Fans For Fair Play
Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project

Friday, October 20, 2006

A called third strike 

A called third strike...

Our readers know we usually write about the Ratner project. We write about sports, music, culture, politics, but always relating to these glass block skyscrapers, wasted public money and ethically-vacant political machinations.

We're Mets fans here at FFFP.

Yes, and tonight you can see where this one's going.

A called third strike...

We've been battling Ratner for 34 months -- two short of three full years. FFFP came about because Ratner exploits sports. We couldn't let that go.

Not that we love sports. That's us...sports fans who don't love sports.

Ironic, the idea that sports can be exploited. Exploiting the exploiter.

Sports, this realm where young men and women squander real life for the one-in-a-million chance that they'll be rich and famous.

...where athletes give their hearts to their employers and then, with one blow-out knee, the employers cast them out without a second thought.

...where fans' devotion is chopped and purreed by the outrageous cost of being there, watching from a distance, or dressing up for the game.

...where governments and owners force everyone to pay for grand colosseums that increasingly only permit the well-heeled to ever set foot inside.

A called third strike tonight in Flushing, in the drizzle that looked like real rain when the t.v. cameras compressed it for the cathode-ray tube.

And yet we still compete, watch and dream about sports.

We're that stupid.

We're that gullible.

We're that human.

It's a Rollerballian agression-sponge, a way to process pain and joy, soaring victory and crushing defeat.

It's also a nice way to spend an afternoon or evening. Sometimes you're with like-minded people -- at the game, watching in your favorite bar, or at home with your honey or soulmates (and maybe they're one in the same).

Sometimes, shockingly but sadly not surprisingly, you're with people you have nothing else in common with. The ones who yell toxic homophobic slurs and the other team's stars, or sexist diminutives at you for asking "what's with all the hate?"

For us -- Mets fans and anti-Ratner fighters -- tonight was supposed to be a salve. Not a cure, not an antidote. A salve. Unlike the New York Yankees, whose seasonal outcome can only be deemed "a success" if they win the World Series, Mets fans have a team that more closely follows real life.

In fact, rooting for this era's Yankees -- a dull, corporate, hype-fueled juggernaut with a shrouded, unsavory underside -- is like rooting for Bruce Ratner.

Now, when the Mets win, it's really something. The Miracle Mets in 1969, the fantastic run by 1986's weirdos and ruffians, and this year's squad -- a genuinely likable bunch with conservative God-squaders playing alongside political progressives who argue bravely against the war, all managed by a real Brooklynite, not some faux bullshit construct put forth by Bruce Ratner's p.r. wing.

See, the Mets don't win so often. Just like life. Really...in our waking days, we're lucky if we play .500 ball. In sports that's mediocrity. Outside of sports, that's a really good life. We each get a few things we really dream about: a career we love, a soulmate we love, a community we love. But for too many it's just jobs that simply pay the bills, a partner who may or may not make the sun rise and the moon cry, a house that's not a home.

And in all that, people more powerful than us pull strings. Maybe we just get jersked around like wooden marionettes.

Or maybe we pull back on those strings.

Pull hard.

Pulling back, often, means fighting City Hall.

You can't fight City Hall. But here's the secret: we can. And we should.

Believing we can't fight City Hall is like taking a called third strike...with two outs in the bottom of the ninth...with the bases loaded...in Game Seven...of the League Championship Series.

Lucky for Brooklyn, those of us fighting for a better future than Ratner's got sticking out of his back pocket know better than to take a called third strike.

We've been swinging away at those borderline pitches for three years now. We'll never take a called third strike. Tens of thousands of us have stepped up to the plate -- some more confidently than others, some experienced in the high-pressure stakes of fighting City Hall, others brand new to the game.

We may not win. Here at FFFP, we think we will. But if we lose, we'll go down swinging.

Swinging with heart and soul -- that, friends, is what City Hall fears...what Markowitz, Schumer, Bloomberg, Pataki, Gargano, Bender, DePlasco, Stuckey, Todd, Clarke, Jeffries, Goldin, McLaughlin, Lewis, Daughtry ALL fear.

There's a line from the best-ever television program, Joss Whedon's space-Western show Firefly. The captain of a space freighter, Mal Reynolds, is being questioned by an military officer with the evil Alliance -- like Bloomberg's New York questioning those who love Brooklyn's eccentric soulful rough edges.

