fences, Gulden’s for the franks, lots of banners). And as a check against a bias toward fogeyism, Cerrone and Anthony from Hotfoot [17] will do current event checks just to make sure you’re every bit the Mets fan now that you’ve ever been.

It will be a pretty Herculean effort and it doesn’t come with seats for any of us, our families or our friends. Actually, we’ll all be working out of the press box, providing the only sanctioned on-site coverage of the game as the Mets are pulling the credentials of every jaded, blasé reporter and columnist who has trashed Shea as unworthy of a proper farewell. Hence, if you’re looking for Wally Matthews that Sunday (and I don’t know why you would), don’t bother. MLB has already secured a restraining order that bars him from entering the borough of Queens until midnight.

Many of you who read Faith and Fear clearly deserve special consideration for admission to the final game at Shea, and Jason and I would love to offer it, but we can’t. That’s part of the deal I made with the Mets. No favors, just as nobody gets in because they have connections or the means to spend. For that matter, you don’t have to feel compelled to be extra nice to us, because it’s not going to matter. The whole thing I sold the Mets on is that on a day like September 28, 2008, all 56,438 seats should be filled by real Mets fans, 56,438 people to whom nothing could mean more than being in that ballpark on that occasion. Don’t worry, though. If you’re the kind of Mets fan I think you are, you’ll ace all the tests and land at least in the mezzanine. (Ducats will be distributed that Sunday morning; we’re honest brokers, not ticket brokers.)

It’s a big project, so I thought it would be a good idea to announce it today [18] and give everybody a chance to prepare, bone up, whatever. Look at it this way: the Mets’ ace pitcher is Johan Santana, their record is perfect and no collapse is in evidence — plus it’s only April 1 [19]. On a day like today [20], it feels like anything [21] is possible [22].