Friday, April 22, 2016

How the Mets Explain "Game of Thrones"

George R.R. Martin, author of the the books that comprise the series A Song of Ice and Fire, and inspired the HBO series Game of Thrones (taken from the title of the 1st book in the series), has a Twitter account. Nevertheless, there is a joke: "George R.R. Martin isn't on Twitter, because he's already killed 140 characters."

Martin is from Bayonne, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. He is a fan of the New York Mets, and also of the New York Jets.

This explains a lot of things. Season 6 of Game of Thrones premieres on Sunday. Perhaps no show fandom in history has hated spoilers more, but, really, there's the books. (Although there are plenty of differences.) Anyway... Brace yourself: Spoilers are coming.

Top 10 Ways George R.R. Martin Being a Mets Fan Explains Game of Thrones

First, let me mention a few that didn't quite make the cut: The Best of the Rest.

Winter Is Coming. Did you ever attend an early-season game at Shea Stadium? Sometimes, the wind blasted off Flushing Bay, swirled around under the overhangs, and made a Met game in April, or even in May, as cold as a Jet game in December.

Scary, Noisy, Smelly Flying Creatures. ASOIAF/GoT has dragons. Citi Field, like its predecessor Shea Stadium, has planes taking off from LaGuardia International Airport. Citi Field was also featured in the film Sharknado 2.

Zombies. ASOIAF/GoT has the White Walkers. On September 13, 2013 (a Friday the 13th), in connection with the film Warm Bodies, whose climax was filmed at Citi Field, Zombie Night was held at the ballpark.

There's a difference, though: Unlike Met fans, zombies seem to be aware that they need brains.

Now, for the Top 10.

1. The Long Waits. Waiting for a new season of GoT can be interminable. Waiting for a new ASOIAF book is even longer.

Mets' Pennant wait: 1973 to 1986. 13 years.
Mets' Pennant wait: 1986 to 2000. 14 years.
Mets' Pennant wait: 2000 to 2015. 15 years.
Mets' Pennant wait: 2015 to 2031? 16 years?

2. The Immaturity. You could argue that a preoccupation with fantasy is a sign of a mind that is not fully mature. Or maybe it isn't.

However, where the TV version shows an immaturity is in its attitudes toward nudity and sex. Most of it is not necessary to either move the story along or to express some artistic vision. It's just there to either titillate the viewer or to humiliate the female characters.

I'm not saying Met fans are immature when it comes to nudity or sex. But, in general, they are immature.

3. The Daddy Issues. Ned Stark, patriarch of House Stark, was executed, and his decision to sacrifice himself, which didn't work, changed everything for the worse. Aerys Targaryen, went mad and had to be killed, thus sparking his daughter Danerys' mission. The dark truth about the parentage of Cersei Lannister's children is that their father isn't her husband Robert Baratheon, who usurped Aerys as King, but her own twin brother, Jamie Lannister. And while we are told that Ned is Jon Snow's father, this may not be true: Fans' guesses at who Jon's real father is tend to try to "explain the whole show."

The Dodgers and Giants left New York, stolen from the fans by their greedy owners, and Met fans have been trying to emulate their efforts ever since. But the Mets' "guardians" have taken it a step further. Their founder wasn't a patriarch, but a martiarch, Joan Payson. This may explain the choice of a name for their first stadium: They named it not for Mrs. Payson, but for the male figure most responsible for the Mets' very existence: If Mrs. Payson was the Mets' mother, then their father was Bill Shea.

Since then? Mrs. Payson fell into a long illness, leaving her unable to handle the team's day-to-day affairs, and then died. Her illness and death put the team in control of a new "mommy," her daughter Lorinda de Roulet, and a new "daddy," M. Donald Grant, the Cersei and Jamie of Flushing Meadow. (As far as I know, they weren't bed-partners, but if they were, few Met fans would be surprised.)

Then came Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday. When Daddy Fred bought Uncle Nelson out, the team went to pieces, and Daddy Fred's son Jeff, not the team, is the favored son. Well, shouldn't he be, since Jeff is his actual son? But giving Jeff effective control did the Mets fewer favors than Big Ed McCaskey, son-in-law of George Halas, did the Chicago Bears when he handed the keys to the kingdom over to his son Mike McCaskey, and he eventually had to take the keys back. Fred hasn't done this to Jeff yet. (Nor has Charles Dolan, owner of the Knicks and Rangers, yet done this with his son, Guitar Jimmy.)

4. The Focus On the Younger Siblings. The Mets are always going to be "the little brother franchise" to the Yankees. In ASOIAF/GoT, foolishness and/or tragedy often befalls the eldest sibling: Viserys Targaryen, Robb Stark, Cersei Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon. (In some cases, they deserve it. But not in all cases.)

Neither Danerys, nor Sansa Stark, nor Arya Stark, nor Tyrion Lannister, nor Tommen Baratheon was meant to be heir to their house's head. But all currently have much more of the focus of the books and the show than their eldest siblings.

5. Bastards. Characters named "Snow" are not necessarily related to each other. Nor are characters named "Sand." These are surnames given to illegitimate children. The names are always attached to them: Jon is never simply "Jon," always "Jon Snow," as if to remind him, "You are one of us, yet you are not one of us." In other words, the bastards get all of the drawbacks of being a member of a particular family, and few of the perks. Yet they seem to have more nobility than those of natural birth.

