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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Youthful Enthusiasm of Dana Brand

I will endure its passing, but I would have loved to have been an old man in these seats, under these lights.

That’s what Dana Brand wrote in Mets Fan, in an essay he entitled “For Shea“. I’ve thought of those words often since Shea Stadium was scheduled for and then met its ultimate demise. Every time I felt silly for missing the imperfect ballpark or ungrateful for not unquestioningly accepting the obvious improvements its successor offered, I reminded myself of what had been taken away from me: the opportunity to be an old man in those seats, under those lights. I never equated Shea Stadium with that segment of life. Shea, no matter how decrepit its infrastructure turned, was an expression of youthful enthusiasm. The Mets were an expression of youthful enthusiasm.

Dana Brand knew how to express youthful enthusiasm. To me, in the Mets Fan world I’ve been fortunate enough to inhabit, where I was blessed to have known Dana Brand and call Dana Brand my friend, he was the embodiment of youthful enthusiasm.

Dana was born at exactly the right moment in time to be and to call himself a Mets Fan. He was 7½ years old when they played their first game. That meant Dana and the Mets started with the same clean slate. The Mets, for too long, filled their slate with losses. Dana filled his (and that pocket notebook he toted everywhere) with the youthful enthusiasm of someone who wasn’t thrown by their conspicuous lack of success. “I want,” he would write well after 1962, “my baseball to be like real life, seasoned with failure and disappointment, ennobled by hope, and studded with just a few spectacular moments of pure joy.”

Dana began embracing the Mets and their intrinsic nature at the instant there were Mets to embrace and he never stopped, not until yesterday, I suppose, when he passed away at the criminally young age of 56.

We’re lucky in that Dana wrote relentlessly about his personal relationship with the Mets, the way others might write about a personal relationship with their deity. Thanks to him, we know what we missed if we missed it and we’re sure what we saw because he saw it, too. Through two marvelous books and a vital, eloquent blog, Dana let us into his Mets Fan world, from 1962 on. He made me understand those early years I didn’t see. He made me appreciate the texture of 1969 more than I possibly could have even after living with it in my consciousness since I was six. He laid out the entire life of the franchise and what we take it mean to us tribally and why it means so much to us individually.

He loved the Mets and boy did he love Shea Stadium. He got Shea Stadium as few others ever have. He got what made it more than its rotting architectural bones. He got how so many grew up in it and had every reason to suspect they’d grow old in it, under those lights. That Dana Brand had the foresight to anticipate such an actuarial possibility is a credit to him as a writer and a thinker, because every moment I spent with him he never really stopped being that kid who loved the Mets. Don’t let his academic day job and professorial demeanor, let alone his scholarly credentials (which were substantial), mislead you. Dana Brand was a kid who loved the Mets. He was just one of the older kids when we got to meet him.

After I learned that Dana had died, I flashed back on our last meeting, unplanned, in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field on April 10. He was at the first Sunday home game of the year alone and I was at the first Sunday home game of the year alone. Dana wanted to soak up the new season in solitude. I wanted a magnetic schedule and didn’t feel like asking around if anybody wanted to go. When we recognized each other, we greeted as old friends, as people who had been old friends going much further back than September 2007, which is when we actually first met. As I learned on that occasion, at the Long Beach Public Library, we went way the hell back. I guess I knew that from having read Mets Fan, but it was kind of thrilling to feel it unfold in person. Here was, per the title of the book from which he was in my hometown to read, a Mets Fan. Here was somebody who shared my life with me without knowing it. That’s how it is among all of us, isn’t it? With Dana, it was immediate and it was warm and it was as all-encompassing in a Mets Fan sense as it could be.

In April, we did what Mets Fans like us who go way the hell back do: we complained. We complained about the Mets. We bitched and we moaned and we griped and we found fault. But not for a second were we unhappy while we were doing this. Oh, we would have preferred whatever it was about the team and the management and the ballpark that didn’t satisfy us be resolved to our tastes. We would have preferred to have had to have spoken up to hear each other over the fluttering of a few more championship banners and we wouldn’t have minded if whoever decided what gets sold in the team store opted to stock a small shelf with books like ours. But these were fleeting if recurring misgivings. The overriding emotion for Mets Fans like us is we were very happy in the context of what aggravated us. We were thrilled, on some level, to be a little disappointed in the Mets, to care that much about the Mets, to share that much about the Mets. I always thought Dana maintained an ideal for his team and it was his mission to frame a world in which they lived up to what he knew they were at their core; to what they will always be to all of us; and to what they meant eternally in the heart and the soul and the beautiful mind of the kid of 7½ who deserved a longer stay in those seats under those lights.

