“You guys gather food for the big feast tonight. And maybe a little wine for the older kids.”
—Bart, allaying Nelson's fears, “Das Bus”
While we await the official release announcing the signing of Oliver Perez or Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn or anybody who isn't Freddy Garcia or Alex Cora or Cory Sullivan or Rob Mackowiak, there is this Met missive from Monday to mull:
The New York Mets and ARAMARK — a world-class leader in professional services and the Mets' food and beverage provider — today announced a partnership with Zachys Wine & Liquor Inc. to design a world-class wine program for Citi Field, the Mets' new home opening April 13.
A world-class wine program for our World-Class ballpark. Well then. Don't bogart that bottle. Pass it on over.
Listen, I don't want to be one of those rabid callers to talk radio who complains that Congress shouldn't be wasting its time declaring National Cotton Swab Week when the economy is in the crapper, for I'll bet even Congress can stimulate two things at once. Thus, there is little logic to complaining that the Mets, with their unfinished roster and their half-assed patch, shouldn't be worrying about “bringing Citi Field guests an extraordinary range of wines”.
But I will complain anyway.
Stop putting out releases like this, Mets. Stop being so proud of stuff like this. There is no underestimating the interest any given Mets fan has in this news. There is none. Perhaps there could be less. There was a movie twenty or so years ago called Less Than Zero. It was about the amount of concern Mets fans would have two decades hence regarding the stadium wine list.
Five years ago, you hopefully recall, there was a much better movie called Sideways, about a troubled wine connoisseur. It could also describe the Mets of late. They make lateral moves in the standings. They make lateral moves on the roster. They make a lateral move across the parking lot if viewed from Roosevelt Avenue or Northern Boulevard. But they really enhanced the wine menu, so that's something over which we can all burst with oenophiliac pride.
Of course there is that downwardly mobile patch on the sleeve, belying the “world-class hospitality environment at Citi Field” and undermining, it seems, every step the Mets have taken for the last month. This thing has departed the realm of bemused bloggers and uni obsessives and entered the everyday sports realm. A friend from another time zone sent me an article to let me know the whole country is laughing at the Inaugural Season patch. I turned on WFAN one night for the first time in a while, and Steve Somers — who only knows what he reads in the paper — is laughing at the patch. Stephen Colbert (and not Jon Stewart, who actually cares about the Mets) laughed at the patch. Sports Illustrated laughed at the patch, quoting Colbert on its genericism: “Notice the way the patch mirrors its fans, by not wanting to actually say it's for the Mets.” For that matter, the Sunday before last, I opened the Daily News, found Bill Gallo's regular laughable cartoon (of the unintentionally laughable variety) and, below it, his weekly column. Bill Gallo, whose cartoons are mostly clouds and comic balloons, actually got off a brilliant line at the Mets' expense:
For the rest of next season, Met players will sport the blandest, most unimaginative baseball logo of all time. Actually, in fairness to the people who put this simple patch of blue and orange together, it shouldn't even be considered a logo. Instead, it's more like a nametag one wears at a company meeting.
And they say, HI, MY NAME IS OH NEVER MIND.
Bill Gallo is laughing at you, Mets. Everybody is laughing at you. Not with you. At you.
The word the Mets have put out to explain why this awful patch is acceptable — that it is “compatible and consistent with Citigroup's overall branding and graphic design elements”; that given their deal with Citigroup, “we're going to give substantial deference to their design and graphic treatment”; and that the Mets are “flattered” that Citigroup bothered to sign off on blue and orange at all — is only more hilarious, unless you're a Mets fan. Then it resides somewhere between embarrassing and galling, especially the promise Tyler Kepner wrung from Dave Howard that “the team would not change the sleeve patch,” despite having a sharper, Rotunda-driven iteration in its quiver.
Maybe Omar Minaya can't take his marching orders from a Peavy-starved supporter, but why not accede to popular demand on this one? I understand why the Mets are hanging in there with Citigroup. I understand there are contracts and long-term considerations and world-class payments (taxpayer-funded or otherwise) at work. But how flattered and deferential must the Mets be in all this? How much rolling over must the Mets do at the expense of their own brand? When Citigroup isn't at the center of bailout-related news, it's being reminded by the President of the United States that it wasn't given $45 billion so it could direct a cool 50-mil toward a sweet private jet…which is what Citigroup planned to buy before Barack Obama gave them an emphatic tap on the public relations shoulder and suggested they reconsider their priorities.
So every time, say, Cory Sullivan steps out of the box to let a plane pass overhead, it won't be because a Citigroup executive is winging his way in world-class style to a world-class meeting amid what the Post referred to, in its inimitable nonjudgmental prose, as a “plush interior with leather seats, sofas and a customizable entertainment center”. Chalk one up for the middle-class baseball fan viewing his or her team's home games in the shadow of “Citi Field's premium dining areas, including suites, lounges, restaurants, and other locations in the more than 60,000 square feet of available event space” where all that world-class wine will be offered.
If Citigroup can be strongly invited to drop its plane purchase plans, why can't the Mets be, for once, deferential toward their fans who almost completely universally hate that dimwitted patch?
Premium dining area people, knock yourselves out via whatever Zachys is pouring. If I'm ever invited into the Caesars Club — bread and circuses and, if there's time, baseball for all! — I'm sure I'll be Harry Hypocrite and drink up (particularly if Freddy, Alex, Cory and Rob are our last, best acquisitions of this offseason). As a semi-regular patron of the old Daruma of Great Neck stand and intermittently successful pretzel shopper, I won't pretend I'm not a little enthused by the installation of El Verano Taquería and Box Frites, whatever those food “concepts” are exactly. They sound tasty, and I think any ol' schmo can queue up for 'em. Truly, I am an ol' schmo.
Y'know what, though? Surprise me with this stuff. I'll probably get a ticket eventually and I hope to have a few spare bucks on me and I'd love to try the food. I'm not shy about trying food, believe me. I'm not much on wine, but some people are. L'Chaim.
But if you can't acquire a top-flight starting pitcher and you won't sign a legitimate starting corner outfielder and you can't bring yourself to admit that your miserable patch will evoke, with every single glimpse, the cringeful reminder that we are in bed with the financial wizards who tried to buy a nifty private plane with beaucoup taxpayer bucks…then please, for the love of our collective self-esteem, keep the freaking world-class wine news bottled up.