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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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Still the Same

It’s presumptuous to project thoughts onto the deceased. The deceased can’t speak for themselves, yet we the living haughtily decide what they might be thinking if they were still with us. I do anyway. For a decade now, I’ve done it with Dana Brand.

Though it’s presumptuous as hell, I do it because I miss Dana. Dana was a wonderful Mets writer and a wonderful Mets companion and a wonderful Mets fan. We actively knew each other for only a few years before he passed away out of nowhere at the age of 56 ten years ago today. We spiritually knew each other as Mets fans all our lives.

So forgive my presumptuousness when now and then since May 25, 2011, I find myself thinking, “Dana would love this,” even if I am confident that when he crosses my mind in this regard I’m hardly reaching to match projected emotion to absent emotee. When Johan Santana gave us our first no-hitter, there is no chance Dana wouldn’t have loved that. When the Mets rampaged to a National League pennant on the backs of Cespedes, Murphy and all that young pitching, there is no chance Dana wouldn’t have reveled in the result, let alone the process. Kirk Nieuwenhuis? Juan Uribe? This kid Conforto, the fresh prince of Binghamton? Lunky Lucas Duda? Wilmer Flores in tears? Grumpy, soulful Terry Collins? Those were Dana’s kinds of characters.

Dana never got to describe a Harvey Day or deGrom’s unforeseen ascent or the mythology of Thor. He would have been all over those guys. Same for Matz’s debut in front of Grandpa Bert and Bartolo’s world tour of the bases in San Diego and Cabrera’s bat flip that Tugged at our miracle instincts and Pete the powerful Polar Bear. Those were all Dana Brand essays waiting to happen. He’d have ruminated on the ‘F’ that infiltrated LGM. He’d have embraced from a safe social distance Dom Smith when Dom felt all alone on Zoom. He’d have said a proper goodbye to David Wright and Jose Reyes, the last of the Mets still on the Mets from when Dana and I went to games at Shea together.

I mean I think he would have. I can’t say for sure. But I do, because it makes me feel better to have his voice in my head. That goes for great Met moments and blah Met moments. The blah has outweighed the great for much of the past ten years. Dana, I believe, wouldn’t have had a problem coping with that. He understood the Mets weren’t designed to secrete success on a nightly basis. When they were good, they gave us something special. When they weren’t, they gave us themselves, and if it wasn’t always special, it was life. The right man picked the right team to interpret.

I’ll tiptoe a little further out onto the limb of presumptuousness and tell you I think Dana would have gotten Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the visiting Rockies, an evening when the blah (as engineered by Colorado starter Austin Gomber) was in full effect. Wouldn’t have loved it, but he would’ve gotten it. The absurd wave of injuries — learning Conforto and Jeff McNeil will be out far longer than initially suspected, seeing Johneshwy Fargas crash frighteningly into the same wall that took the measure of Albert Almora — would have left him grasping for answers, whether scientific or supernatural. The repositioning of heretofore hapless James McCann at first base and McCann responding to the challenge with a diving stop in the field and a home run at bat would have tickled his karmic fancy. Tomás Nido retrieving a passed ball/wild pitch before it became either because it bounced off the backstop bricks and into his bare hand, allowing the catcher who supplanted McCann to cut down a Rockie runner who’d naturally assumed third base was his would have provided the basis for a morality play. David Peterson’s intermittent struggles would have elicited Dana’s empathy. Francisco Lindor’s continuing struggles would have strained it.

And then, the bottom of the ninth. I can feel Dana next to me at Citi Field in the bottom of the ninth. Never mind that I wasn’t there and he wasn’t there. In my mind, we were both there. Rising and cheering as Brandon Drury pinch-hit and pinch-homered to lead off. Staring at each other with the same wisfhul thoughts in our eyes as Patrick Mazeika (with a beard totally unlike Dana’s, but nevertheless bearded like Dana) delivered a single off the bench. This was where Shea in 2007 and 2008 and Citi from 2009 to earliest 2011 would get loud around us and we’d begin to gameplan the possibilities of a stirring Mets comeback drawn to its giddiest conclusion.

It’s also where it would sink in just as quickly for each of us that, no, they’re doing it to us again. They’re raising our hopes only to inadvertently pinprick them before they rose too high. The Mets weren’t being malevolent, Dana and I would communicate either garrulously or wordlessly. They were just being the Mets. Losing 3-1 entering the ninth. Catching up to 3-2 two batters into the ninth, but with the pinch-homer coming before the pinch-single and the complement of unlikely “pinch me!” heroes used up and the disappointing regulars all who were left, ultimately left to disappoint us.

Unless they didn’t! We’d allow for that possibility, no matter that we deep down knew different…and we didn’t have to plunge that deep to know it. Jonathan Villar strikes out looking (but that’s OK, it’s only one out). Lindor just gets under one but predictably flies out (still, that was a pretty good swing, maybe he’s coming around). McCann, the focal point and lightning rod of our night, is up to push the point clear up to our face. He’s anxious. He’s aware we expect him to be the hero. He has to forget that. Still, the resolution we desire is so close we can taste it. A wild pitch moves Mazeika to second. James the Met so clearly from somewhere else has a chance to become a true New York icon here, to elevate Drury and Mazeika alongside him into legend, to turn around his season and our season, as if our season has ever stopped spinning topsy-turvy since it commenced. If only the count weren’t one-and-two.

Dana and I knew McCann would strike out to end the game. I mean we just knew it. I mean I think I know that we both just knew it.

Technically, I knew it, and I’m otherwise projecting on behalf of the deceased again. I’m presumptuously projecting that ten years since he died Dana Brand and I are still in touch, still talking Mets, still going to Mets games in one another’s company, still telling one another that once Mazeika singled after Drury homered that they’d depleted their reserves of ninth-inning mojo and we knew it, but we kept rooting and kept believing because we’re Mets fans.

I can’t prove it. But I do it anyway. I like having those moments with my late friend.

8 comments to Still the Same

  • Inside Pitcher

    A lovely and fitting tribute – truly beautiful and appropriate.

  • chuck

    McCann is already a more memorable first baseman than Piazza ever was.

  • Seth

    I’m missing a few peoples too — it’s cool when something happens that you absolutely 100% know they would love. Like being reconnected for a moment.

    That said — I hope Jacob is feeling better. Hard to know for sure until we see him pitch.

  • Daniel Hall

    Things Mets fans would have found unimaginable to say just four weeks ago, Episode #692:

    “But we’re doomed without Johneshwy Fargas…!”

    • Seth

      So true. Four weeks ago we would have been saying we’re doomed WITH Johneshwy Fargas. How quickly it changes…

  • open the gates

    Beautiful tribute to your friend. Me, I’m channelling the voice of De Wolf Hopper, trembling with emotion:

    There is no joy in Metville
    Mighty Jamesy has struck out.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I’m still reading Professor Brand’s book, “The Last Days of Shea”, which I read and then put down for periods of time. It’s a melancholy read of a melancholy season, because I know — we all know– how 2008 ended. The additional layer of sadness is knowing that a kindred spirit has passed. Thanks for the fitting memorial, Greg.