When I was a newly minted sophomore, I indulged my small extrovert streak and went out for a part in my high school’s Theatre Wing production of Heaven Can Wait. I read for the second lead of Mr. Jordan, but wound up with the far smaller role of Inspector Williams. I wasn’t much of a tenth-grade actor, yet when you put a suit on the 15-year-old version of me, I had a knack for appearing middle-aged. I played a series of police inspectors, senators and doctors during my brief scholastic dramatic career. If the suit fit, I wore it.
No matter that I was more utilityman than star. I was in the play. I was also in the stage crew, something I had no particular predilection for. If I wasn’t an actor by nature, I really wasn’t a handyman in any sense of the phrase. I wasn’t good at building things and I wasn’t good at moving things. I had no eye for where things went. I didn’t like tools and tools didn’t like me. But my best friend from junior high decided he wanted to be in the stage crew when we got to high school and I liked being able to hang around with somebody familiar to me, so I opted to pull double-duty.
Acting I could fake my way through (it was acting). Stage crew I was largely useless for, but I hung in there with it for however many weeks my friend remained interested. I was impressed by the job the rest of the crew was doing even if I wasn’t much of a factor in its incremental accomplishments. After a couple of afternoons of attempting to not get in the way of those who knew what they were doing with a hammer, I could see the outlines of a set coming together. I was so proud of the work to which I was nominally contributing that I suggested that night at rehearsal to our director — a very, shall we say, theatrical English teacher by day (when the kid playing Mr. Jordan suffered an injury, he cast himself as second lead) — that the stage crew was making terrific progress and fairly soon, we’d be ready to start painting.
Our director, for whom Heaven Can Wait was his umpteenth rodeo, stared at me in disbelief and informed me, “There’s a long way to go before we can start painting.”
Y’know what? He was right. And y’know what else? There’s a long way to go before the Mets can start acting indignant that every seat in their theater isn’t being filled.
They’ve begged our patience for too many years to grow antsy that they can’t move more inventory after a few weeks of solid baseball. The solid baseball is most welcome. It was so solid pre-Coors Field that I’m willing to chalk up the second consecutive messy loss at high altitude as just another of those things that materialize out of thin air. Besides, Juan Lagares is back with such force that I’d suggest officially redubbing this outfit Juan Lagares & the New York Mets, except that would probably rub at least a few of his 24 supporting players the wrong way. Plus Juan might think about going solo.
Anyway, decent start to the season 28 games in. Maybe not terribly sustainable. Or maybe sneakily sustainable. Hell, Curtis Granderson now has a second home run and a batting average (.156) that can no longer be mistaken for a Field Level seating section. With 95.67% of his contract remaining to be played out, we might eventually have something to connect him to besides his miserable April and whatever he said when he came aboard the good ship Metropolitan.
Granderson’s employers must’ve been really enamored of that business about “true New Yorkers” being Mets fans last December. They’ve produced apparel with that message, available in the Citi Field team store, and now, as you might have noticed, they are e-mailing people who are presumably Mets fans to urge them to declare that they are definitely Mets fans… or “True New Yorkers” in the Grandersonian dialect.
The come-on is very weird, and that’s grading on a steep Metsian curve for weirdness.
After adhering to a strict policy of paying minimal homage to their past, the Mets have scanned the signatures of ten Mets players associated with more successful times and pasted them to the bottom of an open letter that reads like a cry for help. They couldn’t be bothered to reunite the surviving Mets of ’62 or ’73 on their respective 50th and 40th anniversaries, but at least they gathered these guys together on a virtual page.
The message? “Update your contact information so you can be sent more commercial e-mails from mets.com and mlb.com” is implicit. The prize of two tickets to the May 14 game against the Yankees — complete with the honor of presenting Internet signatures to David Wright — is fine enough, though the sweepstakes aspect seems secondary here. The consciousness-raising of Mets fans who might be dismayed that, according to published reports, there aren’t more Mets fans amounts to an unbecoming pile of insecurity.
Somebody had a meeting and determined Mets Fan Equity lies dormant in the True New York State of Mind and the Mets marketers decided they’d be damned if they couldn’t rile it up through emotionally manipulative cues:
• “We made history together…”
• “Stand up and say you’re a true New Yorker.”
• “…players and fans together, believing in each other…”
• “We couldn’t have won without you.”
The stilted missive raises more questions than it answers…
Is there a Mets fan who hasn’t spent a lifetime feeling Met-symbiotic already?
Do the Mets not understand that this is the way a Mets fan thinks most days?
Why would I feel the need to tell the Mets I’m a Mets fan?
Putting aside the Kabuki of filling out required fields, adding an optional 50-character maximum message and showing some unspecified straw men that, gosh darn it, I believe…what is the purpose of this?
I get the purpose from the Met management side. Harvest fresh e-mail addresses. Guilt us into buying more tickets for the provisionally uplifting 2014 Mets — “We’re calling on you to give today’s club the same chance we had.” And maybe sell a few of those “True New Yorker” t-shirts that I haven’t seen worn by anybody in any of my six trips to Citi Field thus far this season. But other than the minuscule shot I would have of winning admission to the no-longer hot Subway Series and shaking Captain Wright’s hand, why would I, your average fan, feel the need to affirm a blue-and-orange oath upon a stack of revised Mets yearbooks?
With all love and respect to the vintage Mets who assure me I “have a role to play in making amazing things happen,” if this franchise doesn’t know us by now, it will never, never, never know us.
Want our loyalty, our allegiance, our Trueness? Play hard right now, improve the product as soon as possible and win like you did we looked for Ed Charles’s name on poetry rather than form letters. We’ll be there. We’ll be so present you’ll be tempted to nudge us along because Citi Field will be like a midtown coffee shop at lunch hour and you’ll need our table for those new customers lining up by the cash register.
The first line of that letter is a hoot: “The victory you earn is sweeter than the victory you’re given.” What have you, my dear Mets, done to earn our loyalty lately? 15-13 is swell, but come now. Surely you know we give you our loyalty. We gave it to you ages ago and you’ve been enjoying its residual payouts ever since. Don’t like the diminishing returns? Invest a little on your end.
We’ve met you more than halfway over this past half-decade. Now it’s your turn: continue to shape a production we swear by instead of at and don’t automatically expect us to storm the box office before the sets are truly ready to be painted. In other words, keep getting better. That will earn you so much goodwill that you can send us all the silly e-mails you want and we won’t be tempted to unsubscribe.