By: Jordan Silver

Mets: A Pop Culture Punchline?

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mets game

The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Several years ago “Melinda” came home to hear her pre-teen son, “Jake” sitting in his room watching television. When she came through his door, he hurriedly turned off the television. She was startled by his action.

“What were you watching?” Melinda asked.

“Nothing,” Jake replied sheepishly.

“WHAT WERE YOU WATCHING?” Melinda again inquired, this time more emphatically.

“I don’t want to tell,” Jake said – almost fearful of the reaction.

Melinda grabbed the remote control and turned the television back on. She was expecting to find something disturbing like pornography or Fox News. What she saw surprised her more. Melinda gasped in horror. He was watching a Mets game.

“I didn’t want you to know that I like the Mets,” he said embarrassed. Melinda grew up in The Bronx. She along with Jake’s older sister were fans of that team in the Bronx. Melinda’s father, sister and brothers all rooted for that other team. Jake didn’t want to let his mother – or the rest of his family, for that matter – down by his fandom.

I admit that I’m not the greatest father in the world. I have always provided food and clothes. I encourage my children to study hard in school. My greatest joy would be for them to become difference makers as they prepare for adulthood. My downfall in the parenting department, however, is when I share my love of all things geekiness with them. My son loves Star Trek, Star Wars and several other genres that I should have aged out of. My daughter and I will watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and laugh like seven year olds. One of the things I share with them is my love of the Mets.

My daughter, who was born in 2000, could have grown up wearing the pinstripes with a big “2” on the back (and not for Bobby Valentine) – like most of her friends. The Bronx team was in the middle of its dynastic run. She was six months old when they dispatched our Mets four games to one in the World Series. Instead she happily grew up wearing her David Wright jersey. My son, born in 2004, midway between two “Y-word” World Series victories, also likes David Wright. He could have easily worn any shirt that featured one of the “Core Four” (can anyone explain why Bernie Williams is excluded from that grouping?).

Jordan Adam and Jenna Silver shea stadium Setpt 13 2008

My kids grew up at Shea Stadium. Both children experienced their first-ever live game there. My son’s first game was actually Mike Piazza’s last game. In 2009 when Citi Field opened, I took my daughter to her first night game to celebrate the end of the school year. Walking through the food courts and perfect site lines, she remarked “this place is so different than Shea.” It was that night that I taught her the lament that all Mets’ fans had, “Shea Stadium may have been a dump. But it was our dump.”

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For some reason the Mets have always been the cute little punchline for pop culture. Casey’s team, even losing one hundred games per year had an endearing quality. That “charm” was exhibited on the field as well as in mass media. On television, the supernatural situation comedy, Bewitched featured Endora putting a curse on Darren (Durwood?) and he appeared in a Mets uniform. Poor Charlie Brown in the comic strip Peanuts just couldn’t win. After buying baseball cards all he wanted was one card of his hero Joe Shlobotnick. What did he wind up with? Five Marv Throneberry cards.

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Whether on stage, the silver screen or television, “Oscar Madison” of The Odd Couple was always seen wearing a Mets’ hat. Our Mets are well represented by Hollywood’s wardrobe departments: Chevy Chase in Funny Farm and (noted Yankees fan) Billy Crystal in City Slickers both proudly displayed hats with the orange interlocking N Y. Kevin James (the Stony Brook native and Ward Melville High School alum – like Steven Matz) would include Mets or Cyclones shirts on King Of Queens.

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Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond made no secret of his allegiance. The dog was name Shamsky. One episode featured “Ray” and his brother, “Robert,” driving to Cooperstown to see a panel featuring the 1969 World Series champions.

bernard gilkey

Poor Bernard Gilkey. After six very successful years with the Cardinals (.282 52 HR 250 RBI) he signed with the Mets. He put up decent numbers (.273 52 HR 223) over two and half years while the team went a mediocre 203-203. His loan highlight was in the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones film Men In Black when he saw one of the disc tops of the World’s Fair Towers fly over Shea Stadium as a UFO. He was bonked on the head by a fly ball. Not an unrealistic depiction of Valentine’s pre-Piazza Mets.

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One of the weirdest pop culture phenomena is the “Sharknado” series. I’m currently halfway through watching all four with my daughter (I told you I wasn’t the best father). The second one brought the bizarre weather pattern right to the Big Apple. Sharks swimming on Fifth Avenue (insert lawyer joke here), Wall Street (insert stock broker joke here) and the Statue of Liberty’s head rolling down a street like a bowling ball crushing Shark Tank‘s Daymond John (get it? He’s a shark and he gets killed on Sharknado!!!! Brilliant film irony.)  were all featured in this most important film! Still, you had to love the sharks landing at Citi Field during a game that was being played while the Today Show was still on. I guess it was a 7:00 AM first pitch.

