Friday, June 04, 2004

Wait -- You Mean Other People Bother Writing About the Mets, Too?

ESPN used vaulable space on their website to print a passage from a new book about the '86 Mets. If the rest of the work reads like this excerpt, it'll all be a bigger waste (waist) than Mo Vaughn was. And this is coming from someone for whom the 1986 Mets season was a formative moment. If you can't sell me, who's your target audience? As I said a few months ago, people hated this team. Hell, I even loathed a few guys on the team -- guys without whom there would have been no title that year.

The chapter run on is all about the wacky, crazy, zany antics the team pulled on a particular plane flight. Booze, drugs, food fight. It's sad to say, but it's just not enough to shock anybody these days. Jim Bouton did the behind-the-scenes tell-all for baseball thirty years ago; that book was shocking in its time, and it actually still holds up pretty well. Look, fair or not, the Mötley Crüe Behind the Music upped the ante on celebrity high-jinks for our generation well beyond throwing cake around a DC-10. Hell, we have a college story about tainted wine, shattered bottles, violence among friends, fire alarms, and tables thrown fifty feet into a wall that outdoes this yarn. (Nothing to be proud of, Russ . . . fifty feet.) I only make such comparisons (a) because of quotes like "the 'Scummers' took pride in antics that made 'Porky's' look like a documentary on convent life," and (b) because tell-all books have no other intent or redeeming qualities. Eyebrow-leveling shock value, WB-grade humor, and cliche-addled, melodramatic writing. Make the wince-face now and save yourself the trouble:

Ray Knight's arms were numb. Not just numb as if he'd spent a few too many minutes in the snow. Numb numb -- as if he'd just swum two thousand laps in an Olympic-sized pool. As if he'd just sparred eight hundred rounds with George Foreman. As if someone had grabbed a 10-foot machete, reared back, and sliced off both limbs. It wasn't just his arms, either. Inside the head of New York's third baseman a drum was beating. His hands were shaking. His mouth was cotton-dry. His feet were on fire. His uniform must have held twenty pounds of sweat . . . It was exhaustion, more pure and painful than any he had ever felt before. Than any he would ever feel again. "I haven't been in war," he says. "But ... "

But this was war. Or at least the next closest thing.

Okay, quick now -- more tired: Ray Knight that night or the imagery used to describe him?


Then and there the Mets reached a collective decision. Perhaps it was inspired by the popping of a champagne cork. Or the cracking open of a beer can. Or the lighting of a cigarette. Or the primal "Whoooo!" bursting from Wally Backman's throat. Whatever the stimulus, the message was clear and powerful: Before they went to the World Series, the Mets would party their f------ brains out.

My God, this guy could make my old stories sound boring -- to me. It just reads like he's trying too hard to convey the wackiness of a had-to-be-there moment. And since I have thrown this series of scribblings into the public for critiquing, I don't feel bad saying this: This guy is not a very good writer. That he wrote for SI for six years must have been the reason people enjoyed Rick Reilly's "work" by comparison.

If you want well-written, clever writing on the Mets, there is a wealth of good Metblogs out there. A few are highlighted in a recent post at East Coast Agony, which, though it's Bizarro-MLC (their Sox fan is a foot taller than the Mets fan, instead of vice versa . . . okay, not really) and that might weird you out, is itself a fine read. If, of course, you enjoy snide sarcasm, bitter criticism, and clever ways of insulting anyone and anything. Which, dammit, man, I do. [Frag. ment. City.] Before we turn this into a self-perpetuating lovefest, though, I'll just say that there are more and more blogs out there with great Mets and/or Sox material . . . as well as significantly superior layouts and graphics. We might be tempted to spruce up this humble site, but I, for one, hope we just stay the course and let the writing do the . . . talking. (Oh, crap.) We are the Steve Trachsel of the blogworld. We ain't flashy, we ain't all city-fied and sophisticated. We do got a purty mouth, though, boy.

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