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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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One For Not Necessarily All

Moving article by Mitch Albom in this week’s SI about the woes facing his Detroit, what with the Lions having gone 0-16 and the car makers doing measurably worse. He described an idea he had for a column nearly twenty years ago, getting together the main men from each of Detroit’s four big-time sports teams — the Pistons, the Red Wings, the Tigers and the Lions — for an evening out and how each guy (Joe Dumars, Steve Yzerman, Cecil Fielder and Barry Sanders) was pretty much a regular bloke and how they all got along and what a Detroit thing that was. Albom said he imagined you couldn’t do that in one of your bigger cities, mostly meaning New York.

My thought was why would you want to? We’re not like other cities. I don’t mean that in a parochial, pretentious way. I mean from a sports standpoint. We don’t all band together. Sometimes I think it’s too bad. Most of the time I don’t.

I’m not a huge Giants fan when measured against my Metsdom, but I’ll be watching them and rooting for them to advance this Sunday. Even if I wasn’t any kind of Giants fan, I’d be rooting for them. They’re playing the Eagles.

And I hate the Eagles. You know why? It has almost nothing to do with the Eagles. It has to do with the Phillies, specifically the afternoon of September 7, prior to the first pitch of the day portion of the Mets-Phillies day-night doubleheader at Shea. There was a generous helping of Phillies fans in Queens that day, which is like saying there’s a generous helping of gonorrhea amid one’s genitals. Anyway, one of them is talking to another of them and I hear them confer on the Eagles score, that the Eagles are winning, and that they approve.

Damn, I think, we’re in the midst of a pennant race and you’re here, in a baseball stadium far from home, and you’re worried about a football game? Of course you are. That’s the way you people seem to function. You’re all in it together with all of your teams as one. Wasn’t the overblown subplot of the Phillies’ eventual World Series triumph that it broke the streak of Philadelphia teams not winning championships? That it had been since 1983 since the 76ers did the trick and poor Philly, it waited through 99 separate seasons of missing out in the interim?

What hogwash this struck me as. How did one team become four teams? What the phudge do the Phillies have to do with the Eagles with the Sixers with the Flyers, other than they’re all detestable in their own way and they all play on the same block? Yet that’s how it goes in other places where all they’ve got is one team in every sport. Even in those places where they’ve got two teams in some sports, like Chicago, they tend to rally around one team for everything else. Cubs fans and White Sox fans may differ greatly (only one of them counts a president in their ranks), but they’re all pretty much Bears fans from what I’ve noticed.

That doesn’t happen in New York, does it? There will be Mets fans like me watching the Giants and rooting for them on Sunday. I imagine there will be some Mets fans who are Jets fans doing the same. I also know there will be Mets fans who are Jets fans who, even if they hate the Phillies, have had enough of the Giants being Super Bowl champions. And that’s fine.

We’re not Philadelphia or Detroit or Chicago or wherever. We do what we do here. We may love New York, but our civic-mindedness will not be dictated to us. Oh, it’s been tried. Goodness knows we were told what great nights we were party to in certain suddenly long-ago Octobers, and most of us didn’t buy into it one little bit. We’re in a nonagon in terms of sports around here. We order à la carte, maybe one from Column MLB, one from Column NFL and one apiece from Columns NBA and NHL, if, in fact, we need more than one team, period. Whatever we are, we are not all in it together.

Good for us. Good even for those who don’t like who I like and like who I dislike. I thought it was tasteless, for example, when the Bill Shea video tribute ran at the top of the closing ceremonies on September 28 and, when his role in birthing the Islanders was noted, chants of “POTVIN SUCKS!” and “LET’S GO RANGERS!” were in evidence. Tasteless, but real. Real New York fans don’t suffer the existence of New York teams that aren’t theirs. Shoot, it was all I could do to tap the brake the other day at the sight of a couple of strangers in Rangers sweaters crossing my path on foot.

Is it because we as New Yorkers are more selective than sports fans elsewhere? Or is it simply a function of population? We’re selective because we can be? Or are we built to be discerning? How many of you have had to explain to friends from elsewhere that everything they assume about New Yorkers is at least half-wrong? That “just because I root for [team in this sport] doesn’t mean I can stand [team in that sport]“? That “as soon as I get done detesting [your local team in Sport ‘A’], I will join you in cheering on the demise of [the team from my home region I can’t abide in Sport ‘B’ regardless of what my birth certificate and/or driver’s license indicates]“?

It might work for Detroiters and Philadelphians and such to band together for common sports purpose, but it’s nice, somehow, that we don’t. It’s reassuring from a perspective of both critical mass and individuality that we don’t feel compelled to do so, no matter the forces (like local brain-dead media) that attempt to compel us in that direction every time Modell’s has limited-edition merchandise to hawk. On the other hand, it is convenient to know that if the Giants beat the Eagles, then almost every Phillies fan will have his or her Sunday ruined.

And no matter what happens in that game, this guy now officially sucks like everyone before him on such an occasion has sucked.

For the inside scoop on why Mark Teixeira chose the path he did (rather than the one containing a succulent feast of his favorite food), head this very minute for The Dugout.

13 comments to One For Not Necessarily All

  • Anonymous

    for what it's worth, my son — a mets fan in good standing despite the heartbreak they've put him through — is an eagles fan. (hey, he was assigned the team in fourth grade for a project, and it stuck. is it really worse than being a dope like me who roots for the just-end-the-seasons?) yet he has no problem despising the phillies. see how that works?
    we'll be pulling for the birds on sunday, unconflicted. the giants are likeable enough, but still.
    prolonged exposure to mitch albom, by the way, is dangerous for your mental health.

