Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

The Marlins announcer’s lament

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the New York Mets are playing the Florida Marlins in the final game of the regular season. It’s a game that means nothing to the Marlins and everything to the Mets. A win means the Mets will play another day in Shea; a loss — if the Milwaukee Brewers win — means it’s all over at Shea.

Shea was pretty crowded Saturday and on TV it looks full on Sunday. The fans are loud and engaged, rooting for the Mets to stay alive and make it into the postseason. Such an event will put off the day when Shea Stadium no longer is the Mets’ home.

Near the end of the New York Mets’ 2-0 win over the Florida Marlins on Saturday, an announcer made an interesting observation that brings up what I wrote in a previous post.

He was commenting on the fan support for the Mets and said that “this is the way it’s supposed to be.”

He meant a team being fully supported in its stadium, as the Mets are at Shea and as they will be at Citi Field. By comparison, when the Marlins play the Mets in Florida, the stadium is usually half-empty, and the fans are usually divided between Mets fans and Marlins fans, with loud cheers for the visiting team.

The frustration of the announcers, players and team ownership is understandable. A team that is merely a means of bringing in other teams and the fans of those teams for home games has a very hard time developing its own fan base.

My comparison of the Mets in the mid- to late-60s is not totally accurate. Then, it was harder to be a fan of a team outside one’s marketing area. The local newspapers that covered the Dodgers and Giants were difficult to get unless you waited a few days, there was no ESPN to offer shows like “Baseball Tonight,” and unless the Dodgers or Giants were on national television, there was no way to see them.

So their arrival at Shea Stadium to play the Mets was the only time holdover fans could see them. As I wrote, it seemed that there was a lot of excitement when the two teams came to New York.

Today, it is very possible to sustain an interest in a far-off team, what with cable and satellite TV packages that offer far-off teams, the Web and its instant access to far-off newspapers’ sports sections and streaming audio and video of games on the Web.

New Yorkers are hardly the only ones who may have left the Big Apple but maintained loyalty to the Mets and Yankees. When the Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays, the Trop is usually full, too. And let’s not forget that the Rays had an amazing year themselves, and drew a lot of fans in their own right.

Ultimately, what can be done about loyalty that remains with a far-off team? Barring anything out of the ordinary, probably nothing. I know that while I dallied with the Marlins, I find myself coming back to the Mets. It’s how I was raised, I have so many wonderful memories of going to Mets games with my late father and with friends, and even at the distance from New York City to Ellenton, Fla., my heart and my hopes are still with the Mets.

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September 28, 2008 - Posted by | The business of sports | , , , , , , , , , ,

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