d5690When the media seeks political commentary, it does not usually turn to sports figures.  But professional sports and politics collided rather unexpectedly about ten days ago.

Outrage met the release of a salacious Access Hollywood tape in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard making lewd misogynistic comments and boasting of having perpetrated acts of sexual assault.

“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago…I apologize if anyone was offended,” was Trump’s initial statement.

Athletes in locker rooms everywhere took umbrage at these words.  They saw his feeble mea culpa for what it was:  a desperate attempt to vindicate his behavior and language by implicating all men in general and–by using athletes’ place of employment–male athletes in particular.  They saw this as a personal and collective affront and quickly took to mainstream and social media with searing denunciations.

We have a “locker room code,” stated Dominique Wilkins, former NBA player and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer.  He and numerous athletes spoke to CNN about the self-policing principles that make the locker room environment one in which such language is simply not tolerated.

Former NBA star John Amaechi, speaking recently to NPR, enumerated the topics typically discussed in the locker rooms he had inhabited:

We had conversations that were about politics, that were about the systemic racism, were about the tax advantages of living in Florida as an athlete. These things came first. These were the things that we talked about.

In a blistering blog post for Vox, former NFL player Chris Kluwe delineated the parameters of locker room discussions.  Kluwe has written a scathing indictment of Trump.  I would encourage you to read the entire piece by this gifted writer and published author.  But one point of his piece I found particularly arresting:


Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe during the December 30th 2012 match against the Green Bay Packers.

See, that’s another big thing we talk about in the locker room. Accountability. In a professional sports environment, all of us are accountable to each other. We’re a team. If one of us messes up on the field, it affects everyone. Just like if a president makes a bad decision, it affects everyone. And do you know, Donald, the only way the team wins games? The only way we win is if, in the locker room, we’re willing to accept that accountability, address our mistakes, and work as hard as we possibly can to make sure those mistakes don’t happen again.

We don’t double down on a shitty play simply because a small portion of the fan base got excited by it. We don’t try to carve the team apart from the inside to appease a certain position group. We don’t blame our mistakes on something someone else did, because if we do any of those things, we lose, something you’ve become intimately familiar with on a personal, financial, and political level, and I’m not having too many difficulties reviewing how that happened to you on the game film.

John Amaechi was more succinct.  Asked what would be the result if such vulgar language and admission of sexual assault were to be heard in the locker room, Amaechi said:

There would be absolute silence. And then any leader in the room – unless this was a locker room devoid of leadership, somebody would step up and say, by the way, what you’re talking about is abuse. It is not cool.

So, for those keeping score, the Republican candidate has now maligned Hispanics, Blacks, people of color in general, immigrants in general, Muslims, Gold Star parents, members of the Judiciary, his party’s leadership, women, and now athletes.

I would suggest that he has wronged the New York Mets as well, albeit indirectly.

I submit for your consideration the photo below.  It’s a very painful moment of our shared history as Mets fans.  You’d rather turn away, I know.  But take your hands down from in front of your eyes and look beyond the still bat in Carlos Beltran’s hands and the elated Yadier Molina.

Photo Credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Photo Credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times


Yup, that’s him.

Donald Trump.

Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS.

Shea Stadium.

Finally, behind this moment that until now had defied all explanation we see a logical, if perverse, narrative.

Let’s call it what it is:

The Curse of Donald Trump.

Castigate Carlos no longer:  the real object of our ire and disdain should be the character behind the umpire, not in front.

Donald Trump cost us that series–and that year.

I’ve solved the enigma today, October 19th, 2016:  exactly ten years ago to the day of this moment.

The Long Goodbye

_348476_teletubbies.jpgHow to best describe Game 162 at Citi Field yesterday?