31 comments to The Youthful Enthusiasm of Dana Brand

  • dmg

    i am stunned to learn of mr. brand’s passing — “mr.” because i never met him, but i have always enjoyed his writing — and can only say that there is something fitting, greg, to have heard about it here, from you.

    i’m sorry for all our losses — his family’s, of course, but also those of us who share this irrational obsession. there aren’t so many voices out in the blogosphere that we can afford the silencing of one so enjoyable or insightful.

  • Rob D.

    I have read a bunch of Dana’s stuff enough to know that he, like you guys, truly GOT IT. I am sorry to hear of his passing.

  • Chris F

    He will be missed. His passion was second to none. When I saw Shelia’s post on FB I was sick to my stomach. I never met the man but I felt like I knew him through his writing and blogging and through a few emails we exchanged . Its a shame he wont be able to see the event at Hofstra next year for the 50th. He seemed so excited about the planning and the upcoming anniversary. I know he’s got an Orange Field Level Seat in Heaven . Rest In Peace.

  • So sad — and a beautiful post, Greg.

  • I last saw Mr. Brand at the GKR event at Foley’s on Saturday. I wasn’t up to saying much to anyone that night; he mistook me for Ed Leyro and I felt bad for disappointing him. Had the biggest smile on his face upon seeing Gary and Ron behind the bar.

    Rest well, sir.

  • Dana Brand was the heart and soul of Mets fandom. This is a terrible loss.
    We’re all just kids who love the Mets.
    I am terribly upset and saddened to learn of his passing. Please relay our prayers and most heartfelt condolences to his family.

  • Inside Pitcher

    Thank you Greg – that was beautiful.

    Dana – you will be missed!

  • vertigone

    Wow. I’ve been reading his words for years. I never met him but through his writing I sense that he was a smart, kind hearted man and obviously, a true blue (and orange) Mets fan.

  • We lost a great friend and brother today in the Mets community. Thank you Greg, I have been near tears all day because of this news, and now they officially pour.

  • dgw

    Thank you Greg. As usual, you put words to what I’m feeling

  • I am at a loss for words over Dana’s passing, thank you Greg for doing writing such a beautiful piece. I really don’t know what to say I’m stunned about this tragic news

  • metlady516

    I was lucky enough to hear him read from his wonderful book.
    Thank you for your beautiful words.

  • Chris Galligan

    I am stunned and desperately sad to hear this awful news . I read Dana religiously , corresponded with him by e mail and via his blog and met him on a few occassions. I feel as though i have lost my voice . My deepest sympathy and condolences to his family. I know he wasn’t comfortable with the imagery of deceased Met fans looking down on the team, but that is the exact image I have in my mind At the moment .

  • Greg, thanks for finding the words that few of us can muster upon hearing of Dana’s passing.

    I never had the honor of meeting him, but I certainly “knew” of him from his literary prowess. I take solace in knowing he’s in a better place, looking down from the great mezzanine in the sky.

  • 5w30

    Gary Cohen mentioned Dana Brand’s work on the air during the Cubs game this afternoon.

  • GaryG

    Thank you Greg for expressing so eloquently what many of us are feeling right now. Dana was a mensch, and no matter what problems occurred in Metsville, he always maintained a sense of optimism for the future. His legacy will live on.

  • [...] The Youthful Enthusiasm of Dana Brand »    [...]

  • Andee

    Oh man, that just sucks, he went just like that. Damn it.

  • Jon Hjelm

    I knew Dana as a kid, I moved when he was 11 and I was 9. Even as a kid, he was a kind person. I regret losing touch with him.

  • [...] Megdal, author of the new book, Taking the Field: A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves, and Greg Prince, author of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal [...]

  • [...] Talmud and the new book, Taking the Field: A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves, and Greg Prince, author of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal [...]

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Just seeing this now… oh man. His final words in the closing of “Mets Fan” about being happy just to have to Mets moved me almost to tears. He nailed it.

    We lost a good one.

  • Ray

    I’ve been out of town for the end of this week, and was just catching up on blog posts in the back of a courtroom on my phone when this hit me like a ton of bricks app. I did not know Dana as well as many of you did, but I loved his work, and his words, and have immense respect for all he meant to this thing of ours.

