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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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On the Other Side of the World

Sometimes you must feel you didn't ask for this, that 2008-style Met mediocrity was thrust upon you. You don't remember seeking out the Mets, yet they came and helped themselves to your brain. You're a Mets fan for so long you can barely remember why anymore.

Sometimes it's helpful to hear from someone who sought it out, someone who made a marginally conscious decision that it would be more fun to go through life loving the Mets than being oblivious to them. That they seemed the obvious choice. If geography is destiny, a man named Alastair Burgess was destined to know nothing of the Mets, certainly not enough to get tangled up in them.

But he discovered them and now he's one of us.

Poor bastard.

Alastair, who says we can call him Al, must have been moved by our recent pitch to sell t-shirts, because he sent us a picture of himself looking quite sharp in one of them. But he also sent us his story. It is, by any Met standard, fairly Amazin'.

First off, Al's from New Zealand (sporting an accent that he says is “more Bret than Jemaine,” correctly assuming the only thing at least one of us knows about New Zealand is Flight of the Conchords). Not a lot of Mets fans in New Zealand, one would guess. Al grew up loving cricket, but as someone “exiled” in Japan for the past 15 years, there's not a lot of cricket available.

But there is baseball.

We hear every now and then about baseball and Japan in this country, mostly that they're nuts about it and that Bobby Valentine is revered for it. Al confirms that he has “my Japanese hosts to thank for my turning to baseball” in order to compensate for his cricket shortfall. What Japan didn't do is make him a Mets fan, at least not directly.

Yet, “I'm naturally a Mets fan. A Mets fan who's not set foot in New York yet, let alone Shea, but still a fan.”

If you're as puzzled as Murray Hewitt (FOTC's manager, who urges all New Zealanders coming to New York to take back alleys and thereby avoid the dangers that lurk in crowds), well, you're not alone. I was trying to figure out how a New Zealander migrates to Japan and winds up rooting for the New York Mets enough to “loyally” read a rather intricate, parochial blog about them, let alone wear its shirt, when Al set me straight:

“Had I been born in NYC, I'm certain I would have chosen the right team.”

Well, I can't argue with an intrinsic sense of right and wrong, but there's more to Al's choice than instinct.

“One reason was Nomo's move to the Dodgers” in 1995, Al explains. “I was then new to Japan, working afternoons and evenings so I could watch all his starts (morning Japan time) with Vin Scully's (for ages I thought he was Vince Cully!) commentary. I started to appreciate the game of baseball from then on.”

So he followed the downmarket Hideo Nomo and his enormous ERA to the Mets? Not quite:

“Nomo's catcher was Piazza and he quickly became my favorite player. For some reason, though watching the Dodgers every five days, I couldn't bring myself to actively root for them.” The trades that made Mike a Met in 1998 represented for Al a “lucky escape”.

We'll say. Piazza to the Mets via the Marlins, Al to our side, washing off the stain of Dodger blue as quickly as he could. As he learned more about the Mets, he got in deeper.

“About this time,” the late '90s, “the other NYC franchise was fluking a few World Series wins and the Japanese, being the worst bandwagon jumpers you'll ever meet, lapped it up.” But no succumbing to inner…inner city pressure where Al was concerned: “Bloody sickening it was.” Thus, he rooted for Mike and he rooted for Bobby V, of whom he'd been a fan since his first Japanese go-round, and he rooted for what were now his Mets.

“Other less compelling reasons,” Al reveals, “were Seinfeld episodes sent on VHS cassettes by friends in North America ('I'm Keith Hernandez'), and my birth year of 1969.”

Less compelling? For someone who has yet to swipe his first Metrocard at Willets Point, who will never shake his hands dry because the men's room behind Section 8 of Mezzanine ran out of towels three innings ago, who hasn't had to point relentlessly at the yearbook pile in order to obtain the desired item from yet another ill-trained concessionaire…I'd say for someone who has hitched his star to the Mets independently and half a world away, there is no such thing as a less compelling reason.

They're all Amazin'.

