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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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Loyal From the Core

There’s a press release getting play here and there trumpeting a magical “index” of Sports Fan Loyalty, the kind of thing that comes around on the eve of a new season. It also tends to lunge at the native lingo by suggesting “it’s critical that team marketers do accurate scouting regarding the strategic ball they intend to pitch to fans,” as if anybody in baseball or the world has ever spoken like that. Nomenclature notwithstanding, this index claims to offer a handle on why fans are loyal to whatever degree they are to their team. Three of the four factors boil down to, essentially, “a team needs to win a lot and triumph noisily enough in order to sate a disproportionate share of frontrunners in its standard metropolitan statistical area.” In other news, the sun is coming up in the east tomorrow.

Yet the fourth factor cited in the release is one I find legitimately interesting.

History and Tradition: “[Are] the game and the team part of the fans’ and community rituals, institutions and beliefs?”

The biggest slice of the press release’s pie chart — 35% — is devoted to History and Tradition, implying that nothing could be more important in this particular scheme of things. Even if you put aside the unlikelihood that sports fan loyalty can be accounted for so neatly and accurately, it would figure intuitively that if you’re talking about the state of being loyal, you’d need something abiding to be loyal to. That, in turn, would seem to jibe with how deeply a given team and the sport it plays have burrowed into the local bloodstream.

And the M-E-T-S of New York town? They rank 26th of 30 MLB teams in engendering fan loyalty by this study’s standards and methodology, though I’m not sure if that’s supposed to mean Mets fans are to be considered the 26th most loyal in Major League Baseball, ahead of only the Mariners, Pirates, Royals and Astros. Since the company putting out this release wants to offer its services to sports franchises (so as to share the proprietary secrets of pitching better strategic ball, presumably), I’d say the fault lies not in ourselves, but in our star-devoid team, along with its implied failure to weave itself effectively into the indigenous culture.

Because if there’s one thing an actual as opposed to theoretical Mets fan is, it’s bleeping loyal. There may not be as many of us in and around New York as there were when the Mets won more consistently than they lost, but don’t imply that our “base” or “core” hasn’t outperformed the product it’s been sold these past several years.

The press release claims its index measures “intensity” of fan support. Well, who’s more intense than us? Who gets more wrapped up in this stuff than we do? The release invokes “emotional drivers” — who gets more emotional than a Mets fan? This identity isn’t based on quantitative factors like championships, playoff appearances and reflected glory. We love the Mets because we love the Mets. I wouldn’t call our love unquestioning, given that we are a relentlessly inquisitive bunch, but I would call Mets fan loyalty unshakable at its core and at its base. It will be on vivid display in a hundred different ways one week from today inside and outside a ballpark in Flushing, but all ya gotta do, really, is visit a hundred different sites, blogs and feeds to see it in action right this very minute.

(I can’t speak to the frontrunners among Mets fans. Given the prevailing competitive conditions, I haven’t seen too many in our ranks lately.)

It’s not us saddling you with a bad-looking grade in this press release, dear Mets organization. It’s you. We’re the history and tradition unto ourselves because we’ve had to be. On some counts you’ve caught up with us, but only after you allowed your brand equity to fade into the woodwork, rejecting too much history and too many traditions for too long. You’ve brought back some cherished iconography but only after you hid it away or forgot about it completely. It was we who questioned you and reminded you like it mattered to us…which it did. I’m glad you responded. I’m sorry you needed the nudge.

In the wake of the just-announced departure of Dave Howard (on whose watch certain traditions disappeared but, thankfully, later re-emerged), the Mets should soon name a new head of business operations. I hope that person — as well as the ownership to which he or she reports — views Mets history and Mets tradition as a living, going priority, not merely a box to be perfunctorily checked once in a while. Ya do that, ya get ticket prices in line and ya keep cultivating that young pitching, I’d say we’re a good bet to rise out of the bottom five any year now.

13 comments to Loyal From the Core

  • JP

    I almost don’t want to read the release, lest I give them more of the clicks they’re trolling for. I’m sure that BrandKeys’ methodology would not hold up under even the slightest scrutiny – they are attempting to quantify an abstract concept with seemingly random, or at lest not nearly sophisticated enough, data points.

    • A release like this is timed to get a lot of attention from people who would otherwise not come across this company, as is the choice of subject matter. On one hand, we enabled them. OTOH, I didn’t use their name in the story. Don’t want to make it about quality of press releases, but there’s a lot of square-pegging their terminology in the diamond-shaped hole that is baseball going on there.

  • Tuli Reno

    I read it and found it interesting especially the history and tradition part.

    I used to live in NYC in the 70s and took my fandom with me all over the world. I live in California now, but I traveled to Shea the last year of its existence and cried walking up the ramp remembering the days I took my little boy to games. I went to NYC the first year of Citi and practically cried again as I entered the rotunda and saw the homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers. I went to eight games the two weeks I was there so I could sit all over the stadium and get to know it and maybe like it. I left thinking how appropriate this homage would be in Chavez Ravine not Queens.

    I felt disrespected by ownership. Plain and simple.

