Sometimes you must feel you didn't ask for this, that 2008-style Met mediocrity was thrust upon you. You don't remember seeking out the Mets, yet they came and helped themselves to your brain. You're a Mets fan for so long you can barely remember why anymore.
Sometimes it's helpful to hear from someone who sought it out, someone who made a marginally conscious decision that it would be more fun to go through life loving the Mets than being oblivious to them. That they seemed the obvious choice. If geography is destiny, a man named Alastair Burgess was destined to know nothing of the Mets, certainly not enough to get tangled up in them.
But he discovered them and now he's one of us.
Alastair, who says we can call him Al, must have been moved by our recent pitch to sell t-shirts, because he sent us a picture of himself looking quite sharp in one of them. But he also sent us his story. It is, by any Met standard, fairly Amazin'.
First off, Al's from New Zealand (sporting an accent that he says is “more Bret than Jemaine,” correctly assuming the only thing at least one of us knows about New Zealand is Flight of the Conchords). Not a lot of Mets fans in New Zealand, one would guess. Al grew up loving cricket, but as someone “exiled” in Japan for the past 15 years, there's not a lot of cricket available.
But there is baseball.
We hear every now and then about baseball and Japan in this country, mostly that they're nuts about it and that Bobby Valentine is revered for it. Al confirms that he has “my Japanese hosts to thank for my turning to baseball” in order to compensate for his cricket shortfall. What Japan didn't do is make him a Mets fan, at least not directly.
Yet, “I'm naturally a Mets fan. A Mets fan who's not set foot in New York yet, let alone Shea, but still a fan.”
If you're as puzzled as Murray Hewitt (FOTC's manager, who urges all New Zealanders coming to New York to take back alleys and thereby avoid the dangers that lurk in crowds), well, you're not alone. I was trying to figure out how a New Zealander migrates to Japan and winds up rooting for the New York Mets enough to “loyally” read a rather intricate, parochial blog about them, let alone wear its shirt, when Al set me straight:
“Had I been born in NYC, I'm certain I would have chosen the right team.”
Well, I can't argue with an intrinsic sense of right and wrong, but there's more to Al's choice than instinct.
“One reason was Nomo's move to the Dodgers” in 1995, Al explains. “I was then new to Japan, working afternoons and evenings so I could watch all his starts (morning Japan time) with Vin Scully's (for ages I thought he was Vince Cully!) commentary. I started to appreciate the game of baseball from then on.”
So he followed the downmarket Hideo Nomo and his enormous ERA to the Mets? Not quite:
“Nomo's catcher was Piazza and he quickly became my favorite player. For some reason, though watching the Dodgers every five days, I couldn't bring myself to actively root for them.” The trades that made Mike a Met in 1998 represented for Al a “lucky escape”.
We'll say. Piazza to the Mets via the Marlins, Al to our side, washing off the stain of Dodger blue as quickly as he could. As he learned more about the Mets, he got in deeper.
“About this time,” the late '90s, “the other NYC franchise was fluking a few World Series wins and the Japanese, being the worst bandwagon jumpers you'll ever meet, lapped it up.” But no succumbing to inner…inner city pressure where Al was concerned: “Bloody sickening it was.” Thus, he rooted for Mike and he rooted for Bobby V, of whom he'd been a fan since his first Japanese go-round, and he rooted for what were now his Mets.
“Other less compelling reasons,” Al reveals, “were Seinfeld episodes sent on VHS cassettes by friends in North America ('I'm Keith Hernandez'), and my birth year of 1969.”
Less compelling? For someone who has yet to swipe his first Metrocard at Willets Point, who will never shake his hands dry because the men's room behind Section 8 of Mezzanine ran out of towels three innings ago, who hasn't had to point relentlessly at the yearbook pile in order to obtain the desired item from yet another ill-trained concessionaire…I'd say for someone who has hitched his star to the Mets independently and half a world away, there is no such thing as a less compelling reason.
They're all Amazin'.
Al's one of us, no doubt about it. He's also one of the Hanshin Tigers' followers, rooting for the club “who brought you such greats as Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Kei Igawa” (one of out two ain't bad). The Tigers are historically a little Metsian in their approach to success: sporadic and overshadowed too often (stupid Yomiuri Giants), though “unlike the Mets, the Tigers are doing well this year,” we learn.
I'd say that makes me a Hanshin Tigers sympathizer, but I can't imagine choosing a team and sticking with it in some place I've never seen and will likely never go. I find it exotic when Mets fans tell me they have a favorite American League team. But to suddenly align oneself with somebody in the Central League of Japan? Or the Pacific League, where Bobby V is plying his trade with the Chiba Lotte Marines? That would be the equivalent of what Al is doing with the Mets…except I'd have to come into it with no background in baseball, starting from a country that had only cricket, and then be smitten beyond belief from about 6,700 miles away.
Not many could do that. Al can. That's why I've got to tip my cap as Far East in his direction as possible.
“I even like saying 'New York Mets,'” Al adds. “Is that wrong?”
No, Al, that's absolutely right. As right as can be.
Ergo, I don't think any of you will argue too strenuously when we declare Alastair Burgess today's Best Mets Fan…in the WORLD!
Wanna rate up there with Al? Then for Shinjo's sake already yet, buy a shirt!