Limited to a one-word description, I guess I’d have to pick “surreal”.
In spite of the disappointing season and the very small gathering of fans (that is to say, not a crowd), those there did not seem the least bit dispirited.
The CitiField staff–from security to ushers to elevator attendants–seemed to possess that giddy “last day of school” feeling.  In fact, in talking with many of the staff with whom we’ve made acquaintance over the past two years, my family and I found out that many of them go on to work at Madison Square Garden or other venues.
The temperature at game time was in the low 60s, winds were blowing in briskly from right field, and batters for each of the non-contending teams were swinging at just about anything.  For players and staff catching flights home that night, not to mention Manager Jerry Manuel and General Manager Omar Minaya whose dismissals were likely to happen Monday (and did), the game probably couldn’t have concluded fast enough.
As luck would have it, though, the game went into extra innings.  
I’d like to say that we stayed because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to say goodbye to CitiField until the very last out had been recorded, but I would be lying.
With my daughter–a professional singer–having upper respiratory issues, it seemed downright foolhardy to stay.  
But we had reason to stay.  We had true incentive to stay until the last out was recorded, even–as we teased her–at the expense of our daughter’s health and singing career.  
We had an inducement compelling us to stay and watch the Mets “B Team”–those playing in extra innings after Manuel pulled Wright and Reyes in a gesture to earn them fan recognition:
Prior to the game, my family and I–along with twenty-four other random fans–had been approached and asked to participate in the “Shirts Off Our Backs” campaign, presented by the Mets Marketing Department as part of its Fan Appreciation activities.  Moments after walking off the field at the conclusion of the game, each player would be removing his jersey, autographing it, and relinquishing it to be given away to a fan, the Mets marketing spokesperson told us.
The spokesperson did feel it necessary to caution us that it was a random drawing out of a hat.  “You might get David Wright’s jersey,” she said, “but you might get Joaquin Arias.”
We, therefore, could not leave before the end of the game. 
We stayed through the tenth inning.  The eleventh.  The twelfth.  The thirteenth.
It was cold and windy, my daughter’s hacking cough wasn’t going away, we were hungry and the food vendors in the Caesar’s Club had closed for the day.  And still we stayed.
We began to kid ourselves that, just watch, we would stay until the bitter end, attend the drawing for a jersey and be rewarded for our efforts with that very Joaquin Arias jersey.  Or, better yet, that of Luis Castillo.  Or Oliver Perez.
Oh, and our daughter would contract pneumonia and miss enough school that she would have to repeat eighth grade.
When it got to the fourteenth inning, Jerry Manuel found himself out of pitchers.  He chose to bring in Oliver Perez.  That is when the atmosphere at CitiField truly became surreal.
While his entrance into the game during any kind of meaningful game would’ve been greeted with frustration and anxiety, on this day the zeal of the crowd was palpable, the smattering of fans present obviously relishing the opportunity to heckle this pitcher who, by declining to go back down to the minor leagues during the season as he arguably should have done, managed to do no more than occupy a roster spot and collect his hefty paycheck for most of the season.
The gaiety and volume only increased as Perez’s outing very quickly started to unravel.  Accompanied by sarcastic chants of “MVP!  MVP!” Oliver Perez proceeded to hit one batter and walk in three batters, resulting in walking in the go-ahead run.
While razzing Perez felt a little mean-spirited, Howie Rose and Ed Coleman were there to remind anyone listening and having such sympathies that Oliver Perez had brought every bit of this groundswell of un-support upon himself.  (Presumably having to catch a plane himself and not having been promised a game-used, autographed player jersey, Wayne Hagin had already exited the WFAN broadcast booth.)
I sensed that the merriment of the crowd stemmed not only from the opportunity to heckle Perez but also from the fact that, at this point in the proceedings, many fans were just as glad to have the game come to an end, even if that meant Perez having a predictably putrid outing to give the game away.  
It was not lost on many of us the irony of a poor showing by Oliver Perez serving as the 2010 season denouement.
And so came the fourteenth inning stretch and, without the Mets scoring at the bottom of the 14th inning, the game, the season, and–finally–the wait for the jersey lottery came to a close.
After being summoned into the Mets Press Room–the very same room in which Jerry Manuel had just given his final post-game press conference–the marketing staff proceeded to call each invitee up to the stage, one at a time, to draw from a Mets helmet one of the slips of paper upon which a player’s name had been written.  Because my daughter’s entry ticket was stamped with the number one, she was the first to pick.  


