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Author Interview: Faith and Fear In Flushing

You've probably seen me make a few references on this blog to my favorite Mets blog, Faith and Fear in Flushing, which touts itself as the blog "for Mets fans who like to read."

One-half of the Faith duo, Greg Prince, has taken his passion for the Mets and turned it into a book with the same title as the blog. It's well worth your time to read it.

Faith and Fear is Greg's story of what it's like to root for the Mets. There's plenty in this tale to entertain the diehard fan, and it's the kind of book your mom will like too. The Mets lend themselves to good stories, and there are plenty for Greg to choose from, as he tells you about himself, and his team.

Greg, like myself, is a Mets fan who likes to write, and we asked him a few questions about his work here.

--Why do you like to write? What's different about your writing from that of others
I have absolutely no idea about the first part. I've always liked to write. I like to talk, too, but writing lets me organize my thoughts. It always came easily to me. It wasn't until I was 15, however, that I began to think of myself as a writer, not just somebody who was good at social studies and wrote well, too. I credit my ninth-grade English teacher Mrs. Cuneo for helping me discern my identity as a writer.

Regarding the second part, I think I have a couple of things going for me (besides my obvious modesty).

One is I put a value on knowing my audience. I've been an attentive reader all my life, so I've developed a pretty good sense of when someone is trying to reach me and when someone is talking to himself. It makes me want to reach the reader. I'll never forget when we were signing each other's yearbooks in high school. A friend saw what I wrote in a couple of different yearbooks and was astonished. "You wrote something different for each person!" he marveled.

Well, yeah, I thought. Of course I do. With Faith and Fear, the book and the blog, I'm not writing boilerplate. I have an idea who's reading it. Mets fans, serious Mets fans, serious Mets fans with a sense of self-awareness — that's my audience. I'm not going to write exactly the same way in another baseball context.

Two is I don't separate church and state, so to speak. If I have a personal thought or anecdote that makes sense to me in telling a story about the Mets, I'm going to use it. Those moments are intertwined. That can become extraneous if you're not careful, but if I'm doing my job right, it's simply a matter of what my blog partner Jason calls bracing honesty. I'm not afraid to let my past and my life into the game. I take the game too seriously for that not to happen organically. If that's how I'm thinking anyway, I might as well write that way.

--Why the Mets for you?
You mean I had a choice?

The Mets were my team from age six on. That was 1969 when the Mets were contagious. When 1969 ended, and the pennant fever outbreak had subsided, I discovered I was a chronic Mets fan. They were my team, that was that. It never occurred to me that a world championship was included in the deal, thus when 1970 and '71 and '72 came along, even at the ages of seven, eight and nine, I never dreamed of not rooting for the Mets. They were in my bloodstream and there they've stayed. I can't imagine my life without them.

--Who is this book intended for?
In a way, this is intended for Mets fans of my vintage first and foremost, the demographic core that came of age with the Mets somewhere in that window between the first world championship and the second pennant, the Miracle Mets and You Gotta Believe. It's for those who never quit after 1973, not even when Tom Seaver was traded away. That's who I knew it would resonate with the most. I wrote from the perspective of a forty-year Mets fan whose life has been defined to a great deal by the successes and failures of this baseball team because I knew there were others who could relate.

In a broader sense, it's for everybody who's ever cared about a pastime so much that you don't even think about it, and you're shocked that anyone would question the value of your commitment. Obviously the pastime in question is the Mets. It helps to speak the language and that's something this book does.
I've learned, from the reaction to Faith and Fear, that I needn't worry about demographics in terms of vintage. I've gotten e-mails from those who have been watching the team since 1962 and those who didn't get with them until well after 1992. The common thread is "You're telling my story, you're in my head." That makes me very happy and confirms my sense that there is a Mets fan experience we all share. I like community.

--Why do the Mets lend themselves to so many good books?

The Mets are the Forrest Gump of franchises: open up the box of chocolates and you never what you're gonna get — but you know it's going to be tasty. Our highs are spectacularly high; even our mediums feel high to us. Our lows scrape absolute bottom and then some. We feel everything. Thus, the stories have depth and have legs. It also helps that the first wave of Mets storytellers, those who wrote the early histories of the Casey Stengel Mets and then through the '69 Mets had a great sense of the absurd. They made the Mets good reading, and we are all obligated to live up that standard.

--What is your favorite Mets book, and why?

I'll forego the temptation to do a Choo Choo Coleman here and tell you it's Faith and Fear, and it's mine, bub.

Screwball by Tug McGraw with Joe Durso probably had more influence on my formative years than any book. Tug was such a human being, so imperfect and willing to admit it. There was nothing heroic about his self-portrait of an athlete. It gave me license to not feel like an outcast. Kind of a "Pitcher in the Rye" almost.

More conventionally, I'm continually pulling The New York Mets: Twenty-Five Years of Baseball Magic by Jack Lang off the shelf for reference purposes. Lang took great notes and shared so much history. Amazing how much drama and detail the Mets packed into their first quarter-century. Can't not mention This Date in New York Mets History by Dennis D'Agostino in the same vein...or The New York Mets: The Whole Story by Leonard Koppett...or Mets By The Numbers by Jon Springer & Matt Silverman...or one your site turned me onto, The Amazin' Mets, 1962-1969 by William Ryczek. Those are for histories, mind you.
There are lots of books that tell great stories of great seasons and offer great personal reflections. There are great player and manager biographies and autobiographies. I could go on and I usually do.

