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March Metness: How Many Ones?

The excitement over March Metness [1] reaches a fever pitch this weekend as the Tom Filer Four gets filled out. All the regional 1-seeds entered these two days of play still alive. Will they leave the same way? Let’s find out what happened Saturday.

Let’s Go Mets (1) vs Rheingold The Dry Beer (2)
Rheingold is to be congratulated for maintaining such enduring brand equity as the Mets sponsor of all time despite an almost unbroken absence that dates to the last years of the reserve clause. Liebmann Breweries closed down in 1974 and the brand drifted to that great Beverage Barn in the sky, but the label was reborn in 1998 when a new owner dipped into its frothy and glorious heritage. Rheingold II was brewed in Utica but it would still be The Dry Beer, sponsoring Mets radiocasts, pouring in limited quantities at Shea (there was a Rheingold Beach Towel Day — take that, Budweiser) and, for its introductory press luncheon, trotting out Ed Kranepool and Tommie Agee to share golden malt and barley memories. Alas, Rheingold couldn’t go home again. Within a year, the Mets connection was deemed too brittle to sell to a later generation’s thirst and a more modern, less baseball tack was attempted by its caretakers. Rheingold The Dry Beer returned mostly to memory, and that’s not a bad keg to tap. Meanwhile, Let’s Go Mets, which started with Rheingold at the Polo Grounds in 1962, is still foaming strong. Let’s Go Mets chants its way to the Miracle Region championship.

The 7 Train (1) vs Jose! Jose! Jose! Jose! (7)
For anybody who has ever peered left toward Flushing-Main Street or anxiously fixed on first base with Paul Lo Duca in the batter’s box, this shapes up as a long-awaited showdown between endurance and speed, between conveyance of people and conveyance of hope, between two truly Metsian entities proudly bearing the number 7 and operating on an elevated track. The 7 Train has shuttled Sheagoers since the ’60s, but its profile was raised to dizzying heights in late 1999 when John Rocker identified it by numeral as the carrier of everything that was wrong with New York and New Yorkers. Like we cared what he had to say (though it is bizarrely admirable that he knew what it was called). The 7 Train’s moment in the sun may have come in the Subway Series season of 2000 when a DiamondVision public service announcement reminded the crowd of all the public transportation options available to get you to Shea. Ferries and buses and LIRR elicited not a peck of acknowledgment. But upon announcement of The 7 Train, a roar went up. Hey, that’s OUR train! Thanks partly to Rocker (if you can stomach thanking him for anything), partly to the international cachet of those who have Discovered Queens and made it their home but, it’s fair to say, mostly because of the Mets, The 7 Train is probably the most famous subway line in the world. It’s jammed, it’s late, it’s often unpleasant, but yes, it’s ours and it runs. But does it run like Jose Reyes? Express? Always? Fans some seven years ago may have cheered the 7, but the other 7 moved to pre-eminence in 2006. It wasn’t the smoothest of rides. He had gone into the shop a little too much for comfort in 2003 and 2004 and then had some stops and starts in 2005. But from hamstring patient and sabermetric whipping boy, Reyes rose through the ranks in the magical ’06 season to emerge as the quintessential contemporary Met. Pedro may have been Pedro and Wright the early choice for MVP, but only Jose was utterly singled out by the fans in Hey, he’s OUR player! fashion. The cry of Jose! Jose! Jose! Jose!, borrowed and altered from another sport but ingeniously mass-crafted to one man’s specifications, was unprecedented in Met annals. There may have been Mooooo for Mookie and Ed-DEE for Kranepool, but this unique, modern homegrown expression of devotion and enthusiasm proved something else altogether. Is it too soon for it to be iconic? Not at all. Is it loud enough to derail the noisy 7 Train? By at least six stations. After all, not everybody takes the subway to Shea, but everybody’s on board with Jose Reyes. Jose! Jose! Jose! Jose! pulls off the upset of the Larry Elliot Eight and pulls into the Tom Filer Four for a veritable chantoff versus Let’s Go Mets.

Sunday will reveal the champions of the Believe and Amazin’ regions.