By Mike Steffanos
I first became aware of Dand Brand through a link from another blog. At that point in June of 2006 Dana was in the process of writing his first book, Mets Fan. I linked to his web site from this post.
Back then I was blogging every day and my blog was getting a lot of traffic. Dana noticed the hits coming into his site and that very day sent me a very nice thank you email:
While looking at the page of referring websites on the report from my Yahoo weblog, I suddenly noticed this afternoon that I was getting all of these hits to my website from a site called mikesmets.com. I clicked and found your blog, which I think is wonderful. It has a philosophical tone and depth, a real sense of historical perspective and it is extremely well-written. I like the personal essay tone of the whole blog, which is actually closer to what I'm doing than what I find on any other blog. Your piece about Mike and the Mad Dog deals with much of the same kind of fatigued and disgusted ambivalence I was writing about. And I really liked things like your memoir about growing up in Hamden. I practically lived in Hamden at the end of the '70, just over the line into New Haven on Whitney Avenue. There weren't very many Mets fans in New Haven in those days. You seem to be far more knowledgeable and successfully analytical than I am, but I like how you mix your knowledge and analysis with the essayistic stuff.
I am new to the Mets blogosphere, which is why I hadn't seen your blog before, but I really like what I am discovering. You and the folks at such sites as "Take the 7 train," "The Ed Kranepool Society," "Faith and Fear in Flushing," and the people who write in to several of the best forums are really doing Mets culture proud. I only wish that there were books as smart and as interesting as what you are providing.
Thank you for your kind words about my essays and thank you for your link. I've put up a link to your blog on my website. My book is finished, except for the last 8-10 essays which are in provisional form and can only be put into final form when the season has ended. I have a good agent and she wants to send the book to publishers in the next few weeks. Notices like yours really help me, as we want to show the publishers that there is a market for this book. I'm also hoping that people will write notes in my guestbook to help convince publishers that Mets fans would actually be interested in reading a book about being a Mets fan that has some depth and, I hope, literary quality. One publishing person actually said to her that sports people aren't readers. What bullshit!
Anyway, thank you again,
It was an extraordinary email to receive in return for an unsolicited and rather short plug from a blogger. It was friendly, gracious, intelligent, down to earth -- all the qualities I found in Dana as I got to know him better.
Over time we exchanged some emails, Dana posted some of his stuff on this blog, and I was honored to be one of the bloggers who attended Dana's book party when Mets Fan was published.
The first time I met Dana in person was at the awful game against the Cubs in September 2008 when they squandered a bunch of chances to win the game and lost in extra innings. When he found out after the game I was taking the train back to Fairfield, CT, he was nice enough to offer me a ride there instead, which would cut about an hour off my trip.
I'm a fairly quiet person, and although I like people and enjoy conversations I'm singularly inept at small talk. This potentially could have made a car ride back to Connecticut with someone I didn't know all that well awkward. Fortunately, Dana was an extremely gregarious guy with many interests, and we enjoyed a great conversation that ranged from baseball to politics to literature to our families.
I wound up getting a couple more rides from Dana over the years, and I always enjoyed those conversations. I came to develop a high regard for him. He was one of the most intelligent people I've ever met -- he was an English professor at Hofstra with a Ph.D. from Yale -- but he was also warm and unpretentious.
My life has been pretty crazy and complicated in the past couple of years, and I haven't been able to devote as much time to the Mets and this blog as I would like. I haven't even been to a Mets game in person since last opening day, when I went to the game with Dana. I hadn't been able to enjoy any time with Dana or any of the other "Mets friendships" I have developed as a result of this blog since.
A thought that kept me going during recent tough times was that I would get the chance to renew these friendships when life settles down. It was with a great sense of disappointment and loss that I read about Dana's death and realized that wouldn't be happening with him. I can't even begin to comprehend how deeply Dana's family and close friends will feel their own personal loss.
Dana's loss has been felt all around the Mets blogosphere these past few days. Posts honoring Dana were written by Greg Prince, Steve Keane, Matt Silverman, Jon Springer, Howard Megdal, DyHrdMET, Shannon Shark and Jon Lewin (sorry if I missed any).
The Happy Recap devoted a show to Dana. Gary, Keith and Ron's Pitch in for a Good Cause foundation is sponsoring a Dana Brand Life Celebration in July. Greg Prince has info about a memorial service here (scroll down to the bottom).
Dana touched a lot of lives thanks to his gift for words. He articulated wonderfully something that isn't at all easy to communicate: the emotional essence of what it means to be a fan of a team that isn't this all that easy to love. He had an unabashed, unapologetic affection for Shea Stadium that many of us identified with. His talent will be missed.
More importantly, though, he was a really great guy. He connected to so many different people because he genuinely liked them and was genuinely likeable in return. I'm glad I had the chance to know him a little. I will continue to think of him as I enjoy his books and essays, and my prayers are with his family.