What characteristics of Mets history do you enjoy the most?

To borrow a phrase from my own book, we are, as if to honor the borough where we play, a bunch of drama Queens. We don't do anything unmemorably. Even our "forgettable" periods are emblazoned on our brains and woven into our DNA. We win with flair, we lose with flair, we're mediocre with flair. When a Mets season is over, you know you've lived six (or hopefully seven) very long months.
I also like that you can sum up Mets history in detail in a 300-page book. We're still sort of new, but we've been around almost fifty years. We're not an expansion team anymore, but we never quite get old. Kind of the Mets fan way of life, perhaps.

--What is the experience of going to a game like for you, now that you blog about it?

I almost don't remember what it was like before blogging. Sort of like trying to remember what I used to make analogies before The Simpsons or how I communicated before e-mail. We've had our blog since 2005 and it's transformed the game experience for the better, whether at Shea/Citi or through whatever means I'm following it.

There was an episode of The Odd Couple in which Oscar asked Felix to photograph an international wrestling match for his paper. Felix's pictures were not of the match, but of a fly that was startled by the bell ringing and of the look on Oscar's face at some other interval. That, said, Felix, tells the story. That's kind of how I think about a game after watching it or even during it. I'm generally looking to focus one slice of the experience, one angle that caught my fancy in the course of the day or evening. You obviously don't need me to do an AP writeup. Readers come to Faith and Fear for the Greg and Jason take on things. It's unique, it's stylized, it's ours. From game to game, there's no telling what it is. But it's fun to formulate it 162 times a year.

--Favorite non-Mets baseball moment?
As a precursor to writing my book, before we had this blog even, I made a list of my Greatest Baseball Experiences, covering my first 35 seasons as a fan, 1969 through 2003. To go by the list, I'd have to dip down to No. 7 overall for the highest-ranking non-Met episode: April 26, 1994, my first trip to Camden Yards.

I was so excited about seeing that place, and the day was as perfect as I could hoped. I had arranged a negligible business trip to Washington to cover some conference because I knew I could use it as a launching point for a commuter train to Baltimore, just an hour away. The logistics were flawless, the weather was summerlike, the gasp I felt as I got off the train at the Camden station was genuine. I was Ned Beatty as Rudy's father in Rudy eyeing Notre Dame Stadium for the first time: "This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen." And that was before I got inside the park, which was everything it was cracked up to be. Remember, this was when the retro-style park wasn't a clichÈ. Camden was still new and there were hardly any other imitators in operation yet.

You couldn't have told me that day that someday the Mets would have something in the same mold and that I wouldn't be thrilled. I was thrilled with Camden Yards.

--Favorite Mets walk-off story?
It occurs to me that my book could be subtitled "A Tribute to Mets Walk-Offs," as so many great moments in there hinge on that kind of win. You can't beat Mookie/Buckner for the highest of drama and reward, and you can't for a second look past the Grand Slam Single or Pratt or Dykstra or our mutual crush, the Carl Everett game — they're all in there. But the one that will always have the most special place in my heart is the Steve Henderson game. That was a comeback that came out of the blue (and orange) in a very special stretch of games, when the Mets were proving themselves a worthy contender, at least in my contention-starved eyes. I loved that 1980 season so, so much, and Steve's home run, beating the Giants 7-6 after we'd been down 6-0, as part of the 47-39 resurrection of late spring and summer after the 9-18 start and the three horrible seasons preceding that...I still get Stevebumps from it. I really believed the 1980 Mets, whose final record was 67-95, stood at the precipice of something enormous.
Ah, youth.

What would it be like to blog/write about a championship season?
I got about 90% of the way there in 2006 and it was heavenly. I couldn't believe how lucky we were in our second season of blogging to get a first-place team that was dominating right from the start and had the division all but clinched as early as two weeks in; the night Pedro won his 200th to put the Mets five up on the Braves at 10-2 I absolutely knew we were going to win the East. I would've put money on it.

It was a gift to have that season when we did. It's hard to remember what an echo of 1986 2006 felt like as late as early September. I was thrilled to blog a Magic Number countdown. I was thrilled to blog a division title. I was thrilled to blog a playoff series, a playoff sweep, an LCS.
It doesn't seem surprising, in retrospect, that we lost the pennant, but I still don't understand how we didn't win it. So to be able to blog it two steps further: the LCS and then the World Series, plus the aftermath of the championship? That would be grand. Just grand.

It's already pretty special that we got to do the final year of Shea and that we have the first year of a new park awaiting us. In a twisted way, it's special that we were in a position to offer the perspective we did on the collapse(s). I did some of my best work down the stretch in 2007. It's not the kind of thing anybody's dying to go back and read, I understand, but that's part of the Mets narrative, too. We've had a little of everything since we began blogging in 2005. I'd sure like to take my shot at a championship.

To visit Greg's blog, go to http://faithandfear.blogharbor.com. To purchase the book, head here:

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