  • Anonymous

    On the other hand, it is convenient to know that if the Giants beat the Eagles, then almost every Phillies fan will have his or her Sunday ruined.
    That's a warm thought for a cold day.

  • Anonymous

    I've always chuckled at lazy writers' romantic notion that the 2001 Yankees almost lifted the spirits of an entire wounded city. Luis Gonzalez, bless his heart, lifted mine (and half of New York's) just fine.
    I haven't given a hoot about hockey in a least ten years, but still join in the Potvin chant every time. Especially because now, 20 years after he retired, it's somewhat unexpected and that much funnier. I love when that familiar tune is played at Shea, or a school play, or a movie, and at the end a handful of loons bellow “Potvin Sucks!” It's even better at a ballpark in another city when the natives look at you like “what?”.

  • Anonymous

    OMG, I couldn't for the life of me figure why I had to root for the yankees in 2001. “Oh, don't you want new york to win?”, they would ask. I would answer, “If I root for the Yankees, then the terrorists win.”

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I remember hearing a lot of “but don't you want to root for them this year because of everything that's happened?”
    No I don't, not at all.

  • Anonymous

    I like this – have Philly in-laws and they do tend to have a “group-think” mentality. Also think Philly hatred of Mets comes from their (perhaps deserved) inferiority complex (will not go too deep here).
    Of course, when anything Philly triumphs over our NY teams, the bitterness of this rivalry makes it hard to accept. BUT, it sure does focus my attention (read that any way you want) on the Mets/Phillies rivalry…

  • Anonymous

    A few thoughts come to mind.
    1. The horrid phenomenon of foreigners obliviously donning Yankee caps because they think New York is a cool city.
    2. My best friend is another one-sport guy, his sport being basketball. He said to me one time, “being a Knick fan is like being a Met fan: you have shitty years, and you have less-shitty years.”
    3. Amen to that 2001 Yankee nonsense. Forget about us Met fans, half the damn country hates the Yankees! Anyone remember Seth Myers' commentary on Weekend Update before the World Series? It was all about how–despite his Boston roots–he “wanted” the Yankees to win the World Series. But, because Boston sports was cursed (“if we rooted for gravity, everyone would be floating in mid-air right now”), he tried the reverse-jinx trick and had a few stiff words for the Yankees and their fans while the crowd hooted and hollered. All the while, you saw a smile come across his face that said to the world, “I can't believe I'm getting away with this.”
    4. Lastly, an undying Doug Stanhope quote: “Rooting for the Yankees is like going to a casino and cheering for the house.”

  • Anonymous

    When similarly pressed I told people “If Al Qaeda had a team, I would root for them to beat the Yankees”.
    In retrospect, perhaps a bit crass.

  • Anonymous

    So Anna Benson finally has some competition in the category of “New York professional athlete's wife wife most worthy of being booed”.
    Boy, was Anna nice to look at.
    But, boy, did everything she said in public cancel out those good looks.

  • Anonymous

    I am not insensitive to the dangers inherent in Mitch Albom dating back to this Met-related debacle, but it was a nice article.
    In my role as Sports Loyalties Czar, I'm going to have to have a word with that fourth-grade teacher…

  • Anonymous

    Amen. Even though New York is home to The Most Evil of Sports Franchises, having nine teams is a huge advantage over other places. We're really spoiled here. My wife is from south-central Wisconsin, and there are two teams in the state (the Badgers and the Packers) that all citizens are pretty much required to root for (I think it's stipulated in the state constitution). The cliche is true: It really is like a religion. But to an outsider, it's tedious as hell. The Brewers? Meh. Nobody seems to care that much outside Milwaukee. And you'd never know the Bucks existed.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but only a bit.
    Recalls a Greg/Jason story I'll tell here one of these winter nights.

  • Anonymous

    I've had my wrist slapped more than once by the Sports Loyalties Czar over the years… not even sure why he still tolerates me. I could go rogue at any moment.
    Anyway, I do think it's because they only have one team to choose from in their city. Unlike us, they don't seem to co-opt teams from other cities (or states) as their own. So if you're a football fan in Philly, you have the Eagles. That's it. The Steelers might as well be from another country. Whereas we embrace teams from Queens, the Bronx, Long Island and even Jersey (if we discounted Jersey, we'd have no football at all). This leaves room for rivalries and choices. They have none, because they ignore other teams in their state and neighboring states. There's one baseball team, one football team, one basketball team and one hockey team to them. No one in Pennsylvania gets all excited when the Pirates play the Phillies, even though they're in the same league. No interest, no acrimony, no nothing. Blah.
    I was a regular Garden/ Rangers denizen when the “Potvin sucks” chant was started like 30 years ago, and it's a reflex by this point. I haven't been a Ranger fan for many years, but I still bristle at the mere mention of the Islanders… based on the hatred between us in the 70s. It's in your blood, even decades after it stops being relevant.
    As for geography, it plays no role in my fandom. I could never understand the “root for the team from your home city, no matter what” attitude. I don't root for cities, I root for teams. Wherever they may come from. I don't feel obliged to root for the most geographically convenient team. Being a kid on Long Island never stopped me from rooting for the Seattle SuperSonics or Texas A&M football or Duke basketball.
    Luis Gonzalez… *sigh*. He earned a free pass for life in 2001. A true American hero who ended a long reign of terror. We are forever indebted to him.
    And this Jets fan says: GO BIG BLUE! The idea of Phillies fans having one more thing to be smug about is repellent to me.