    Unmentioned here, in the midst of the shock, is that Dana had planned to convene a conference at Hofstra about the Mets for their 50th anniversary next year. It is too soon for details, but if there is any thought or even hope of maintaining that event in his memory, I will do all in my power to assist or even lead in the effort.

  • Laurie

    I have had the privalege of meeting Dana Brand. He is a neighbor of mine. I have also been to his book signings at our local library, which I brought my daughters to also. This way they could get a different point of view from a true Met fan, other than mine. Ron, Gary and Keith mentioned a tribute to Dana sometime in the future at Citifield. Please contact me with the info so we can go and pay our respects to a wonderful man!!!

  • MetsMom

    I am heartbroken over the untimely death of Dana Brand. I have enjoyed his writing so much over the years, and I often joked with him that although I loved his books, I couldn’t wait for the one he would write when the Mets finally won another World Series.

    My son and I first met Dana at one of his readings of Mets Fan a few years ago. Dana was kind enough to talk to us after his reading, and spent some time looking at my son’s glove and talking to him about the Mets. He listened to him and engaged him in conversation as if they were contemporaries. We were lucky enough to run into him periodically at Citi, and he always remembered us and took the time to talk about the Mets and life. In fact, one of the last times we saw him was at last year’s GKR end-of-the-season event, where he took the time to introduce us to you, Greg, another one of our favorite authors.

    It is touching to read online all the beautiful things that have been written about him. It exemplifies his idea that Mets fans are all part of a “Mets community” of which he often wrote. It’s cruely ironic that he isn’t here to see how many Mets fans came together online to support each other during this difficult time, and how we truly are a community.

  • CTMets

    I’m sure he’s having a beer with Casey and Gil!

  • kkbnyc

    man. i loved his book THE LAST DAYS AT SHEA so much i read it in two sittings. i was stunned last night at CITI, to hear of his passing. super sad…. thanks for your tribute.

  • Connie Colvin

    I am as well, a longtime Mets Fan and bought one of his books, and I am so very sorry that we have lost him. What a terrible shame!! I too loved Shea Stadium. At least it was about the Mets and not the Dodgers. But, anyway, this is just horrible news, and I mourn with all here, and I am too stunned and greatly saddened. My deepest sympathy goes to his family and many friends. God rest him.

  • I was shocked to read Dana Brand’s obituary in this morning’s New York Times. I met Dana on a few occasions when I was employed at Columbia Univ. P&S. I worked in the Dept. of Anesthesiololgy with Dana’s father, Dr. Leonard Brand. Dr. Brand and his wife spoke often of their children. He and his wife were proud to be a Brooklyn Dodger/NY Mets fans and extended that love to Dana. I too am a great fan of both teams. Dana will be missed. My sympathies go out to the Brand Family. May he rest in peace.

  • charlie

    He called me Charlie…he never called me Dad, he never called me Pop, and he never called me Mr. Fisher…he just called me Charlie. 32 years ago on May 27 I gave him my daughter….he gave me a necktie…that’s just the way Dana did business with me. I’ve been a Red Sox fan since 1946 and the great players of that era were returning from WW11…the Red Sox went to the World Series that year and lost to the Cardinals. Then came 1986 and you Mets fans know what happened…..it was sort of a pleasant dilemma for Dana and me…neither of us were betting men but thought it appropriate to put a bet on the Series that year….game 6 and you know what happened..he got the best of me again. He was the only son I had and I was privileged to have had him with me for all those years. I’ve read the very thoughtful comments that all of you have written about Dana….those of you who had the privilege of meeting him and those of you who didn’t and I’m writing this to thank you for taking the time to do that and also to let you know that he absolutely was all of the good things that you’ve written about him and so much more. Over the years he and I shared many wonderful long hours just talking about a variety of subjects of our mutual interest, but mostly about baseball. He was truly a Mensch and I know that when I get to where he is now we’ll finish that last discussion that we were having. So thanks again and “Let’s Go Mets”…(except when you play the R.S.)

  • [...] Dana Brand Memorial Scholarship Fund by Greg Prince on 15 August 2011 4:29 pm Joseph Fichtelberg, chairman of the English department at Hofstra University, has notified us of the establishment of a scholarship fund that honors the memory of the great Mets fan, blogger, author and friend Dana Brand: [...]