With our dear Editor-in-Chief leaving Baseball Prospectus for his next chapter, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite chapters of his career here. There's an incredible number of timeless Sam Miller articles to choose from, but we whittled it down enough to not break the internet. This article originally ran on October 30, 2015.
The danger in doing this annual feature is that the author will lean too heavily on the mass-produced stereotypes that inform his view of a particular region’s inhabitants. That he would treat all San Francisco fans as techies, hippies and grizzled old miners, or that he would treat all Kansas Citians as unassuming folks who adopt alien babies that land in their yard one night. That he will treat New Yorkers as, you know, New Yorkers. Like you know how New Yorkers are.
So this danger is kept in mind. But there is one stereotype of New York, perhaps the very best stereotype of New York, that can’t be ignored and that we will acknowledge immediately: New York is a place where every type of person is welcome. As you watch the Mets host the Royals this weekend, you’ll see various types of people, who we’ll get to in a minute. But in a broad and large sense, you’ll see various types of people. All kinds. All kinds welcome. Nobody goes unloved and nobody gets shut out in New York. That means you might see a literal giant hunched in his tiny, tiny seat
or you might see a literal elf, craning to see the action,
or you might, if you aren’t careful, even see a terrifying bald-headed Medusa, seen here only (thank goodness) from behind,
the mere accidental sight of whom might turn you into a block of screaming stone:
It’s a great crowd. And here are some of the less magical people you’ll see in that crowd:
1. The extremely nervous fan who reacts to every pitch as though she just walked into a spiderweb in the dark.
Sometimes baseballs get fouled back to the screen, and you’re reminded that not everybody is a scout:
A bunch of people flinch, even that dude way on the right, who covers by clapping fanatically at a foul ball, when, truthfully dude way on the right, it looks weirder to be the only guy in the park clapping than to be one of 12 or so flinching. (The literal elf, we’ll note, doesn’t flinch.) But we want to focus more on the woman in the center of the screen, four rows back, long blonde hair under a Mets beanie. She flinches, which merely confirms her geographic location on this planet (directly behind home plate at an active baseball game). Her reactions to other pitches will confirm her psychological state, her emotional temperament, her perhaps purgatorial imbalance between joy and suicide.
For here she is flinching at a foul ball that goes nowhere near her
and here she is flinching at a foul ball that goes nowhere near any human
and here she is praising Jesus for a 324-foot flyball to straightaway center field
and here she is reacting to a close 2-2 pitch the way a 4-year-old reacts to finding out chicken comes from chickens
and, finally, here she is seeing Kelly Johnson swing and miss for strike two, and seemingly giving up on this entire sport, as though she has just now realized what a ludicrous game it is that the batter is paid to hit the ball but the other team won’t even let him.
One might make this about a single fan, living in some sort of imagined catastatis that severely impacts her ability to moderate response time and severity, but she’s like some kind of stand-in for the entire Mets race, which, brother, let me tell you, is ampppped up. I’ve never seen a more jittery, jumpy crowd than the Mets crowds in this postseason. Consider just one example: This Daniel Murphy swing in the eighth inning of NLDS Game Four:
and, three frames later,
Admire the many shades of ecstasy in this latter frame: The fist shot aloft, the boyfriend/girlfriend arm squeeze, the young boy jumping onto his seat, the satisfied besuited man on the left who stares out toward heaven, watching history sail in a spectacular parabola, perfectly content, as much as anything happy for you, happy that you’re happy.
and then like 15 frames later,
2. The superhero half-asses
One of the Mets pitchers is nicknamed Thor, and one is nicknamed the Dark Knight or something, and I think Steven Matz is nicknamed Matzter Fantastic (or maybe Mr. FantMatztic) so when those guys pitch the cameras will find all the superfans who came dressed up as those superheroes. But watch skeptically, because the fans who do this are the most half-assed costume wearers ever.
Here’s how you can tell, scientifically, that these costumes are half-assed: They include only one item (or, at most, in one case, two items). “Gonna be Thor.” Oh, what’s the plan? “A hat.” Great. “Also, I cooked you dinner.” Oh, what is it? “Apple.”
Heavens, dude, at least try to mimic a font or something. Now, as noted in An Illustrated Guide To The People Of Kauffman Stadium, Royals fans are not half-assed when it comes to their silly costumes, nor their signs. And I think what I love about this is that I can say these two things:
- Mets fans are way too cool to spend a bunch of time on costumes to wear to the baseball game
- Royals fans aren’t too cool to spend a bunch of time on costumes to wear to the baseball game
And I think both cities will take it as a compliment.
3. This guy who sees that Bill Murray is on television and decides to point at Bill Murray and then do a Fantastic Voyage dance.
There are three stages of awareness to celebrity:
The Most-of-America stage, or Being Impressed: Ooooooooooooooooh my gosh, is that—no, it can’t be. It looks just like him. I think it’s him. Should we ask for his autograph? Oh, I’ll kick myself if I don’t. Okay, come with me, I can’t do this alone. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we’re doing this. Stay calm. Oh my god, okay, lets—uh, excuse me? I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m a huuuuuge fan of Jungle Book 2, can I get your autograph Mr. Joel Osment?
The SoCal stage, or Being Self-Consciously Unimpressed: Hey, be cool, don’t look, but I’m pretty sure the Pope just walked in. Yeah, I know, super awkward—he still owes me money from our Vegas trip.
