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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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The Cost of Hope

One of the benefits of sticking around to the final out when many have flocked despairingly to the exits in the face of howling winds and widening deficits is seeing things you wouldn’t believe if you didn’t experience them for yourself. Minutes after Jason bolted the imminent initial Met demise of 2014, he was joined by most of the lower half of Section 523. By the bottom of the tenth, I was literally one of four people left in the front ten rows of what had been a packed Promenade perch innings earlier — and two of those who remained were Nationals fans.

But you do see a few things. For example, when David Wright lifted a two-run homer off Jerry Blevins to pull the Mets to within 9-7, I was jumping up and down, partly for warmth, but mostly because I was delusional enough to think if Curtis Granderson could work his way on, Anthony Recker would tie it up. That would get us only to 9-9, and I wasn’t necessarily anticipating John Lannan morphing into the better long-relief angels of Shaun Marcum — and goodness knows I was cold enough to want to seek shelter inside a room with a roof ASAP — but this was Opening Day. Who wants to see the Mets lose on Opening Day?

I didn’t. But I saw it anyway. My best-case scenario turned into a called third strike and the Mets lost in ten. Oh well, I thought, that’s it.

But that wasn’t it. Because the Mets aren’t done with you just because their players are.

Y’know those “in-game hosts” the Mets introduced Monday? It seems Alexa and Branden weren’t hired simply to entertain the Citi Field patrons. One game’s worth of watching them on the video screens would convince you there’s nothing the least bit entertaining about what the Mets have them doing. Their job descriptions, however, go far beyond conducting contests and filling space between innings.

I learned this as I was leaving. Alexa and Branden stopped me right outside 523 in very cheery fashion.

“Sir, do you have a moment?” Branden asked. “We’d really like a moment of your time.”

I wanted to make the 5:24 at Woodside, but I figured I had a minute, so I said sure.

“Sir,” Alexa explained, “we noticed you seemed very happy when David Wright hit that home run.”

Sure, I said. I thought we had a chance to come back. Branden cut me off right there:

“It’s great you said ‘we,’ there. Not everybody in the stands would.”

Well, I explained, it’s kind of a figure of speech. I’m a big Mets fan and when you’re a fan of a team, you tend to speak interchangeably between the first- and third-person.

“That’s great, sir,” Alexa said. “Because as part of the team, you know ‘we’ all have to contribute something.”

Uh-huh, I said, nodding but not exactly sure what she was getting at.

“Sir,” Branden explained, “we were watching you all day.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Sir, as you know Citi Field is a World Class ballpark that is always enhancing its world class technology,” Alexa said. “Maybe you noticed the upgraded scoreboard, for example.”

Yes, I said, I had. I told them I thought the graphics were much improved, though the balls and strikes were a little hard to find at first…kind of like they were for Tim Welke, I added with a chuckle.

Branden didn’t acknowledge my little shot at the umpiring, instead choosing to continue as if he had memorized a script. “Sir,” he said, “as a loyal member of Team Mets, you’ll be happy to know that Citi Field’s world class technology has allowed us to install multiple cameras that allow us to monitor every movement of our most loyal Team Mets fans, Team Mets fans very much like yourself.”

I told him I wasn’t sure I understood. And what was this “Team Mets” business?

“Sir,” Alexa said, picking up the script, “when you cheer in exceedingly loyal Team Mets fashion, our Fan Focus cameras record in algorithmic detail just how much you are enjoying the game. And when you enjoy the game to an excessive degree, we deduct an Improvement Fee from your Mets First account.”

Mets First account? What the hell were they talking about? Branden was all too happy to explain.

“Sir,” he said, “Citi Field’s World Class technology now incorporates Amazin’ Face recognition software so it can be inferred to a 99.94% accuracy rate your level of enjoyment, hope, belief and other Positivity Indicators.”

Even as I noticed Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” played over the PA instead of the usual post-loss recording of Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind,” I still wasn’t getting it. Alexa filled in the rest:

“Sir, during game action, not including pauses for pitching changes or replay challenges, your every exclamation and gesture is recorded so an accurate tabulation of how much your Mets First account should be debited can be made.”

She then withdrew a tablet from a tote bag she’d been carrying to show me a split-screen highlight reel. On the left were the Mets doing good things, like Andrew Brown homering or Jose Valverde getting out of that bases-loaded jam and on the right were my joyous reactions to it.

Holy crap, I said — that’s me.

