Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Mets Go To War

As a lifelong Mets fan, I could wax on endlessly about the wonders of the Amazins.

But this piece is about a quarrel I have had with my team of late. And I'm not talking about their 14-12 record. That, ya gotta believe, will pass.

My problem is with the Mets TV network's new subway ad campaign. In case you haven't noticed it, the series of ads feature action shots of one of the team's stars accompanied by fighting words: Jose Reyes slides into a bag above the caption "Bases, Reloaded"; David Wright swings to the slogan "Not-So-Secret Secret Weapon"; and new ace hurler Johan Santana's headline threatens "Armed and Ready".

I fully admit that I might very well be blowing my concerns out of proportion, but after passing these ads for a couple weeks, I've come to the conclusion that the campaign's rhetoric is uncalled for, if not flat out inappropriate. After five bloody years lost to quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems to me in poor taste to rile up Mets fans with military-inspired wordplay.

Gone is the tender amiability of "Meet the Mets", the audacious hope of "The Magic is Back", even the fatalistic gravity of "The Team. The Time. The Mets." and "Your Season Has Come". Instead, the Mets holster up this season with an arsenal of aggression aimed oratorically at gunning down their adversaries. Replace Wright and Santana with photos of Ted Nugent and Charlton Heston and you've got perfect publicity for the N.R.A.

Many of you may be confounded, if not appalled, by this conclusion, but as someone who teaches advertising copywriting I understand the potent craft behind headlines and how they are carefully composed to provoke the public. I am not inferring that the Mets have deliberately unleashed a barrage of stealth pro-war propaganda. I understand that the hostility of the campaign's tone was likely conceived to combat the stinging memory of the team's ignominious collapse last season. Nonetheless, words carry great influence, especially with children. The terminology we employ to describe something inevitably plays a part in defining its nature. To some degree, this ad campaign glorifies baseball as a shootout and the Mets as soldiers. For many this might mean nothing, but to me I'd rather keep blood lust out of the ballpark.

I am reminded of George Carlin's classic stand-up bit about the differences between baseball and football. In sum, Carlin characterizes the language of baseball as portraying a genteel game of beauty, while football's delineates a brutal battle to annihilate. Those who feel passionately like I do about baseball know that the sport is far from as innocuous as Carlin jokes, but we also know that what makes baseball special is its humanity. The heroes of baseball aren't famed for meting out the most concussions or firing slap shots past hapless defenders. They are idolized for immortalizing our childhood dreams in a world so otherwise ruthlessly determined to crush them.

America's pastime isn't war. When I go to Shea, I ask nothing more for my price of admission than a few hours of peace. That 50,000 New Yorkers can find this tranquility together 81 times a year is the true miracle of the Mets.

1 comment:

The Mets Police said...

The worst thing that ever happened to Shea was Diamondvision. They fell in love with the "Charge!" video and it was all down hill from there.