As my husband and I held our breath, she reached in, took a slip of paper, smiled, and read aloud in a clear, excited voice, “Angel Pagan!”
No offense, Joaquin Arias, but Angel Pagan is definitely my favorite player and one of my daughter’s top three favorites.  Following each fantastic diving catch he made this season, along with each of his extra-base hits, she and I were right there in Section 319, waving our arms up and down slowly in our “angel wings” salute.
If he hadn’t been a beloved player of ours before, he would’ve been once we learned what a devoted father he is.  Because of his concern about a serious eye condition for which his two-year-old daughter Briana is being treated, Pagan was not in the lineup on September 17th so that he could–with the Mets’ approval–be part of a doctor’s consultation regarding his daughter’s condi
, along with his wife.  
Ten days or so later, the night before his daughter was to undergo surgery, Angel sat out of the lineup and stayed home to be with Briana.  He was then at the hospital the next morning, bright and early.  After the surgery had taken place and presumably gone well, Angel was back at CitiField later that day and was in the lineup for both games of a double-header! 


After all twenty-five jerseys (none of which were Castillo’s or Perez’s, by the way), had been claimed, photographs were taken.  Outfielder Chris Carter stopped by to greet and pose for pictures with fans.
It was almost dark when we returned to our car in the practically empty CitiField parking lot.  I asked my husband and daughter if I could take one last  parting shot.  They acquiesced, proudly holding the very jersey Angel Pagan had played in not even an hour before, grass- and dirt-stained, and featuring his signature on his number.
How strange it felt to leave CitiField for the final time of the 2010 season feeling so ebullient. Considering how the team had fared this season, I assumed I would feel sad and empty. 
The reason for my upbeat mood, I rationalized, was the excitement of having received the jersey.  Nothing more, nothing less.  But I couldn’t help but think that there was something more.
Perhaps the game we had just sat through, with Oliver Perez serving as an unintentionally humorous coda to the somber blues anthem that had played over most of the season, had served as a catharsis of sorts.  Could it be that forcing myself to sit through that entire ludicrous game had helped me and perhaps other fans purge some of those latent negative feelings brought on by the season just concluded?


There’s always next year.  And we’ll have a new Manager and General Manager.  And we’ll see those same young, home-grown players that made a lot of this season exciting.
And we’ve got that angel in the outfield.

Fabricated Fans


With the Mets having been eliminated two nights ago (not that I had been holding my breath up until that point, mind you), I have been diversifying my baseball watching.
A typical Mets fan, when I can’t get enthusiastic about the Mets, I at least derive a certain schadenfreude in rooting against the Yankees.  This year’s AL East race has provided plenty of excitement and drama toward that end.
Also, with a close family member being a long-time Braves fan, and knowing this is Bobby Cox’s last season at the helm, I would have loved to have seen them topple the Braves.  In lieu of that, I would enjoy seeing them the winner of the Wild Card.  
The latter is decidedly NOT a typical Mets fan’s desired outcome, I know, and I have been admonished by the Mets fans in my home for holding such sympathies for the Braves and their manager.
As I’ve broadened my listening and watching horizons, I’ve been struck by several things:
1.  In SNY-TV, the Mets have by far the finest announcers covering the game today, period.
2.  Michael Kaye, TV announcer for the YES Network and Yankees games, and his cohort have an amazing ability to convey absolutely none of the excitement of the Yankees/Rays series.  The matter-of-fact tone, the lack of informative color, and the sheer amount of dead air would lead the uneducated viewer to believe that these games were meaningless at best and a sheer bore at worst.  
3. It is achingly painful for me to view sold-out Citizens Bank Park, packed with red in all shapes and sizes with frenzied white rally towel waving and screaming, rabid fans.  
Naturally, the latter is difficult to stomach because, as a Mets fan, I wish that were OUR ballpark.  But more than that, the contrast between the Phillies’ sold-out crowd and our dwindling fanbase could not be more stark.
As a season-ticket holder, the shrinking fan base  first struck me several weeks ago as I entered the Caesar’s Club.  Where previously the crowds there had necessitated our family deploying ourselves as  a “team tag” of vultures to secure a table at which to eat before the game, empty tables and a “library atmosphere” (as they encourage on the Amtrak Acela Quiet Cars) greeted us.
“It’s a ghost town!” I said in astonishment.
Considering the team’s season, I find the lack of support for the team and the shriveling number of fans understandable but nevertheless depressing; ownership should see this and be absolutely terrified.
Lest Jeff Wilpon is lying awake nights, wondering how he’s going to fill seats in his lovingly recreated Ebbets Field, I am here to assure him that perhaps a solution has been found.  If real fans are hard to come by, enter the “virtual fan”.


