By Mike Steffanos
Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets
By Greg W. Prince
Hardcover, 320 pages, Skyhorse Publishing
I'm going to start off this review with a disclaimer. Thanks to a Federal Trade Commission rule that went into effect in December, I'm supposed to inform you that I have received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I'll have more to say about this in a future post, but I promise you that the only thing receiving a copy of the book guarantees from me is a review. I don't feel any pressure to present any book in a more positive light than it deserves, as the cost of a book is considerably lower than the price I would put on my integrity.
Actually, while we are disclaiming I must also add that I consider Greg Prince, the book's author, a good friend. I would feel truly bad if the book wasn't great and had to share that opinion with you, but share it with you I would.
Fortunately, Greg is a fine writer, and his book is of the quality anyone who loves Greg's blog writing has come to expect.
I've always felt that baseball is the most intensely personal sport from a fan's perspective, for the simple reason that a baseball season is so much bigger than the season of any other major sport. For a fan, baseball dominates our lives from April - October. It's there virtually every day.
Also, for many of us of all ages summer represents the best time of year: vacation, adventures, cookouts, travel, the beach, and those long, lazy days. I can't even begin to count all of the times going back to childhood that one of those summer events was punctuated by the sounds of a ballgame on the radio.
From spring right into fall, baseball intertwines itself into our lives in a way that the other sports can't. When I look back on those seasons gone by, I think of hard sliders and late-game rallies, long fly balls that just could be gone, and slick fielding plays. Merged right in with those memories are ones of awkward moments from adolescence, loves found and lost, marriage, divorce and all the other things, good and bad, that life has thrown my way.
As a diehard Mets fan, I take what happens to the team I root for personally, because it is personal to me. Being a Mets fan is not only something that I do, it's something that I am.
In the second chapter of his book, titled Taking It Personally, I think Greg expresses this perfectly:
We look at the script Mets on those uniforms and that's our name. That's us. However it happened, we became Mets a forever ago. We don't get paid. Doesn't even occur to us how much being Mets costs us in dollar terms let alone man and woman hours devoted to this cause we've made our own across each and every one of our lifetimes. We bleed, we sweat, we cry because, c'mon, what else are we gonna do?
We can do everything for our team except hit, hit with power, run, throw, catch, and pitch. So we do what we can. We wear them and we hope them and we yell them and we live them and, in cases like my own, we write them. We do it with only limited promise and no guarantee of success most years. We do it on the slightest chance that every now and then we can call ourselves the champion of something. It's not a dealbreaker when we can't, but it surely serves as a contract extension into perpetuity for us when we do.
Greg's book is about his life and how thoroughly the Mets became integrated into it. The remarkable thing about it, though, is that it's so easy for the fan who shares Greg's love of the Mets can see themselves in the pages of this book.
Personally, I'm about four years older than Greg and grew up in a middle class Italian-American family outside of New Haven, CT while Greg grew up in a Jewish family on Long Island. Our lives weren't all that similar.
Yet I constantly saw myself in the pages of his book, as even those of you whose lives share even less in common with Greg's are sure to do. As Greg himself puts it early in the book: "If you're a Mets fan, you know me. How could you not? I'm you."
I'd go even further than that, though. I think this book would be a hit with anyone who wakes up one day to find that the baseball team he loves and roots for has integrated itself completely into their lives, no matter which team they love. It's a shame that fans of most other teams probably won't think to give this book a look. There's a lot in this book for any real baseball fan, even those not discerning enough to be Mets fans.
Still, for Mets fans like us, Greg's book is a treasure. I give it my highest recommendation. I've read some very good books on what it means to be a baseball fan, but I've never read a better one.
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