I had a ball at this “Mr. Met Speaks!” event last Saturday at LIU’s Brooklyn Campus. Above you see a picture of me (standing to the right of Mr. Met) helping to facilitate a discussion between Mr. Met and members of the newest generation of Mets fans.
The event was very Brooklyn. It was on the site of the old Brooklyn Paramount, a gigantic theatre almost as big as Ebbets Field that occupied a big space in the heart of old Brooklyn. Marty Markowitz was there, the Borough President, an old-fashioned politician who seemed to genuinely enjoy being being among Brooklynites celebrating something having to do with our heritage. A priest offered a charming prayer for the Mets that reminded me of the way in which all faiths came together in Brooklyn to convince God to end Gil Hodges’s batting slump. I felt like it was 1950 or something. There was a cool, characteristically diverse Brooklyn crowd, in which there all these families including my own (my sisters and my niece and nephew) and there were egg creams and cheesecakes at Junior’s afterwards.
The highlight for me, though, was what you see in the picture above. It was the discussion between me, Bill Corbett, a fine poet and fellow baseball fan, a whole bunch of kids, and the man who stands for our team more than anyone else: our dear mascot, Mr. Met.
What is most moving about something like this when kids are involved is that, without any self-consciousness, they enact what the taller and older people around them with the cameras are doing inside themselves. I mean, most of these kids were old enough to understand what the deal is with Mr. Met. But they were happy to play on the margin between what is real and what isn’t. The fact that there is a skilled pantomimist in there somewhere doesn’t remotely detract from the aura of the magical man. And then there were kids young enough to think that this guy was born that way, young enough to wonder if he knew the other magical guy who comes down the chimney during the off-season.
Several kids there were on the margin. These are the kids who asked the question. These are the kids who really wanted to know, who had just experienced the first signs that it was all going to fade into the light of common day. One of them came up to me as everyone was dispersing. She looked at me and asked “Will you tell me the truth?” The truth? Will I tell someone the truth? Why ask me that? She wanted to put my credibility on the line. “Is Mr. Met really Mr. Met or is he just a guy?” First I tried an almost political evasion. “As far as I know, he’s really Mr. Met.” “Yeah, but is he really real? You know what I mean.” Oh, the Virginia Santa Claus moment. Why do we like to lie to kids? Why do we feel badly about it? Then I thought of something I said in my piece about Mr. Met in Mets Fan. “He is as real as everything else at the ballpark.” “He’s as real as the Mets?” she asked, her voice rising. “Yes,” I said, trying to be satisfied with this answer. “He’s as real as the Mets.” “But the Mets,” she insisted, “are real people.” “I know I said, but they’re real people who are just playing a game, and games are kind of not real.” “Are you saying that Mr. Met is not real?” she asked, beginning to lose interest in my evasions.
“No,” I said “What I’m saying is that Mr. Met is as real as the Mets.”
“Oh,” she said, as she politely walked away and went back to her mother. Someday, perhaps, she’ll understand what this means. For now, I just wasn’t answering what to her was a perfectly straightforward question.
Come see me and hear me on Long Island this week, on Thursday, 3/4 at 7:00 pm at the Friedberg JCC in Oceanside, LI.
And on Friday, 3/5, at the C.W. Post Library in Brookville, LI at 8:00 pm.