    I live in San Diego and still follow the Mets, even the former Mets in whatever team the Padres are playing (although I do cheer for the Pads when not playing NYM).

    I haven’t been back to NYC but I understand ownership has tried to rectify their mistake. I hope you guys have a stadium you can be proud of with some history and tradition. It’s the least the Wilpons can do even if they think we don’t have history and tradition.

    • It’s taken the cusp of a fifth season, but I’m fairly comfortable at what is no longer (but will probably always be) the new ballpark. There are enough touches so you know you’re in the home of the Mets. Plus 324 regular-season games and counting has helped. Hope you make it back someday.

  • Steve D

    I have three distinct Met eras always in my mind. First, the Mets of my youth, when Shea Stadium was new, Jane Jarvis played the organ and Seaver was our star. I went to Banner Days and Helmet Days and it would crush me if I had tickets and it was raining outside. Those day shall never return.

    The next era is of a team hitting rock-bottom, getting new ownership, and getting better every year to finally win a Championship.

    Much has happened since then and most of it not very pleasant to think about. My mind views it as the Wilpon Error Era. It takes every fiber to remain loyal to their team and support them, but there is no alternative. I often have to live in the past, which they can’t take away.

  • Dan Spector

    It would have been nice if they’d actually bothered to publish their methodology, wouldn’t it? Clearly a disproportionate amount of emphasis went on recent won-lost records and nothing else. The idea that the Mets trail the Flailin’ Floridians (at whose games the ex-pat Met fans are often louder than the few localites that wander in) is ludicrous.

    Ditto for the (possibly-) Relocatin’ Rays, Canada’s not-particularly-beloved Jays, or Washington, which was without baseball for 34 years and didn’t seem to much care. But hey, win a few games, and it’s all good, right?

    I’ll even put in some good words for our Class of ’62 brethren; as far as anybody in Texas cares about baseball, I’d say Houstonians have it much more on the mind than in the DFW Metroplex, where the Rangers mostly serve to pass the time until the Cowboys open training camp.

    To quote Shakespeare, that release is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    (Now if they were talking about how good the organizations had recently been at building fan loyalty/brand value, that would be a different issue. Given both the Wilpons’ incompetence and how strong the core loyalty was already [making it difficult to show marked improvement], one could argue that the Mets are losing ground relative to most teams. For all I know, that could be the actual point of the study…but if people can’t understand what you’re talking about, that doesn’t say much for your PR skills, does it?)

    • dak442

      Thank you for saving me the time required to read this. Met fans are less loyal than Marlin and Astro fans? Seriously, somebody sat down and wrote that?

  • Inside Pitcher

    Thank you Greg for advocating for the fans!

    I took the Fenway Park tour with my son yesterday, and it was such a different experience from the Citi Field tour. The people who work up there live and breathe Red Sox history, and their love of their team is palpable.

    We need that kind of vibe to come from our team’s caretakers, instead of having to be the ones to convince them that Mets history and traditions are worth maintaining and celebrating.

    • Fenway turned 100 in 2012 and the Red Sox brought back as many Red Sox from the previous 100 years as they could for a grand celebration.

      The Mets turned 50 in 2012 and they brought back Roger Craig to throw out a first pitch and held a made-for-TV event away from Citi Field that included seven living Mets in person and four on tape.

  • 9th string catcher

    We may be a dying breed. What fan under 26 wants any part of the Mets? They’ve never seen a World Champion Mets team. They’ve seen a lot more losing seasons than winners. Don’t get attached to guys like Reyes or Dickey, because they’ll be moved for more prospects (that may get moved when they develop for more prospects). The old fights you might have had with Yankees fans don’t exist since they just pity us, our weird heritage-free stadium and dismal leadership. Yankees need a left fielder, they get Vernon Wells. We get Matt Den Decker.

    I’ll always be a Mets fan, but I can see why you have a better chance waiting for the Marlins to buy another pennant than wait for the Wilpons to come up with a winning plan.

    • Every time I meet or hear from a Mets fan too young to remember anything before the Art Howe or Willie Randolph years, I’m impressed as hell that they’ve latched on to this thing and stayed with it. It’s a lot harder for a team to pick up the Youth of America in general these days, I would think, with baseball not being as front and center as it once was. For a team that’s offered no grand payoff — not even a little in what is now a long time — is Amazin’. Gil bless those kids.

  • Dave

    The Mets have a unique challenge when it comes to leaving a mark on hometown culture…even in the few other 2-team cities, there isn’t such a wide influence gap between the 2 franchises. So besides the fact that the Cardinals and the Tigers and the Red Sox have no local competition, in LA they’re not passionate enough to drub out one team, and Chicago has its north vs southside geography, and both teams are usually also rans.j

    On the other hand, we make it to a WS in 2000 and get ridiculed as losers by our own home town media. So a weak showing on this list (albeit a meaningless list) is, IMO, partially a reflection of being baseball’s most overshawdowed team.

  • It’s a hypocritical concept: conditional loyalty is no loyalty at all. Winners will always get support cos it’s easy. Stuff like this angers me because we are more loyal than front running cowards. Humph!