The major exception, thus far, being Joffrey, who became King upon the death of his official father, Robert Baratheon, but (known only to a few) is actually the son of the twins Cersei and Jamie Lannister.

Now that Ned and Robb Stark are both dead, "the hero" of the show, if there is such a thing, appears to be Jon, who still thinks Westeros, and House Stark (to which, being a bastard, he has never fully belonged), are worth fighting for.

What does this have to do with the Mets? Met fans believe in the myth that the Yankees "cheat," and are therefore "illegitimate." In contrast, Yankee Fans look upon the Mets as the illegitimate offspring of the Dodgers and the Giants. Certainly, I've known a few Met fans who were the other kind of "bastard."

6. A Hero Who "Knows Nothing." Ygritte, Jon's girlfriend from behind the Wall, frequently told him, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." It's not that Jon is stupid, but he started out having a lot to learn.

I have questioned the knowledge, the intelligence, and the judgment of Met fans many times. And I will again. I'm not saying they know nothing, but they don't know as much as Yankee Fans, and a lot of what they believe they know simply isn't true.

Examples: New York is a National League town, the NL is better than the American League, the '86 Mets were better than the '98 Yankees, Roger Clemens was a steroid cheat and Mike Piazza wasn't, Matt Harvey is an "ace," the Mets' 2015 Pennant puts them ahead of the Yankees when they still haven't won the World Series in 30 years, etc.

7. False Kings. Aerys Targaryen may have had to be removed from the throne due to his murderous madness, but Robert Baratheon was never a legitimate King. Nor was his son Joffrey, illegitimate both on the throne and of his birth. Nor is Robert's other son, Joffrey's brother Tommen. Nor was Robb, who, in his rebellion against Joffrey, proclaimed himself "King in the North." Nor have been any of the leaders who have called themselves "King-Beyond-the-Wall," most recently Mance Rayder.

Since the Fall of House Seaver in 1977, Met fans have put their faith in many a "false king." Lee Mazzilli. Keith Hernandez. Dwight Gooden. Bill Pulsipher. Mike Piazza. David Wright. The latest have been Matt Harvey, Yoenis Cespedes and the recently-departed Daniel Murphy.

8. The Need to "Take Over" from a "False King." Every so often, Met fans have said they're going to "take over New York" or "take back New York" from the Yankees, whom they see as false kings, illegitimate rulers, usurpers. They did it in 1969, lost it again in 1976, took it back in 1984, lost it again in 1993, and haven't regained it since. No, the 2015 Pennant does not mean that the Mets have "taken back New York." Not by a long shot.

Likewise, Robb and Danerys were determined to take over from House Baratheon/Lannister. Robb failed because he trusted the wrong people, and paid for it with his life. Danerys? Stay tuned.

9. Shocking Defeats. Ned's sacrifice. The Red Wedding. Ygritte's death. Jon's apparent death at the end of last season.

Gooden vs. Mike Scioscia in 1988. Dropping the last 5 games in 1998, when winning any 1 of them would have gotten the Mets into the Playoffs. Kenny Rogers in 1999. The 2000 World Series, the most humiliating moment in Met history. (Watching the Yankees clinch at Shea Stadium must've been like if Jon Snow had to watch Joffrey screw Ygritte right in front of him, and she liked it.) Yadier Molina's home run and Carlos Beltran's called 3rd strike in 2006. Tom Glavine's meltdown in 2007. The "Groundhog Day" loss of 2008. And the Mets' unique achievement of blowing leads in 5 games in a single World Series, including the game they ended up winning, last year.

10. A Tendency Toward Unhappy Endings. George R.R. Martin is not George Lucas. He's not Steven Spielberg. He's not Frank Capra. He's more Martin Scorsese: The endings tend to be depressing. Or Francis Ford Coppola or Quentin Tarantino: Even when the ending is favorable to the main character, it's going to be bloody, and a shadow will hang over it all.

There are those who believe that the "Ice and Fire" are Jon Snow and Danerys the Unburnt, who will end up together, overthrow the Baratheons/Lannisters, and rule the Seven Kingdoms together. But, as I said, Martin is not Lucas, who believes in happy endings. Whenever things look like they're looking up, that's when GoT fans need to quote one of the more familiar lines from the Star Wars films: "I've got a bad feeling about this!"

Anyone familiar with the Mets, or the Jets -- and Martin is a fan of both -- knows not to expect happy endings. Met fans may quote Tug McGraw and say, "Ya gotta believe!" and talk about "Magic" and "Miracles," but who's kidding who?

No matter how bad things get for the Yankees and the Giants, there's always the belief that they'll be competent enough, or (at least, in the Yankees' case) rich enough, to find a way to get out of it. But no matter how good things get for the Mets and the Jets, there's always the sinking feeling that something is going to happen -- whether a blunder or something beyond the team's control, like an injury or an opponent coming through with a stunning victory -- that will ruin it all.

Maybe Martin will write a happy ending to his saga. After all, he's announced that the 7th and final book will be titled A Dream of Spring.

But that doesn't mean that the dream will come true. Or maybe it will. Remember this exchange, taking place in New York, in the film Watchmen? With everything in total disarray? In 1977, when the Grant/Seaver fiasco exploded, and the Yankees, like the City itself, barely held together long enough to get it right?

Nite Owl: "What the hell happened to us? What happened to the American Dream?"
Comedian: "'What happened to the American Dream?' It came true! You're looking at it!"

If you're a ASOIAF/GoT fan, do you really want George Martin's dream to come true?

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