Does Anybody Want A Play About The Mets?

Ain't no pathos like Stengel pathos.

This post is not a joke. Bronx Bombers closed Off Broadway Saturday, and though it was been dismissed as (big surprise!) hagiographic pap, it is on its way to Broadway come January. This play, which centers vaguely around the 1977 Bronx Zoo, but features ghostly cameos from Ruth, Jeter and all the rest of the fresh faced Yankee heroes, is not a play for people who care about plays. It is probably not really a play for people who care about baseball, either, since those in the know understand that the only important lesson to be drawn from the sport is how to deal with heartache, 162 games at a time. There is no possibility of heartache in a Yankee story, and so (it seems, anyway, to me) no possibility of real drama.

But there is heartache in Flushing. Permanent, asinine, endlessly churning heartache. A cycle of disappointment and false hope and disappointment that has gone on for some time now—climaxing endlessly, like a bad piece of organ music or a particularly drawn-out high school break up. I speak, as I do too often, of the New York Mets—a team bad enough, beautiful enough, interesting  enough, to deserve a spot on the stage.

Does the horrifying futility of the New York Mets make them a more worthy baseball team than the Yankees? Of course not. Although at this point I'm more comfortable with a losing franchise than a winning one, I'm not Stockholm syndromed enough to suggest that failure is superior to success. (Though some May nights I think it may be.) But as far as tragedy goes, the Mets are Death Of A Salesman . The Yanks are a second rate middle school Thanksgiving pageant. 

Bronx Bombers has a good shot at a long, healthy Broadway run. There are enough fans out there of inspirational codswallop to keep the theater lit up. And the longer it reigns on Broadway, the sharper acid reflux will hit theater-minded Met fans, who expect the offseason to be a time when Mets and Yankees are equal, and will instead be confronted endlessly with nightmares about the pinstriped minstrel show on 50th Street.

So it seems right to even the score. The Mets don't need a play on Broadway, and they certainly don't deserve it. But somewhere in New York there is a 99 seat theater perfect to host a play about misery and meaningless failure and ceaseless anxiety which is a good thing only because it keeps us from worrying about the real problems that life has a habit of tossing our way. The potential topics are endless. Some pitches:

120: A riff on crinkly-faced Casey Stengel and his 1962 Mets, who lost more games than any team in modern history but won the city's heart

SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE: While the boys of the Bronx Zoo were jibing and jawing and winning championships, the Mets imploded, trading Tom Seaver for peanuts after a nasty Dick Young column soured him on the city.

THE COLLAPSE: A collection of 162 vignettes, telling the story of the Mets' epic 2007 collapse. Or maybe just an hour in the life of a family watching Tom Glavine implode. (Couldn't find a clip of that, so enjoy this vintage Carlos Beltran.)

THE PASSION OF JOHN MAINE: A moment in the life of declining Mets prospect John Maine, whose fastball deserted him just two years after a near-perfect game at Shea Stadium. Based on an article by Patrick J. Flood.

LET'S GO METS—A TRAGEDY: A fantasy based on one of my recurring nightmares, when I'm at a stadium but can't find my seats or see the field. So it's the Inferno , but set on the escalators of crumbling Shea Stadium.

I'm not interested in putting famous sports heroes on stage. What could be more boring than a not-quite-portly-enough Broadway star trying to cigar chomp his way through an impersonation of the magnificent appetites of Babe Ruth? I'm interested, as ever, in the fringe players, the grounds crew, the sportswriters and the fans, whose stubborn refusal to quit on a lousy franchise—badly run, badly managed, badly owned—is a testament to all that is great and stupid about mankind. 

This is not something I want to write on spec. But if there are any Met fan/theater producers out there, or directors, or actors, or anyone who's interested in providing some counterprogramming to Bronx Bombers,   drop me a line.  We can bat around ideas, come up with an outline, get started on a workshop. I like to write about the universality of sports pain, the sadness that comes even in success, the pleasant futility of the whole mess of corporate nonsense. I think it could make for a cathartic night at the theater.

This play is not meant to be self-flagellation. Met fans love to harp on their failures, picking at them like old scars, but most of us understand that this is how most fans feel, most of the time. Most people, even. Like Jimmy Breslin asked in 1962:

“The Mets lose an awful lot? Listen, mister. Think a little bit. When was the last time you won anything out of life?”

The Silly Baseball Tournament That Made My March

Mentioned in the article, the famous leg kick of Sadaharu Oh.

I fried my brain this month watching international baseball. I found myself cheering for men in a hideous USA jersey, only slightly wishing that American national teams would go back to the way they dressed in the '50s, and leave navy blue to rot. When the US got eliminated, I cheered for anybody else I could find. (And loudly—on Sunday night, I found myself yelling at Japanese men on my TV, "Come on! String a few hits together!" then muttering my traditional, affectionate, "fucking bastards." When I love a sports team, that's how I show I care. When I love a person, I'm much nicer.) So, as I do, I wrote about it—once again, for The Classical

Before the rest of the people—who and how many remain unclear—who cared about Team USA learned it, every Mets fan knew it couldn't last. David Wright was on the big stage again, for the first time since Adam Wainwright's curveball to Carlos Beltran began its fateful, unhittable break in 2006, and he was playing like an Avenger. Square-jawed, muscle-bound, tongue stuck out like bush league bowler, Wright kept coming to bat in high-pressure situations, and kept delivering—none more fantastically than the grand slam that sent the United States into the second round. Articles were referring to Wright, the Mets' captain, as Captain America. Mets fans knew what was coming next.
For a long, happy moment, it seemed the last star of Flushing was about to do the impossible: get American fans interested in baseball's would-be World Cup. But because every superhero needs a weakness, Wright was playing hurt. For the entirety of the Classic, he had been nursing a rib injury: a lingering soreness that pained him not in play, but while he was sleeping and "just lounging around." When Wright was recalled to Camp Wilpon in Port St. Lucie on Friday of last week, the Mets medical staff—doubtless through a state-of-the-art application of leeches and a scientific bleeding regimen—decided that Wright should be encased in bubble wrap until after the start of the regular season. Wright's back has been an ongoing concern ever since he and Ike Davis ran into each other in 2011—an all time Metsian play—and Captain Flushing must not get hurt again. Mets fans always think the end is near. This time it happened to be true.

Have no fear, the rest of it isn't about the Mets. And unlike the article I posted below, which the Internet hated, people seemed to like this one. Good thing. It was hard, and I didn't get paid. Don't tell anybody—I'll watch baseball for free.