Al's one of us, no doubt about it. He's also one of the Hanshin Tigers' followers, rooting for the club “who brought you such greats as Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Kei Igawa” (one of out two ain't bad). The Tigers are historically a little Metsian in their approach to success: sporadic and overshadowed too often (stupid Yomiuri Giants), though “unlike the Mets, the Tigers are doing well this year,” we learn.

I'd say that makes me a Hanshin Tigers sympathizer, but I can't imagine choosing a team and sticking with it in some place I've never seen and will likely never go. I find it exotic when Mets fans tell me they have a favorite American League team. But to suddenly align oneself with somebody in the Central League of Japan? Or the Pacific League, where Bobby V is plying his trade with the Chiba Lotte Marines? That would be the equivalent of what Al is doing with the Mets…except I'd have to come into it with no background in baseball, starting from a country that had only cricket, and then be smitten beyond belief from about 6,700 miles away.

Not many could do that. Al can. That's why I've got to tip my cap as Far East in his direction as possible.

“I even like saying 'New York Mets,'” Al adds. “Is that wrong?”

No, Al, that's absolutely right. As right as can be.

Ergo, I don't think any of you will argue too strenuously when we declare Alastair Burgess today's Best Mets Fan…in the WORLD!

Wanna rate up there with Al? Then for Shinjo's sake already yet, buy a shirt!

26 comments to On the Other Side of the World

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Greg ! What an honour to be mentioned, let alone have a whole post about me in my favourite blog! I've put off commenting until now for fear of sounding like a moron, but that doesn't stop a lot of people on other blogs. My Mets fandom has most definitely been reinforced by reading FAFIF. I haven't got a clue what you're going on about half the time, but the writing is always superb ! I appreciate the effort you and Jason put in. The people who frequent the comments section appear to be completely sane, too. I'll try to keep up and hopefully not lower the tone with my British spelling!
    The Tigers are now 7.5 games up in first place with a 39-18 record. They've had two losing streaks this year, each a whopping two games. Is that what you'd call a streak? Makes the Mets woes easier somewhat easier to take.
    All Americans I meet tend to want to call me Al from the start so I just preempted it this time.
    P.S. Small claim to fame: my sister once worked part-time in a multiplex movie theatre with Rhys Darby a.k.a. Murray Keith, manager of the Conchords. He's not as funny in real life apparently.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome Alastair! It's nice to meet you. Post as frequently as you like – New Zealand accents are always appreciated.
    Oh, but don't think for a minute that we're sane around here. We're all off our rockers! ;)

  • Anonymous

    Cheers! I'll probably ask a lot of dumb questions so brace yourself !
    Whoops ! I noticed I got Murray's name wrong above. I used to know another Murray with that name. I'd just finished work here and I was bloody knackered. Do you guys say that in New York?

  • Anonymous

    Ask as many questions as you like. I'm a librarian, and we're fond of saying that there's no such thing as a dumb question.
    “Bloody” and “Knackered” are not part of the American lingo. But if you're saying that you just got off of work and you were exhausted, I'd probably say something like, “my brain was fried.” (That's not the definitive phrase – there are may ways of expressing that.) Generally the context helps explain the slang.

  • Anonymous

    On the contrary, you MUST say “bloody knackered” and “up the spout” and all those great thoroughly puzzling expressions from the Commonwealth, along with whatever distinctly Kiwi expressions you can come up with. We will love you all the more, especially when you combine these with Mets worship.

  • Anonymous

    All right. How about “Ryan Church is looking a bit crook with that flash head of his”.
    Or “Michael Kay is a wanker”. Sorry, is that considered a swear word on here? I know T#m G&%$#e is one, isn't it?
    Oh, yeah, that reminds me. Another reason I love the Mets is I hate the Braves. And Michael Kay.
    Time for bed in Japan. Let's Go Mets tomorrow ! (Japan time)

  • Anonymous

    Alastair, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
    “Completely sane,” he says…AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Anonymous

    Wanker is fine, and generally understood here (even though not generally used).
    And of course you hate the Braves. Who doesn't?

  • Anonymous

    You're a Mets fan for so long you can barely remember why anymore.