One of the best Mets pop culture references was actually an April Fools prank by noted writer and “wannabe” athlete George Plimpton. The erudite Harvard alum was the co-founder of the literary magazine “The Paris Review.” “The Paris Review,” a quarterly journal that began printing in 1953, featured essays and stories by William Styron, Jack Kerouac, James Thurber and Thornton Wilder. It had original art and delightful prose that inspired a whole generation of writers. Plimpton also was a contributor to “Sports Illustrated.” He took an inside-out approach where he would make himself the feature of the stories to give readers a taste of life between the lines. He went to training camp as he suited up as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions (Alan Alda played Plimpton in the film depiction, Paper Lion), played goalie for the Boston Bruins, boxed against light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore and pitched to Willie Mays.

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On April 1, 1985 Sports Illustrated readers read Plimpton’s account of the mysterious pitcher, Hayden (Sidd) Finch, who could unload a 168 MPH fastball. Finch, who learned to pitch while at a Tibetan mountain monastery, pitched with one work boot on and one off displaying an oblong big toe pointed straight up. Backup catcher Ronn Reynolds complained of a bruised hand – even with a customized mitt – during the hidden bullpen session. Sporting a number 21 jersey, he lockered between George Foster and Darryl Strawberry. At first people believed the account until they realized the date of the article. Plimpton considered it to be one of his best pieces of writing. Sports Illustrated, when celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, included it among the sixty best articles written in its history.

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Even animation has taken pokes at our Mets. Family Guy, in nine short seconds summed up our frustrations. When “Apu” on The Simpsons needed to establish a fake identity to avoid deportation, he wore a Mets shirt and said, “the Nigh Mets are my favorite squadron.”

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“Keith Hernandez?!?!?,” replied “Newman” on Seinfeld. This great two- episode story titled “The Boyfriend” helped to establish the self-proclaimed show about nothing as an instant classic. This episode featured the first appearance of the fictional company Vandelay Industries (“and you want to be my latex salesman?”). It also strengthened the conflict between “Jerry” and “Elaine” where they both wanted a relationship with Keith Hernandez (“I was in game six.”). The highlight was the Zapruder-film style of the retelling of the “Magic Loogie Theory”: whether or not there was a second spitter when “Newman” thought the Gold Glove first basemen spat on him. It turned out that Roger McDowell was the spitter hiding behind a bush on the “gravelly road.” Adding to the brilliance was that “Newman” portrayer, Wayne Knight, was also in the Oscar-winning film JFK that featured the metronomic line “back and to the left.”

I defy anyone to find as many references in film or otherwise about the Phillies or Astros or Athletics or Royals or Brewers. The fact is that for better or worse, it’s been very easy to use the Mets as a jumping off point in movies and television. We can either accept it as taunting or an homage. I choose the latter and will continue to enjoy the Mets and accept that my one failure in parenting. Although, it does bring up the Tootsie Roll Pop-like rhetorical question of whether it should be more or less acceptable to be sneaky about watching televised pornography or a Mets game. The world may never know.

Rookie lefthander, Steven Matz is donating to Angela’s House with every strikeout he throws. Purchases of this shirt will also result in donations to this vital charity. Click here:
http://www.mondomonsterwear.com/products/mets-aces
Jordan Silver has been a journalist and marketing/multimedia consultant for over twenty years. He has produced documentaries and television productions both nationally and internationally. Aside from his own blog which observes politics and modern culture, he has been published in the Miami Herald, ABCNews.com and various other publications. His company Ag Media Solutions, Inc. (www.agmediasolutions.com) represents several boutique firms and religious organizations as their outsourced marketing department. In addition, his apparel line, Mondo Monster Wear (www.mondomonsterwear.com), features designs that parody sports and pop culture.

He enjoys wine, cooking, golf, vintage movies and researching history and politics. In addition, he shares his love of the Mets, NY Giants, NY Rangers and music (The Beatles, RUSH and 80s Heavy Metal) with his two children. He lives on Long Island and can be found most summer weekend days on the beach or boat with his girlfriend and their blended families.

About Jordan Silver

Jordan Silver has been a journalist and marketing/multimedia consultant for over twenty years. He has produced documentaries and television productions both nationally and internationally. Aside from his own blog which observes politics and modern culture, he has been published in the Miami Herald, ABCNews.com and various other publications. His company Ag Media Solutions, Inc. (www.agmediasolutions.com) represents several boutique firms and religious organizations as their outsourced marketing department. In addition, his apparel line, Mondo Monster Wear (www.mondomonsterwear.com), features designs that parody sports and pop culture. He enjoys wine, cooking, golf, vintage movies and researching history and politics. In addition, he shares his love of the Mets, NY Giants, NY Rangers and music (The Beatles, RUSH and 80s Heavy Metal) with his two children. He lives on Long Island and can be found most summer weekend days on the beach or boat with his girlfriend and their blended families. Rookie lefthander, Steven Matz is donating to Angela’s House with every strikeout he throws. Purchases of this shirt will also result in donations to this vital charity. Click here: http://www.mondomonsterwear.com/products/mets-aces

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