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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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Harvey's Version

My dad’s one of those people who scans the Paid Death Notices in the Times to see if anybody he knows has recently become somebody he knew. He was surprised to discover his cousin Harvey was among the listings two Sundays ago. He died at 81 on January 4…or to put it in terms Harvey would have appreciated, between the Giants beating the Cowboys to win the NFC East and the Giants beating the Falcons in the first round of the playoffs.

Here’s how Harvey’s listing memorialized him:

Loving husband, brother, father and grandfather. Internist, bibliophile, US Army veteran, lover of music and politics, unshakeable Yankees and Giants fan. He will be sadly missed.

I didn’t really know Harvey, save for two meetings from more than twenty years ago. As it happens, each of his unshakeables, if you will, made themselves readily apparent.

The first time was during the 1990 World Series when our Long Island branch of the family was invited up to Harvey headquarters in Westchester to break bread. Dad and Harvey had been close at some point, I was told. Then they weren’t. Then my mother died and folks were getting together again. Anyway, it was a lovely evening and a lovely dinner and all, and it led to the living room TV being turned on to catch the remaining innings of Game Three of what was turning into a shocking sweep of the A’s by the Reds. Everybody who drifted to the television declared temporary fealty to the Cincinnati cause. Harvey and his crew were all excited that good ol’ Lou Piniella was positioned to win a championship — Lou, Hal Morris, Jose Rijo, the GM Bob Quinn and anybody else who had some connection to the Yankees. Good ol’ Lou! He really deserves this!

Yeah — I added enthusiastically, elated that I was in a room of baseball fans — and Randy Myers! I’m a Mets fan, so I’m really happy for Randy Myers!

Except for Jack Buck and Tim McCarver doing the game on CBS, there was silence, save for the sound of Harvey & Co. staring at me like I had three heads.

Randy Myers…you know, the Mets closer who’s now one of the Nasty Boys. Yeah, I really liked Randy Myers. Sorry the Mets traded him.

Even Buck and McCarver were quiet now.

Yup…big Mets fan here. That’s me. Did I mention that?

Talk about a stranger in a strange land.

Just over a year later, the Harvey bunch was at my wedding, which took place on a Sunday afternoon in November, which is significant in that, well, it was a Sunday afternoon in November, and if you’re so inclined, that means one thing more than it means anything else. Knowing Harvey was a Giants season ticket holder and knowing the Giants were on the road to play the Cardinals meant I wasn’t at all surprised when Harvey sought me out shortly before four to let me know his party was gonna be getting going.

“Kickoff in Phoenix in ten minutes, huh?” I asked good-naturedly.

This time I got a look less like I was an alien and more like I’d found out his dirty little secret. Thing is I totally, totally, totally respected Harvey’s unstated reason for bolting my wedding. If the Giants hadn’t been having such a letdown of a season in 1991, I might have divined the location of the nearest television, my first hours of matrimony notwithstanding. I understand unshakeable fandom. I understand not wanting to miss a pitch, or in Harvey’s case, a down. The wedding of some vaguely familiar relative versus play-by-play on the car radio? I know which one I would have chosen if I’d been in his position that Sunday — and that’s with my wedding having been universally agreed upon by all who attended it as pretty darn delightful.

Thus Harvey fit the basics of one ilk of the classic New York sports stereotype: Westchester-Yankees-Giants. As evidenced during the 1990 World Series, we had little common ground on which to strike up a baseball conversation. But football would have been a different matter had we ever crossed paths again.

I’ve never quite hit the mark when it comes to locale-baseball-football around here. As a Long Island-bred Mets fan, I suppose I should have gravitated to the Jets as if by instinct, but the Giants — who didn’t train at Hofstra, didn’t (except for one orphaned season) play at Shea and didn’t rhyme with “Mets” — got to me first. They weren’t any good when they made themselves known to me in 1969, but they became my team in their sport, and I’m generally unshakeable about such affiliations. The Jets got to me eventually, and making room for them in my psyche proved an almost involuntary reflex, yet on my Permanent Record (namely the Sports Illustrated subscriber survey on which I had to pick an NFL team so I could receive bonus pages I rarely read and a 1995 highlight tape I never watched), I’m listed as leaning Giant.

When the Giants and Jets played in Week 16, I essentially rooted for plays to work. I couldn’t bring myself to pull for one team to succeed at the other’s expense. When it was over, I was thrilled that the Giants were going to have a golden opportunity to win their division (at the expense of the Cowboys, no less), yet I was genuinely sorry it pretty much screwed up whatever playoff chances the Jets had. My position on New York football teams, as formulated in the 1970s when neither was the slightest bit good, is the more each succeeds, the better it is for all of us. I figured my odds were improved with two local teams, even if the Steelers of that era would win more games in a year than the Jets and Giants combined.

I know many Mets-Giants fans, though probably more Mets-Jets fans. I also know Yankees-Jets fans, despite the prevalence of the Cousin Harvey stereotype. Doesn’t seem to matter what part of the Metropolitan Area you’re talking about these days when it comes to allegiance alignment. TV, radio and the Internet reach all five boroughs and all surrounding suburbs with pretty much the same speed. Also, it’s a free country, so Mets fans can do what they want with their non-baseball innings.

Me, I’m rooting for the Giants, which I’m not sure I expected to have the chance to be doing as January moved along. I’m thrilled they beat Green Bay. I’m happy they’re going to San Francisco with a trip to Indianapolis at stake. And I’ll be ecstatic when Pitchers & Catchers report and I only vaguely recall getting caught up in something that wasn’t the Mets.