From the Wall Street Journal comes an intriguing story of a Northern Italian soccer team suffering low turnout.  An answer to low team morale and lost revenue for the team of Trieste has been to install PVC covering over empty rows of seats upon which are screen-printed image of fans.  They do happen to be actual Triestina fans, never mind that they are perpetually depicted huddled against the cold in blankets, heavy coats and scarves regardless of current conditions.
The Wall Street Journal piece goes on to say:
Between the money the team will save by eliminating stewards, attendants, medical staff and insurance for the shuttered seats (about $130,000 per season) and the extra ad revenue it may earn, team owner Stefano Fantinel says the experiment “will pay for itself very soon.”

What I didn’t see mentioned in this article is the fact that screen-printed PVC tarps do not produce general crowd noise nor respond with a collective roar for great plays.  Conversely, the concocted fans presumably do not boo poor plays nor heckle players.

The attendants in my section at Citi Field are dear friends–like family even.  I would sorely miss Stan, Eddie, and Larry…and, yes, even the “Hot doggie-doggie-doggie!” vendor, as well.

But you gotta bet someone from the Mets has taken note of this story.  


And while we’re at it, what about managers of symphony orchestras and opera companies struggling to fill houses on certain nights?

Could screen-printed images of extravagantly dressed, bejeweled opera fans–perhaps with audio enhancement in the form of a sound clip of a crowd cheering “Bravo, bravo!” to be played through the house speakers at the climactic end of arias–be the future for the Metropolitan Opera House or other performance art venues?


Photo of original art work by Jaquet Fritz Junior found here.
Triestina photo by Andrea Lasorte

Guest Appearance

bill_pulsipher_autograph.jpgI recently had the pleasure of being extended an invitation to write a guest post for another blog devoted to the New York Mets:  Mets Gazette.  I was honored to have been asked, and my response is included in a regular feature of Mets Gazette:  “The Pulsipher of the Nation”.

Mets Gazette is an enterprising and informative blog featuring the creative talents of writers Jason Adamowicz, Tom Greenhalgh and Frank Gray.
Their writing has been featured on Mets Blog, ESPN’s Mets Today, SB Nation’s Amazin’ Avenue, Daily Stache, as well as other websites and blogs.  Their material has been read on air on New York sports radio station, WFAN. 
Please click here to read my contribution as well as that of two other notable Mets bloggers.  
Do look around the site while you are there, and be sure to bookmark it to return for more great sports writing from the Mets Gazette’s trio! 


080410.jpgAs grateful as I always am to take a vacation, and as much as I love that our family shares a passion for ballgames and the Mets, our family’s tradition of following the Mets for numerous roadtrips each summer is killing me.

With our season ticket package at Citi Field, we are at virtually every home game.  But for many summers now, we have taken advantage of the fact that my daughter is not in school nor am I working in the summer and have planned and taken vacations based around Mets away games.

In our various sojourns, we have seen the Mets play at every National League ballpark with the exception of three:  AT & T Park, Coors Field, and Busch Stadium.  We have also seen the Mets play in several Americal League venues and in Spring Training games at Port St. Lucie.  In addition to seeing all those games and ballparks, we have also been to nearby venues:  National Parks, art museums, science museums, historical sites, amusement parks, aquariums, zoos and animal parks, beaches, and restaurants featuring regional fare.

We’ve been granted rare access to our favorite players in ballparks having more lenient rules for observing Batting Practice and getting autographs.  Due to generally lower ticket prices at other parks compared to Citi Field prices, we have been able to sit in even better seats than we do at Citi Field.  Both of those amenities have afforded me the opportunity to shoot photos from some amazing vantage points.  The photos I have returned with have become some of our most treasured souvenirs.

