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More Face, Less Base

Major League Baseball has been running a promotion called “Face of the Franchise,” which crossed my mind Saturday night after returning home from the first Queens Baseball Convention. In MLB’s Twitter-based contest, fans are being asked to choose a current player to visually represent each team and, ultimately, the entire sport.

Due respect to whomever this exercise eventually glorifies, this is silly where the Mets are concerned. The face of this franchise is that of its fans. And the face appeared to be enjoying itself at QBC. It smiled. It focused. It pondered. It moved up and down in a nodding fashion (which might be more of a head trait, but the face is in there somewhere). It was surely engaged by all that transpired around it.

Two of many happy faces found at QBC 14. (Photo by Sharon Chapman.) [1]

Two of many happy faces found at QBC 14. (Photo by Sharon Chapman.)

We’d make for an ideal Mets visage, except for one logistical obstacle: you can’t really fit us all onto one face. Blame it on the individuality that pokes out from underneath our common-interest umbrella. We’re snowflaky that way. Even within the realm of our respective Mets fan identities, we are each a variation of the species.

Y’know what we’re not? A “fan base”. I’ve really come to dislike that term.

Never mind that it evokes political strategy, as in “playing to the base,” which always sounds very cynical. My distaste for the phrase comes from the implication that you can blob us together until you don’t have to bother distinguishing among us. It’s easier to dismiss prevailing concerns by pretending a mob is howling. “Sign a player? Lower a price? Convene a wintertime baseball event? Oh sure, that’s what the fan base wants.”

Send out all the surveys you can generate, cherry pick your feedback mechanisms or just draw your prefab conclusions. You won’t know what your so-called base of fans is about unless you’re fully among them. There may be majorities or pluralities in favor of this or that, but there’s rarely anything close to unanimity, save maybe for winning being considered preferable to losing…and I wouldn’t swear to that one, either.

Our distinctions are good things. They make us multifaceted instead of monolithic. That’s probably why the first QBC succeeded so absolutely completely. There was a little bit of everything for everybody. A lot of everything, actually. It was glorious not just for the triumph of choice, but for watching the choices being made. Not everybody wanted the same thing out of the day, or at least they didn’t behave as if they did.

Y’know the one thing I’m pretty sure we all wanted? To be at a gathering like this. Not every Mets fan might have chosen to spend one winter Saturday with hundreds of other Mets fans, but hundreds did. Once we were there, it seemed the overriding point was to revel in the existence of this unprecedented opportunity. Again, there was a lot of everything for everybody, yet the one item that didn’t formally appear in the QBC program but managed to emerge as Saturday’s common denominator was unfettered access to each other.

We were Mets fans embracing not just the chance to listen to former players, current broadcasters, dedicated historians and garrulous bloggers. We were confirming we’re still in this thing together; that January notwithstanding, we each maintain our unique place within our franchise’s face.

Consider confirmation achieved.

Sincere thanks to all who made Queens Baseball Convention 14 possible and equally sincere thanks to all who made Queens Baseball Convention 15 necessary.