Back in 1985, during my sophomore year of college, I started going out with a guy who loved the New York Mets. I didn't grow up caring about sports, so his obsession was a bit “ho hum” for my taste.
By the end of the ‘85 baseball season I decided to give it a try, and by 1986 I was a regular with Ray at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY watching the Mets play. It was fun—certainly much more fun than watching the games on TV.
Next thing you know I was hooked. I am not sure what the appeal was exactly. There could be long stretches of nothingness broken up by unexpected and exhilarating moments where everyone in the stands are on their feet and cheering as a batter hit a home run, a single or a double to drive in a player from second or third base and/or a pop fly that could have been caught by a toddler that was “bobbled,” thus allowing someone to steal a base or drive someone home.
I not only came to enjoy the game but the players as well. As if they were part of my everyday life, I followed their stats and even, to a degree, their personal lives.
I fell in love with outfielder Mookie Wilson (if that isn’t the perfect baseball name, I don’t know what it is!); first baseman Keith Hernandez; third baseman Ray Knight; outfielder Darryl Strawberry; catcher Gary Carter; outfielder Lenny Dykstra; pitchers Jesse Orosco, Ron Darling (no I didn’t have a crush on him), Ron Ojeda and Dwight, “Doc” Gooden.
Meeting and interviewing them all two years later would be a dream come true.
(There were others on the team, but these are the guys who made the biggest impressions on me.)
At the time I was in journalism school and uncertain whether I wanted to write about news or something else. After spending so much time keeping track of the Mets’ 1986 season, I finally decided I wanted to become a sports writer.
I studied the writing styles of Ira Berkow, Dave Anderson and Mervin Block (who worked with my father at ABC News). With still relatively few women in sports journalism back in the 80s, I was determined to break barriers and shatter beliefs that women couldn’t handle themselves in this male-dominated field.
I was on pins and needles with Ray during the 1986 season. When it came time for the World Series, game six in particular, I was screaming at my parents' 13 inch Sony Trinitron TV when Mets' outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball up the first base line.
Boston Red Sox's first baseman, Bill Buckner, really should have caught it, slow as it was going. But I guess that same toddler who could have caught that pop fly wasn’t at first base when Buckner bobbled the ball. Maybe he assumed it would go foul, who knows? But that sucker went through his legs. A 10th inning error cost Boston the game and the Mets went on to win game 7 and were, of course, crowned the champs!
My love for the Mets (and sports in general) didn’t wane even after Ray and I broke up in 1987. In 1988 still in my sophomore year in college (yes, I should have been a senior by then, but I was on the ten-year plan because I had to work full time to support myself), I got the dream job of a lifetime: a peon at WCBS News 88 radio station.
I was a desk assistant, which meant I was a stepin fetchit for the on-air talent, reporters, writers, producers and news director. “DA! I need commercial cart number 3!” “DA! I need you to edit this sound bite ASAP!” “DA! I need…!” We DAs didn’t have names (well, in all fairness, it was only the on-air “talent” who saw us this way).
Not everyone saw the DAs this way. In fact, the reporters not only saw us as humans and an integral part of the team in the newsroom, but many were happy to take desk assistants out with them to cover stories. Sure we had to lug equipment—that’s to be expected—but depending on the reporter, our usefulness didn’t end there.
Some, like Steven Reed, allowed me to contribute to the story that would be used on the air. He would later serve as a mentor and to this day we're still very good friends. And some, like sports reporter Bill Daughtry let me interview athletes and write it up. I went out to Shea Stadium with Daughtry to cover many of the games during the 1988 season.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy sitting in the press box, as opposed to the seats two poor college students could afford.
Daughtry did warn me before we went in the locker rooms that I’d see things that would make even this tough New York kid blush, but he also taught me not to act as though I was blushing. At 22 years old, I was, well let’s just say in heaven!
I learned a lot about news, reporting and life from all the reporters, the writers, producers; but mostly I learned from the reporters.
Had a busy newsroom’s culture been governed by the writers, producers and reporters, I might have lasted in journalism. Sadly they weren’t and I doubt they are today. News directors call the shots—including who gets promoted from peon to writer, and despite that I scored a 98 percent on the writer’s test, the intern—who scored a paltry 58 percent on the test—was promoted to writer.
I accepted the likelihood I’d forever be a desk assistant (unless I tried to get hired by another station with the same politics). I made the tough decision to leave journalism and go into marketing and trade show management. In doing so, I also gave up my interest in sports.
The Comeback Kids Came Back
Fast forward 27 years and I am married, living on a farm in the middle of Puerto Rico, have rediscovered my voice as a writer, own a content marketing agency and I’ve made friends with a fellow New Yorker named Alex Barnett. A writer, stand up comic and the host of the Multiracial Family Man podcast (indeed he interviewed my co-author Bryony Sutherland and me about our book on being Biracial), Alex wrote a blog that had me all nostalgic about the New York Mets I hadn’t thought about in 27 years.
At the time he wrote it, they were in the playoffs and now they’re in the World Series. Although they've already lost the first two games of the series, once dubbed “the Miracle Mets” (1969) and “the Comeback Kids” (1986), I have every confidence they’ll pull it out and win the series.
And if they don’t, it’s okay. Alex told me yesterday by mid-season this year they didn’t even look like they could pull off winning half their games, which reminds me of the Mets I fell in love with in 1986.
Although I don’t have a TV, opportunities abound for me to keep track of their progress. And of course I’ll be rooting for them.