14 comments to Harvey’s Version

  • Giant fan from the Chaley Conerly – Em Tunnell days. Dodger fan from the Jackie Robinson days, which meant hate the Yankees, which meant really hate the LA Dodgers, which meant embrace the Mets from 1962 (when I was living in Iowa) on. I like the Jets, too — hard not to root for Joe the Jet. My New York sports catechism:

    It’s OK to root for the Giants and the Jets.

    It’s sort of OK to root for the Rangers and the Islanders secretly, but you’d better not admit it.

    It’s OK to root for the Knicks and Nets, but who cares about the Nets?

    It is never OK, under any circumstances, to root for the Mets and the Yankees.

    • nestornajwa

      Sorry, but Islanders-Rangers trumps Mets-Yankees. Same division, bloody history, the Santa Claus dogpile and thuggish garden fans trying to tip over Pat LaFontaine’s ambulance (the fact than he later donned the clownsuit himself notwithstanding). No hockey fan can claim to root for both. I loathe the Yankees and the vast majority of their fans, but they were barely a blip on the Mets’ radar until fairly recently in both teams’ history. The Islanders and Rangers have been killing each other since 1972.

  • Dave

    Nope, I’m pure Mets-Jets (and Jets season tickets to boot, check definition of “masochist” in any dictionary), and I’m sick and tired of my team being the #2 team in town, whether that town is NYC or East Rutherford. Them derailing our playoff hopes on Xmas Eve only made it worse.

    Maybe if it comes down to Giants-Pats in a few weeks, I’ll root for the Giants because the Pats are coached by Lord Voldemort.

    • Rob D.

      @Dave: I did that in 08 and regretted it. At this point, who cares if Brady has 3 or 4 rings, and besides, they’re 4 hours away. We LIVE with Giant fans. If the Giants WIN another SB before Rex get the Jets TO a SB, I’ll be really pissed.

  • open the gates

    I’ve never been much of a football fan, but I am thinking of reviving my lapsed enthusiasm for New York’s hockey Rangers. They seem like the kind of fun-yet-disciplined team the Mets haven’t been for a while.

    And Nestornajwa, you’re right. I’ve met a few love-the-Mets, tolerate-the-Yankees fans (and their inverse) over the years. (Less since interleague play, the Subway series, and Piazza vs. Clemens, but the breed does exist.) But Rangers-Islanders fans? Never. As Denis Potvin could certainly attest to.

  • Dak442

    One of my closest friends is of that rare breed who roots for both NY baseball teams. He’s pretty casual in his allegiances with all sports so I can cut him some slack.

    I was a Giants fanatic during the Phil Simms era as he was my favorite player, and only recently started casually rooting for them again for the first time since since his departure. I also like to see the Jets do well and feel no conflict in that.

    I agree with the folks above: there aren’t any Ranger/Islander fans. I’ve never met one. Hell, I haven’t cared a whit about hockey since the strike, but I still shout “Potvin Sucks” whenever I hear that tune at a ballgame, or anywhere else.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Not a football fan either but associate myself with the Jets as well. Always connected Met fans with the Jets and Yankee fans with the Giants, probably because the Jets came from the fledging AFL and the Mets were an expansion team and both played at Shea while the Giants came from the established NFL, the Yankees were an establishment all on their own and both played in a stadium seen by many as as shrine and home of champions.

    Hockey, it’s the Rangers. Basketball, it’s a closet Nets fan.

    But the story about your wedding reminds me of when we celebrated my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary. All the family was there but it also fell on the day of Super Bowl Three (back then just known as the 1969 Super Bowl). So we were all rushing back and forth from the restaurant seating to the bar, bringing the news of the game to the rest sitting at the tables.

    Still, was nothing compared to the commotion that went on nine months later when the main tenants at Shea beat up on another team representing Baltimore.

  • Bluenatic

    Care to explain why the Greg Commandments don’t apply to the gridiron?

    • Talmudic scholars advise asking why The Greg Commandments apply to the Mets solely is like Linus asking everybody who is trying to figure out a way for Snoopy to keep warm atop his doghouse on a cold night, “Why doesn’t he just sleep inside the doghouse?” The group stares at Linus for a panel and then goes back to discerning how various blankets and space heaters might work to Snoopy’s benefit.

      It’s like that because it’s like that.

  • The Mets-Giants allegiance combo is much more prevalent among those of us who first became sports-conscious in the mid-to-late 80s when those two teams were winning championships and the Yankees and Jets were mired in mediocrity. I was born in ’77 as the first child in my family, and neither of my parents was a particularly devout fan of any team, so absent any guiding influence I naturally gravitated to the “good” New York teams, which were also the ones everyone was talking about. I have numerous friends who followed a similar path.

  • RoundRock Mets

    Whoa ho! Getta loada Harvey!

  • Great post. I agree with commenter Josh above I grew up in the 80s so I’m a giants and mets fan. My pops only liked the Knicks, so for my non hoops teams I went with the winners but hey I was a kid.
    I also agree with some of the other commenters on here that the only real rivalry in the area is rangers- islanders. Until interleague I really feel like there was not much animosity between mets and Yankees fans but again my memories don’t go back beyond 85. and as a giant fan I feel absolutely no animosity for the jets they play once every four years for crying out loud.

  • Would have loved to have met Harvey even though he was a Yankees fan. The world needs more fans like this. Hopefully the Giants can win it for him this evening, I know he’s probably watching from above.

  • [...] That Team a Nat Sherman Cigar by Greg Prince on 23 January 2012 9:42 am Fine Sunday night for Cousin Harvey’s favorite football team. Satisfying retribution exacted against San Francisco for kidnaping New York’s first National [...]