Years before, Mal had been a commander with the Browncoats, the rebel army fighting for self-determination against the oppressive Alliance.

"It says here, Captain Reynolds, that you fought for the rebels during the war. The browncoats lost that war."

"Fought for the losing side," Reynolds replies. "Still not sure it was the wrong one."

That's us -- Mets fans, anti-Ranter activists, pro-Brooklyn lovers. We are fighting, and we are not losing because we are fighting.

Fighting City Hall is the very one thing that City Hall will never, ever understand.

...because they themselves never had to fight for anything in their lives.

Tonight, in the light rain in Flushing, a called third strike.

It stole away magic.

We don't get to taste magic all that often. Beltran's called third strike denied us magic.

See, that's one of the many things that's so wrong about Ratner's vision of Brooklyn: there's no magic. It's all lies, set pieces, stage props and manufactured thrills.

But none of it's real and none of it's magic.

And here, in Brooklyn, the home of magic.

The magic we let slip through our fingers tonight at Shea would've been a salve, yes, but as it continued to last and heal, it would've been something to talk about forever.

St. Louis fans are celebrating tonight, and of course, they don't care a lick how they won the pennant. Nothing wrong with that.

But the loss for the rest of us is that magic evaporated right in front of us. Mookie Wilson magic, Kirk Gibson magic, Bill Mazeroski Magic. Limiting it to just baseball magic here. And because this is Brooklyn, we're not including Bobby Thomson magic. No...frakkin'...way.

Sports is nothing if not memories, the kind that are so vibrant after so many years that somehow they trump most everything else we retain in those creaky noggins of ours.

It'd be nice if those blazing memories were different -- the morning Nelson Mandela walks to freedom on Robben Island, Bobby Sands is elected to Parliament while dying in a hungre strike in Ireland, Tommy Smith and John Carlos raise their Black Power salutes at the 1968 Olympics.

But for reasons both obvious and mysterious, good and bad, it's sports that we keep going back to.

Sports is a salve.

After fighting Ratner these three years, we wanted not just a memory, but magic, to rub on our bruises. Magic from a Brooklyn kid in the big time, in a creaky old stadium thrown up for a space-age World's Fair that feels so long ago, when we thought someday we'd have our own jet-packs and commuter flights to Mars instead of security alerts, fear and desolation.

Magic that comes when a crushing home-run from the opposition, and in response in the last-chance last inning, the Mets battle right back to set the table for the Big Magic Moment.

It was the perfect salve. We're talking more than just Bactine here.

A called third strike.

Every baseball player knows you guard the strike zone.

Magic doesn't happen unless you make it happen.

City Hall isn't fought unless we do the fighting.

So there's no magic pouring out of Shea tonight. It's 1:45 in the a.m., and the rain is still coming down. If it's gray tomorrow morning, well, big surprise there.

And if it's sunny, how many of us want the sunshine taunting us. It's sunny in St. Louis and Detroit, it is.

Detroit, where beautiful old Tiger Stadium sits abandoned and lonely, while a charmless public-financed stadium gets to host the World Series. A stadium that an owner as creepy as Bruce Ratner promised would revitalize the town. A stadium where a block away abandoned factory buildings still have broken windows and fans won't park their cars.

No salve, no magic, no legendary season for the Mets and their fans.

Wait 'til next year.

That's what Dodger fans used to say, every year except 1955.

Does Bruce Ratner know this? Only if he read it on a talking-points sheet of paper prepared by his p.r. people.

Winter's come a week earlier than we had hoped. That's okay...we're used to the cold. For 34 months we've gotten the chill treatment from our mayor, governor, borough president, senator, chamber of commerce and a collection of sycophants and power-mad brigands.

That's the thing about magic -- along with everything else, it too doesn't happen on its own. You have to make it.

That's what's happening here in Brooklyn, where the magic that comes from fighting City Hall is alive and well. The Mets' defeat tonight reminds us, as did the deaths of Dr. King, Malcolm X, Joe Strummer, Jane Jacobs, that if we don't create that magic ourselves, ain't no one gonna do it for us. We nourished ourselves with the power those men and women spoke. Now that they're gone, we have to make the power ourselves.

There'll be no called third strikes in Brooklyn ever again.

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