Athletes have been known be implored to attend Bar Mitzvahs. Sometimes it’s because a particular athlete is Jewish; there’s a great bit in a movie called Keeping Up With The Steins about an extraordinarily competitive L.A. family trying to get then-Dodger Shawn Green to show up at their son’s affair. Sometimes it’s because the fan issuing the invite thinks an athlete is Jewish — as was the commonly misconceived case when David Cone came to the Mets with a name that sounded pretty darn close to David Cohen. Usually it’s just a matter of a kid liking a particular athlete so much, regardless of background, that he would want him on hand for one of the biggest days in his young life.
Usually nothing comes of these entreaties. Maybe in the old days when a few bucks were involved and players weren’t making much dough. In The Complete Game, Ron Darling mentioned accepting any and all invitations during his first offseason as a Met because he really needed the standard appearance fee. But it’s hard to imagine Johan Santana (which is a Venezuelan translation of Stein, I’m pretty sure) making the scene in this day and age.
I don’t know how many authors of baseball books get invited to Bar Mitzvahs just because they’re authors of baseball books. And I don’t know how many Bar Mitzvahs are held in big league ballparks. Yet I definitely know of one thirteen-year-old kind enough to send me a note like the one Ryder Chasin sent me in October, one that
a) told me his passion for the Mets and my book about my passion for the Mets combined to make me “the iconic person” in his life
b) invited me to his Bar Mitzvah celebration which happened to be taking place in the middle of November at Citi Field.
I replied yes, I’d love to attend…though I added that maybe you should schedule an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss your concept of role models.
The big event was yesterday. The sensation of Citi Field in November is a story unto itself that I’ll save for later on, but I can tell you the party, held in the heretofore off-limits Acela Club, made for a warm and tasteful afternoon on a raw autumn Saturday. Ryder was every bit as gracious in person as he was via mail and, based on a few brief conversations with them, I could see how much of it he gets from his parents Rob and Holly. Just wonderful people all around. Stephanie and I were tickled to be included and treated as nicely as we were by folks we’d never met before.
Ryder was the star of the day — his image was all over DiamondVision — and I happily cede all big-headedness to the special appearance made by Mr. Met (who works a room like nobody’s business), but I have to admit it was kind of fun being the de facto celebrity guest. Time and again I was asked by strangers, “So, you wrote that book Ryder likes?” It beat the usual Citi Field greeting of “Sir, you can’t stand there, you have to move.”
We kept being thanked for coming. And I kept saying thanks for inviting us. It wasn’t because of the setting, though I was quite happy to be in the Mets’ building. It wasn’t because of the sumptuous buffet, though I surely partook. It wasn’t even for the passing sense of semi-celebrity, as gratifying as that may have been to my ego.
I wasn’t expecting a Ryder Chasin to materialize a year ago this weekend when I was furiously trying to finish writing Faith and Fear in Flushing. I wasn’t at any awesome buffet in the middle of last November. You know what I was doing? Early on a Saturday morning, consumed entirely by how to transition from one chapter into the next…and how to get it to the finish line…and how to do all that by Monday morning, I wandered into our local Pathmark in search of something that would pass for breakfast. First thing I encountered was a fully cooked, discounted from the night before barbecue chicken. I grabbed it, paid for it, brought it home, tore into it, ate most of it on the spot and — both energized and logy — marched upstairs to type for the better part of the next two days.
One breakfast chicken later, a manuscript. One year later, a day like yesterday, a day when a person who read what I wrote indicated what I wrote and what was published meant something substantial to him or to her.
I like days like that.
On the road from the breakfast chicken to the sumptuous buffet, I’ve had quite a few days like that, actually. Mets fans have been telling me since March that Faith and Fear is the book that tells their story as much as it tells mine. That’s generally how the reaction is parceled out: I love your book — now let me tell you what happened to me that was just like what happened to you. That was the idea behind the book, really. I wanted to present the Mets fan’s view of the world because I knew there was one. In the book, it was ostensibly mine. But I knew somehow it was just as much ours.
I love that we’re in this thing together. That’s been the guiding principle of this blog and it’s what helped — even more than early morning poultry — fuel the book. I love that it’s not crazy to want your Bar Mitzvah at Citi Field or to make as much of your Bar Mitzvah celebration about your Mets fandom as the Talmud will allow. Substitute any event for “Bar Mitzvah” and you get the idea. It goes beyond any single game or a lousy season like the one we just had. It’s what we do. We’re Mets fans; we root for the Mets; we, as Ryder put it in his letter to me, “eat, sleep, breathe, drink and daydream about the Mets”. I love that doing so so often brings us together in whatever forum we find ourselves. Sometimes it’s online. Sometimes it’s at the park. But eventually we’re there for each other.
This weekend the papers have been full of old Mets friends who are trying to make their respective ways back to our hearts and minds. Edgardo Alfonzo is in the Post wanting to come back, or at least retire as one of us. In Newsday, Wally Backman is part of the way back, about to land in Brooklyn. And in the News, Doc Gooden is, per usual, just trying to stay on the road back.
It’s always good to have old Mets friends of that ilk back on the radar. It’s just as good, though, to make new Mets friends, the kind of people with whom you eat, sleep, breathe, drink and daydream Fonzie and Wally and Doc and those who continue to succeed them. That’s what I’ve been doing here for nearly five years. That’s what I was doing in the Acela Club on Saturday.
That’s why I kept saying thanks for inviting us.
I didn’t mean for this to lead up to a plug, but what the hell? Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets remains available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you.