The NYC stage, or Being In A City Where Nobody Gives A Shit About You No Matter Whether You're Famous or Carrying A Live Rat In Your Mouth: Well if it isn’t Bill Murray. Hey Bill: Wooooodoooooooddoooooobooooooooogooooooooo. Think you’re so big-time, but woooooodooooooooddooooooobooooooooogooooooo, dude, wooooooodooooooooddoooooooobooooooogoooooooo.
4. This butt
You won’t always see it on the screen, or at just that angle, but while you’re watching the games this weekend remember that that guy’s butt is always somewhere.
5. Willie Mays
Is it? Man, I think it is. If only some dude was pointing and doing a stupid dance behind him so I’d know for sure.
6. The guy who spent $17,553 for a World Series ticket.
Two people sitting behind home plate tonight will have spent $17,553 each, according to CNN. They probably won’t be this guy—this guy went to Game Three of the NLDS, and we have no idea what (if anything) he paid for the tickets—
but this is definitely a game you can play, trying to identify the two people who spent $35,000 to go to the game and appear on your screen. If it is turns out that it is that guy—well, that guy’s fun, too. Check out that guy, faced with the overwhelming peer pressure to stand up and cheer for the baseball game:
At times while watching the Mets play in New York you will be confronted with many, many extremely rich people wearing Wall St. uniforms under their crisp new Mets sweatshirts—or, screw the sweatshirt, just arriving straight to the ballpark in their suits, this being after 6 and these folks being not farmers. Now, it’s perfectly natural to resent the superrich. You can do it for all sorts of reasons, whether out of petty jealousy or a deep sense of the systemic injustice of income inequality or because you are a partisan in a centuries-old struggle between capital and labor or because some fat cat banker repo'd your mom’s house after some fat cat insurance exec wouldn’t pay for her operation or just because you don’t like the way we’ve become a winner-take-all society unconcerned with the welfare of the many, and you need some symbol to stand in for the unwinding of America’s social safety net. That’s all fine and natural, except that anything that turns humans into symbols strips them of their humanity, and then you start to look at these symbols in an uncaring way that you can only maintain if you’ve ceased to see the person as, fundamentally, just as human as you are, as a former infant, as a future somebody who will die lonesome and unfulfilled just like you and I and we all will. Once you strip these symbols of their humanity, you can tell yourself any hateful thing about them, even that their unwillingness to stand at this emotional moment of a baseball game means they don’t care about baseball, that they don’t really deserve those tickets, that they only bought them so that you couldn't have them, taunting you with their monied aloofness.
But not one of us is a symbol of the unwinding of America’s social safety net. We are people, together, and when we love, we love in exactly the same way: With a cute-as-pie little left-handed fist pump, perhaps accompanied by a high-pitched yaw.
7. The random groups of people who look funnier if you imagine them being in a tough-guy New York street gang.
Not exclusive to the Mets fans. This is just sort of a thing that I’ve been fixated on lately and that always makes me laugh. Like check out this crew
And look, they're about to throw down against their rivals, This Ol' Crew:
The guy in the front left is probably my favorite Mets fan of all. He is, in this very scene, at the end of a long decision tree in his brain, which started with the title So You’re Upset At A Baseball Game, What Do You Do Now? and, after he answered yes to a few questions (“it’s a baseball game? You’re sure it’s a baseball game and not church or school?” and “do you have a mouth?” and “are you from New York?”) he was finally ready to act with total certainty:
Looooove that guy. Love Mets fans, actually. In fact, in conclusion,
8. All of them, they're all the best
It’s silly to criticize any fan base. We all need to admit that we are consumers of an entertainment product, and complaining that somebody isn’t sufficiently entertained—that they don’t want to pay closer attention, or spend more money and time consuming it—is a terrible case of blaming the fruit for the vine. So if somebody wants to text instead of watch a game—well, should have made a baseball game more interesting than this text, suit. That said: We all judge fan bases, and the Mets’ fan base as a group is just flat fun to watch. Like, look at this tiny sliver of the stadium:
I watch a lot of fans watching not the baseball. Kids, in particular, never watch the baseball, even when they’re sitting in seats like this. This sort of engagement is almost too good not to have been airbrushed.
Or this one:
What do you see? A dude on his phone. A dude. (Maaaybe two. Maaaaaybe three.) When I did this two years ago for the fans at AT&T,
The Mets fans jump. That’s more than anything what strikes you about the Mets fans: They jump, up and down, like in seventh grade when House of Pain came on at the dance. They jump while holding nacho helmets,
and they form almost little mosh pits, like at the top-right of the post-pan shot here:
Is this significant? Is it, perhaps, that New Yorkers are so used to being around large groups, or being body-conscious and not body self-conscious when they're crammed together in tight spaces, that they can be free to leap in the middle of a crowd, practiced as they are at moving gracefully and confident as they are that if they bump somebody then that somebody's sure been bumped plenty of times before and will survive? I think it is. I think New Yorkers are more compelling in crowds because they're professional crowders.
But probably my favorite moment of Mets fans was here:
This is the same group that overreacted to Daniel Murphy’s shallow flyball. In fact, this is that same pitch, before it was delivered. They’re tense, obviously, and we’ve seen a million tense-crowd shots in our life: A girl with her head in her hands, a man with his hands together in prayer, a kid near tears, a woman holding a rally towel tight on her head, and it always looks miserable, like they’re holding on tight while the doctor takes out a kidney without using anesthesia. But that’s not this tense-crowd shot. These guys are all smiling. They’re enjoying the baseball. It’s really something. That’s my favorite thing about watching Citi Field.
Oh, wait. No. My favorite thing about watching Citi Field is that the on-screen graphic blocks Marlins Man's seats.
Yeahhhhh. So I guess Go Mets.
Thank you for reading
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