081407lr.jpgAdditionally, we’ve had the unexpected pleasure of running into friends (and teachers!) from home in some faraway places.  We have made the acquaintance of other Mets fans, and we have met and had conversations wtih members of the media.  Last summer, while covering the team for the Daily News, Adam Rubin (who is now a journalist for ESPN-NY) was seated across the aisle from me on our flight from San Diego to Phoenix.  In 2007, SNY-TV’s Gary Cohen happened to be seated behind me on our outbound flight from New York to Pittsburgh; we approached him at baggage claim (where this photo was taken.)  Both journalists were very personable, and we had the most delightful conversations with each of them!

This all sounds like the makings of dream vacations, right?  How lucky am I to see so many Mets games?!

Here’s the problem:  for all the delights–both planned and unexpected–neither wins nor a favorable standing in the NL East by the time the planned roadtrip is made is guaranteed.  The heartbreak of having to watch terrible losses or a scrappy team that is way out of it–all without the support of an entire stadium of fans with which to commiserate–can be painful or even excruciating.

Last year’s trip:  a four-game series in San Diego followed by a three-game series in Arizona late in the season was particularly disappointing baseball-wise with the Mets having so many regulars on the DL and the team being so far out of contention.  Maybe paying the big bucks for a small prop plane tour over and into the Grand Canyon was our way of salvaging the trip…for ourselves, if not for the team.

While this season’s pre-All-Star-Game Spector Family Roadtrips–Washington, Baltimore, and Milwaukee–provided some wins and some unique opportunities (such as seeing the rookie Stephen Strasburg in a game in Washington), the final trip, to Los Angeles, was a struggle for the team and, therefore, for me.

Losing three out of four was no fun.  Neither was having Dodger fans in our faces during every exit from Dodger Stadium following the game.

The two-day trip to Disneyland prior to the series, scheduled primarily for my daughter’s enjoyment, proved to be the highlight of the trip for me as well.  Let’s just say that Dodger Stadium could not be mistaken for the Magic Kingdom in any way .  Even our enchanted knuckleballer–the unexpected knight in shining armor of the starting rotation, R.A. Dickey–was not allowed conjure up his deceptive magic for very long, being yanked early in his start there.

Sometime following our return from L.A.–in the midst of one of the games during the frustrating homestand just concluded, perhaps around the time I and other fans found out that Mets ownership declined to take any action prior to the trade deadline–I snapped.

“I think I need a break from these Mets roadtrips,” I told my husband and daughter. “Having to suffer Mets losses–both home and away–are killing me.” .

No doubt, when the 2011 season is announced, I will salivate at potential trips and this low point will be long forgotten.  But if we do decide to declare a moratorium on Mets roadtrips, I can think of one immediate benefit (besides not having to suffer losses without the home crowd):  seeing those away games on SNY and hearing the great on-air talent of Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen. 

I know those guys will always follow the team for me…win or lose. 

All-Star Oboist

WOPCDart.jpgI once played in an All-Star Concert.

The ensemble was not designated as such, but it met the definition in all respects.  As you can see in the image to the right, a sticker put on the plastic jewel case containing a recording of the group’s concert attested to the fact.

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, an orchestra–dubbed the “World Orchestra for Peace“–conducted by Sir Georg Solti, was assembled for a performance surrounding the celebration of the anniversary in Geneva, Switzerland.  For this inaugural UN concert in 1995 (there have been others since), every single one of the players Solti invited accepted immediately.  The players represented 45 orchestras, from 24 countries:




The concert opened with Rossini’s Overture to William Tell (a nod to the Swiss Tell).  It was followed by Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.  (Bartok and Solti were not only fellow Hungarians, but Solti was a student of Bartok.)  The concert concluded with vocal soloists and chorus joining the ensemble for the rousing finale of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in which freedom and peace are celebrated by newly-released political prisoners and jubilant civilians.

‘…I picked the Beethoven for the qualities of brotherhood, liberty and humanity, and the Rossini overture as a homage to Switzerland, but the Bartok for a number of reasons. Not only is he one of my favourite composers, but he also encompasses the whole world: his music is very Western, but based on an Eastern culture.’ Sir Georg Solti

To get a taste of the concert (available both on video and on audio releases), watch this video clip of the William Tell Overture performance.  What a fiery and dynamic performance Solti led!  Those amazing trombones!  The delicate pianissimos!