“Sir,” Branden said while quickly tapping keys on one of those handheld devices you see the vendors in the Delta Club seats carry, “you enjoyed today’s Mets game to an excessive degree on eleven discrete Action Occasions, for which you owe Sterling Mets, L.P., and its affiliate companies and shareholders nine dollars and ninety cents. Along with the nine-dollar convenience fee that we apply in advance as a courtesy to all loyal members of Team Mets, your total owed comes to $18.90.”

Hold it, I said. I owe the Mets eighteen dollars and ninety cents after a game I bought a ticket to?

“Sir,” Alexa said, “loyal members of Team Mets all want the Mets to do well and win 90 games this year and say they’d do anything to make that happen, which is why the Get Better challenge has been instituted. It’s an Interactive Way we can all help the Mets ‘get better’. This and all elements of the Money Mouth initiative are detailed on the back of your legally binding ticket.”

I reached into my back pocket, took off my glasses and squinted. Sure enough, right between the boilerplate about how “the ticketholder assumes all risk” and “injuries, death, or loss of property,” was everything Branden and Alexa were telling me, down to the letter. It was all on the back of the ticket the Mets sold me the whole time.

OK, I said, I see it here for myself, but how did you get that total?

“Sir,” Branden said, “our 90 Wins goal will not be reached merely with ticket, television, radio, parking, merchandise and concession revenue or the financial resources of Sterling Mets, L.P. and affiliate companies and shareholders. Team Mets needs everybody to pitch in. That’s why in 2014 we have instituted Dig Deep Days, including but not limited to games played on weekdays, weeknights and weekends, in which select fans will be Drafted Specially to help make Our Mets the 90-win team we all want them to be.”

“To make certain this is a Fun Investment,” Alexa continued, “every Game Development to which loyal members of Team Mets like yourself; members of your family; friends and acquaintances of you; those sitting in sections adjacent to you; or those with whom you exchanged pre-game eye contact in the concourses, restrooms, shops or Jackie Robinson Rotunda of Citi Field demonstrate enthusiasm for is subject to a 90-cent Get Better surcharge — plus the overall nine-dollar convenience fee that we apply in advance as a courtesy.”

“Sir,” Branden said, “90 cents to win 90 games is the Team Mets way.”

I didn’t know what else to say, so I went into my wallet for a twenty. But Alexa stopped me.

“Sir,” she said, “cash is not necessary. As a loyal member of Team Mets like yourself you have already made payment of $18.90…along with an additional $9.90 Full Explanation fee.”

Alexa handed me a receipt for the entire Emotional Transaction and assured me the proper deductions had been made from my Mets First account that was helpfully linked to my major bank debit or credit card.

“All part of the service,” Branden said. “Have an Amazin’ Day!”

I reflexively thanked them but was otherwise left speechless, with no time to think if I wanted to make the 5:24, so I just shoved the receipt in my coat and got a move on. But at least I know what’s going on now with the whole 90-win thing. So just be warned on this day after Opening Day: If you stick around to the end of a game and get your hopes up, I imagine it’s gonna cost you.

20 comments to The Cost of Hope

  • open the gates

    Awesome! You had me around until the “algorithmic detail”. That’s when I checked my calendar.

  • Chris F

    Well Done . But I still remember the ‘Vegetable Rotunda’ so I saw it Coming . Hopefully we get some Wednesday Soup .

    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Gian

    Bastard…I hate being duped..LOL! Well done…SIR!

  • Chad Ochoseis

    If the money goes towards locking up Sidd Finch long term, I’m all for it.

  • Will in Central NJ

    You should’ve distracted Branden and Alexa by pointing at the Delta 737 overhead, then while they looked up, hoofed it toward the exit!

    Ha! Happy April 1st! (if only it were so about Parnell….)

  • jpb

    Beautiful. But it’s hard to top the inspiring tribute of today’s reddit page.

  • The Jestaplero!

    Hopefully the Parnell medical report is April Fool’s as well

  • metsfaninparadise

    That’s not where I would’ve shoved that receipt

  • 5w30

    date of blog post noted, and am afraid you gave the ‘pons and their lame social media minions some dangerous monetization ideas …

  • I think Branden and Alexa should go back to their roles on “The Young and the Restless”

    btw of all the days to not have “Find Cuppy” when the joint was packed, he was regulated to a Simon Sez observer Lou Goldstein is rolling in his grave

  • Dave

    Dig Deep Days beats expecting the billionaire to shell out the money I guess. Glad to hear that they have set up fan friendly payment options.

  • argman

    Greg, have you read “The Circle” by Dave Eggers?

  • Classic post Greg. It reeks of truth. Now I’m gonna smell like sarcasm until I get a shower.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    I really thought you were pulling our legs until I thought about Sandy Alderson saying that for the Mets to sign free agents more fans would have to buy tickets.

