- Faith and Fear in Flushing - https://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Met Prophet of the Airwaves

“And when the twelfth-largest company in the world controls the most awesome, goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?”

When last we visited with Howard Beale on DiamondVision more than six years ago [1], he was urging us to get up right now, sit up, go to our windows, open them and stick our heads out and yell LET’S GO METS! DiamondVision was being a little Gary Thorne-ish in its inability to control itself from interrupting during a big moment, but you got Beale’s point at regular Shea Stadium intervals.

Howard Beale, of course, issued slightly different instructions when he was anchoring The UBS Evening News in the middle of the 1970s. Something about being mad as hell and not taking it anymore. Actually, that might have worked at Shea back then, too, except there was no DiamondVision yet erected when Beale’s signature phrase was catching on, and by the end of that decade, only 788,905 patrons were taking the Mets anymore anyway.

Even if you’ve never seen the 1976 classic Network, you’re probably at least passingly familiar with the Howard Beale character and the “Mad As Hell” speech. It yielded, by the American Film Institute’s reckoning, the 19th-greatest movie quote of all time, and it was indeed retrofitted to the righteous cause of riling up Mets fans as rallies fomented [2] and Mike Piazza loomed in an on-deck circle near us.

But Network is so much more than one speech [3]. Paddy Chayefsky wrote a whole passel of ’em that can be applied to pressing Met matters (also, they advanced the plot of his movie). I found myself the other day thinking about one in which Beale delivers unto his on-air flock a fiery eulogy of sorts for the just-deceased chairman of the board of the Union Broadcasting Systems [4], “a rich little man with white hair” named Edward George Ruddy. My thought was that if Howard Beale — or Paddy Chayefsky — blogged the Mets, he might report to us a recent development with similar sermonic fervor:

Bobby Ojeda has left SNY!

Robert Michael Ojeda was the studio analyst of Pregame Live and Postgame Live and he and SportsNet New York parted ways over a reported difference in compensation!

And woe is us!

We’re in a lot of trouble!

So, a world champion Met with a dark, curly hairpiece is gone from cable TV.

What does that got to do with the price of Blue Smoke, right?

And why is that woe to us?

To be honest — a quality I instantly associate with the man formerly of the hour the game ended and the recriminations began — I don’t know that it is, but I liked Bobby Ojeda a lot in the gigs he no longer holds [5], especially his postgame assignment. When you find yourself looking forward to the postgame show and it’s well after the era when if you didn’t watch Kiner’s Korner, you simply waited for the 11 O’Clock News, somebody must’ve been doing something right.

Bobby Ojeda was Met as hell, but we’re not going to be able to watch him anymore.

The best way to appreciate what Bobby Ojeda brought to Met television analysis from 2009 through 2014 is to consider Homer Simpson’s note to Krustylu Studios that “Poochie needs to be angrier, louder and have access to a time machine.” [6] Poochie, you might recall, was the proposed “dog from hell” who was supposed to add “proactive” edge to Itchy & Scratchy, but was really, as assessed by Lisa Simpson, no more than a soulless byproduct of committee thinking. That iteration of Poochie tested poorly and was literally removed from the second cartoon in which he appeared.

Ojeda, our Minister of Disgustration (that’s disgust plus frustration), could occasionally be loud; now and then express anger; and was brought to us by a time machine from when by his own account Mets were Mets and wins were indisputably plentiful. When it all came together, he was bigger than curly fries.

What a shame that he’s been returned to his home planet.

Bobby O was a truthteller, albeit his truth. Sometimes my and his truths coincided, sometimes they diverged. I don’t mind that he and I sometimes landed on different postgame pages. He was an after-dinner mint of candor, a palate-cleanser of any RSN BS the less honesty-inclined members of the SNY team (basically anybody not known instantly by their initials) might instinctively spread across our screens. If Bobby O hyped something, I had the feeling he believed it. If Bobby O didn’t, then it was probably hype to begin with.

When Bobby O took aim and was on target, it was beautiful. Following defeats, he wasn’t impressed by the Mets’ organizational approach to anything. Neither was I in those moments. It’s a natural reaction. Why were the Mets sulking in their clubhouse, sucking up another defeat? Because, according to Bobby O’s gospel, they weren’t aggressive enough at the plate and/or didn’t let their pitchers throw enough off the mound.

Yes, I thought — exactly!

And when Bobby O took aim and missed wildly, it was just as beautiful. Remember the time he scolded R.A. Dickey [7] for daring to answer a Saturday afternoon question about a planned offseason climb of Kilimanjaro for the folks from Fox because it was April and how dare a ballplayer be thinking about the offseason? It bordered on, in a word that is generally overused but absolutely valid here, insane. But it was coming from the heart of Bobby O, a place where hitters are swinging rather than waiting, pitchers are working into the ninth and nobody thinks about November until they know for sure they’re not going to be playing in the bright-lights portion of October.

You know Bobby Ojeda was at his best in October of 1986 — four Met postseason starts, four Met postseason wins, including the damnedest pair of Game Sixes ever played — but he scaled a different sort of peak in what little October the Mets experienced during his broadcasting tenure. I’m thinking of October 3, 2012, Game 162, the playing out of the schedule between the Mets and the Marlins [8], both of whom went nowhere that year. The Mets won their final game that inevitably sodden season, locking in their record at a dispiriting 74-88. Still, it was a win. Ike Davis had reached 90 RBIs and Scott Hairston, in a part-time role, blasted his twentieth homer. After wins and milestones, aren’t postgame studio analysts supposed to be upbeat?

Bobby Ojeda wasn’t having any of it. His partner, Chris Carlin, kept tossing him regional sports network BP, fluffy stuff about how this was something to feel good about, wasn’t it? Bobby O — my hero that evening — wouldn’t swing at it and wasn’t taking it. To paraphrase, Bobby O insisted, no, there’s nothing to feel good about with this team; this team won 74 games; the idea is to win lots more games and go much further; the Mets didn’t do that.

Yes, I thought — exactly!

Look, as Bobby O would say as he pierced the camera with his smoldering “I can’t believe this team” stare, on nights the Mets perform well and retain a chance to play beyond Game 162, I won’t need a truthteller. The truth will be the Mets are stoking hope instead of inflaming unease. On nights when things are less well-ordered, perhaps whoever succeeds Ojeda (erstwhile proto-Dickey Nelson Figueroa has been mentioned most prominently [9]) will put it in perspective just fine. Or maybe it will be all milquetoast and weak tea served up in the name of minimizing discouraging words. It’s bad enough we’ve lost KB from the sidelines [10]. Now goes Bobby O from the desk. One shudders to imagine the fortress of forthrightness that surrounds GKR crumbling at the hands of Healyesque [11] hypemen serving up bottled dishwater.

Let’s keep our chins up as we wish our Met prophet of the airwaves a smooth ride to the next phase of his personal journey. Let’s err on the side of thinking there won’t be too many troubling trendlines in need of dissection by the last angry postgame studio analyst in 2015 and beyond. Bobby Ojeda, forever Met as hell, won’t be around to take us through them any longer.

This topic and several others came up on last week’s Rising Apple Report, where I was honored to guest. Listen in here [12].

Heather Quinlan’s 1986 Mets documentary, now titled The Lords Of Flushing, has a sweet five-minute trailer up on YouTube. Keep an eye and ear open for your favorite bloggers. Watch it here [13].

Seven excellent QBC panels are available for your streaming pleasure on SoundCloud, including those involving your very same favorite bloggers. Check ’em out here [14].

And that Doc Gooden luncheon on February 21 we told you about here [15]? You can still get tickets here [16].