By the way, you can catch a glimpse of me from 5:34-5:48 as I respectfully listen to the English Horn soloist to my left.

I have so many wonderful memories and stories from my participation in that event, but–like David Wright‘s wide-eyed anticipation about playing tonight on the same team as his child-hood idol Scott Rolen–one of the highlights of the experience in Geneva was performing alongside one of my idols of the oboe for as long as I had been a student of the instrument:  Richard Woodhams.  (I recently wrote a post comparing Woodhams’ illustrious oboe playing and his preeminence in the world of woodwind playing to that of Sandy Koufax in the realm of pitching.)

Subsequent World Orchestra for Peace concerts have taken place, not always with the same musicians.  Although I was again invited to participate, I could not participate beyond the initial year because of the Metropolitan Opera schedule.

But I have the CD, the DVD, and the memories of making music on a stage filled with “big league” instrumentalists from all over the world, under the baton of one of the greatest maestros of all time.

With diplomats and dignitaries from many countries (including Yasar Arafat), it was a special day and, truly, a red carpet event.  Speaking of which, I’m going to now watch the Red Carpet parade of All-Stars in Ahaheim, followed by the All-Star Game itself.

Let’s go National League!

The Prince of Queens

062610.02.jpgRoyalty stepped onto the pitching mound yesterday afternoon at Citi Field.

I’m sorry to say that I was not referring to our ace pitcher, Johan Santana.  His start yesterday was not, um, imperial in the least.

I instead refer to the ceremonial first pitch before yesterday’s game which was thrown by Prince Harry of Wales.  His Royal Highness is in town for several days and yesterday was the guest of the Wilpons.  Besides having the honor of throwing out the first pitch, he also received coaching from R. A. Dickey as well as a special Mets jersey (number 22 ) with “Wales” on the back.

Hearing from friends seated near us what was going to take place prior to the game, my daughter wondered if he would appear wearing a crown.  My husband and I laughed at that thought.  “Yes, and flowing red velvet robes.”

With my telephonto lens pointed at the dugout, I recognized his shock of red hair immediately.  I was delighted to announce to my daughter that, in fact, the Prince was going to be coming out momentarily, wearing a ratty looking Tshirt and faded grey pants!

062610.03crop.jpgI doubt any Mets fan were disappointed by any lack of fanfare or regal robes.

Far more regal than any jewel-encrusted crown was the METS HAT he had donned prior to taking the mound. 


Yada, Yada, Yada!

062310.01lr.jpgMy family and I have season tickets at Citi Field.  Not only do they afford an awesome view of the game, but they are right in front of the SNY TV booth. 

It’s always a thrill to catch a glimpse of sportscasters Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen.  Sometimes one of them will even wave back to us during the Seventh Inning Stretch.

Tonight there was even more interest in what was going on behind us as Jerry Seinfeld was given a Father’s Day gift of joining Keith and Gary in broadcasting a portion of the game.

I was lucky enough to get this photo of Seinfeld talking to Cohen at the end of the second inning, moments before he donned his headset and began fulfilling a lifelong dream.

You can see and hear his “debut” on MLBTV.

Potato Dumpling Dumped

Cheese Chester copy.jpgWe’ve warned our children.  Teachers have cautioned students.  Heck, at the beginning of the school year, President Obama made the admonition in a nationally televised address to the nation’s school children:  be very, very careful what you choose to post on Facebook.

Apparently, one of the four “racing pierogies” of PNC Park in Pittsburgh–an imitation of the original racing sausages at Miller Park–has lost his job due to personal posts made on his Facebook Wall.

I don’t know whether this little potato dumpling just did not have enough spuds between his ears, but he unwisely wrote derogatory remarks about the team on his Facebook Wall.  The comments were seen by officials for the Pirates. 

He was subsequently fried…er, fired.

The former Pierogi will be losing minimal dough as he has already been offered a job as a hot dog for the Washington Wild Things.  

Mr. Met, you’ve been forewarned.