    I found myself face-to-face with this very question Saturday morning.
    Sarah & I went to our favorite local greasy-spoon (cleverly named The Coffee Shoppe) for breakfast and I was having some banter with the owner, one of those young women who swoons over Derek Jeter.
    I had on my tie-dye Mets tee and she was all like, “Mets? what the hell? You buy a house & now you're a Mets fan?”
    Sarah, piped up, “It's got nothing to do with the house: he came that way.” And I was like, “I've been a Met fan since 1967!”
    A guy at the counter chimes in, “Well then I have to ask you — why?”
    And I couldn't think of an answer, so I reverted to snarkery: “Oh, Yankee fan huh? Since '96, right?”
    He was all, “no, since I was a kid…”
    We left him in the middle of his sentence.
    And this was before I knew about Friday night's loss…

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate my blog partner's kindness in thinking I might know something more about New Zealand than he does. Which I do.
    They shot the “Lord of the Rings” movies there!
    /beams proudly
    Seriously, we're all thrilled to have you here, Alastair, and to know our colors are flying on the other side of the world….

  • Anonymous

    Michael Kay is a wanker indeed.
    But thank your lucky stars you haven't heard Jon Sterling.
    Thanks for stopping in! I'm actually dying to go to Japan and see a Marines game (I've got my loyalties to Bobby). Any tips?

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, I did know that. And that it's not Australia. Both facts are illustrated on posters in Murray's office.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, if you've been to many major league ball parks, you're already more familiar with New Zealand than you think.
    It's a cozy, welcoming place with deep traditions — just like Wrigley Field. There are sweeping vistas of green everywhere you look — just like Fenway. The terrain can be quirky and daunting — just like Minute Maid Park. The weather is at its chilliest at the height of our summer, just like Pacific Bell SBC AT&T Park. And the dumb, woolly farm animals far outnumber the humans, just like Yankee Stadium.
    By the way, it seems we have a New Zealander to thank for inventing a device that could well be the salvation of any American baseball fan who has ever patronized a stadium concessionaire: the portable instant beer chiller. I'll be wishing I had one out at Shea tonight!

  • Anonymous

    This is one of my favorite Flight of the Conchords faux travel slogans –
    Click here

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately I have heard Sterling on WFAN when I listen to them on the interwebs. In Japan they show all the Subway Series games but it's always the YES feed. I can hear the SNY team on my cable channel when they offer a Mets home game. Gary, Ron and Keith are another reason to watch the Mets, if not for the current team
    I'll try not to use “wanker” too much but in New Zealand it's the equivalent of saying he's a bit of a jerk.

  • Anonymous

    I'll try not to use “wanker” too much but in New Zealand it's the equivalent of saying he's a bit of a jerk.
    Use “wanker” all you want. We're total potty mouths around here at times. In fact, be forwarned that Mets suckitude (a made up word, but it's certainly descriptive) brings out the foul language in us.
    Shall we assume that you won't be scared away by the occasional naughty word?

  • Anonymous

    follows the mets, reads fafif, disdains the skanks, takes special note of the bit of a jerk that is kay (and sterling) — i like this guy!!
    alastair, we are not worthy.
    oh, and sorry the team is so excruciating right about now. recalls the bad old days, when Mets was said to stand for My Entire Team Sucks.

  • Anonymous

    Not at all. I'm used to talking to British guys who favour the very naughty word used in the “Beloved Aunt” episode of Curb your Enthusiasm. So by all means, swear away!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks to Greg I found out how to get a username.
    I played cricket once, not 10 miles from where they filmed Hobbiton. I think I got 31 runs in the first innings but was out for a duck in the second.
    I read a book called “Playing Hard Ball” in which an English pro cricket player goes and spends spring training with the 2000 Mets. If you know both games it's an interesting read, but if you don't it's still worth it for an outsider's view of baseball.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I thought I had a username. I hope it works this time.

  • Anonymous

    No, that's my real name. How's this? God, I'm just like Jon Favreau in Swingers leaving that answering machine message !

  • Anonymous

    This time?

  • Anonymous

    I think I got 31 runs in the first innings
    Obviously you were facing Heilman.

  • Anonymous

    Was this the book?

  • Anonymous

    That's the one !