    Keeping that in mind, I wasn’t becoming quite sure whether you were kidding or not about that “Team Mets” account. It seems like something they would try to pull.

    Because you took the LIRR, were you aware of the mess that took fans coming by car more than an hour once they got to the Whitestone Expressway exit till when they could find a place to park their cars because a circus tent took up so many parking spaces in the lot? Watching the game on TV, we could not believe all the empty seats in the upper promenade during the pre-game ceremonies. This explains why – so many were simply late getting in trying to find alternate places to park that were far from the main parking lot.

    Understood that the Circus tent has been in the lot since the Fall. Gather the Wilpons saw that the revenue of lost parking spaces paled compared to the money brought in by the parking agreement so screw the fans – as always.

    • dak442

      I keep hearing about the shopping mall they want to build where the main parking lot (and circus – wtf!) currently sits. How many thousands of parking spots would that eliminate? Are they TRYING to keep us from attending games? For a great many fans, public transit is simply not a viable option.

      • open the gates

        Met Fans Inconvenienced by the Circus at Citi Field – now there’s a great headline. And true on so many levels.

      • Joe D.

        Hi dak442,

        That shopping mall is part of an overall city development plan awarded to Sterling Equities which includes a hotel and convention center. By having a year round convention center across the street from Citi Field, that makes the renting out of Citi Field year round as an extension of that for conferences and expositions quite a lucrative venture – profit wise. Not to mention it bringing in a lot more ticket sales from out of town visitors throughout the year along with some shoppers who might decide to go to the game since they are close by.

        So the Wilpons have a lot invested in that development – and now one might get a clearer picture as to why they are so desperate to retain ownership of the Mets despite the Madoff problem causing them to focus all their resources on the debt problem and not on the team which has caused the product on the field to deteriorate so and for them to simply absorb the loss of income generated by ticket sales and the selling of concessions.

        And now one might also understand why Sandy Alderson was brought in to be the general manager of the Mets. He is a business person and his “plan” was not rebuilding the “New York Mets” as it was rebuilding “Sterling Mets”. A plan is a series of measures to be taken. In October, 2010 Sandy decided to look to the future with youth by trading veteran and expensive players for top prospects combined with building from within. With our farm system being full of potential pitching talent yet dry of any position player potential – and Sandy’s insistence that he would not go through free agency to fill those positions – what he was selling us was not a “plan” but a “goal” that something might turn out with the drafting of raw talent.

        Raw talent is cheap. Think of the opportunities that we passed up the past few off seasons that could have complimented our nice developing young pitching staff. Then think of Sandy’s explanations – successful teams are that way because of “payroll concentration” and “payroll management”. This is Orwellian double-speak to say that the organization was going to have a payroll lower than Kansas City in order for Sterling Mets to retain ownership. It goes beyond just the roster payroll. The Mets as an organization have downsized their entire operating budget and are working on a shoestring budget at this time. That they are losing money in the “operating budget” does not tell the whole story. Franchises make their money through their capital investments and their overall “net” revenue. In 2012, the Yankees, the top valued team in baseball, only saw a $1.2 million profit in operating expenses. The Tampa Bay Rays, which is 30th, however, had an operating revenue $10 million in the black. Which team do you think made more money despite what the operating profit happen to be?

        So even the talk about the Mets losing money each year due to dwindling attendance is deceiving – they admitted having serious cash flow problems beginning in October, 2010 – a year before Sandy was hired and coming off a fourth consecutive season in which their operating budget had a surplus in the multiple millions. If they had a cash flow problem back then, it had nothing to do with the operating of the ball club – it was with their “net” investments and we know what happened with that – the real estate market plummeted and so did their big dependency upon Bernie Madoff.

        Again, Bud Selig and Sandy Alderson to the rescue. And that real estate development across the street as to the reason why they are allowing themselves to take the economic hits now, with the fans and the team be damned. That was the “plan” the day Sandy was introduced to the press when he said he would never had taken the job if he was brought in to play “money ball”. He knew what he had to do and what he was hired to do and to be quite honest, he has done an excellent job of doing that for the Wilpons are now here for the long-term, unfortunately. So we better hope that his “goal” works out for the team for he certainly had no plan going for it.

    • Rob D.

      I was caught in that mess…ended up parking by Flushing Meadow Park and being bused in..never had to do that in 40 years of going to games…which I wouldn’t have minded so much if that’s where they told me to park an hour before. We missed the first 3 innings. Cops were ZERO help.

  • You just know Jeff Wilpon is reading this, stroking his chin & saying “Hmmmmm…I wonder…”