BLOG Tuggy and the Mets
There’s something about a professional baseball game and the intense energy created when you are rooting for your team — however esteemed they may or may not be — with other like-minded fans. It’s primarily about making connections with people through a shared affinity for your team, through good times and hard luck. Certain teams — and their fans, by extension — have more hard luck than others. Still, when a connection is cultivated in childhood, it’s an incredibly strong experience that stays with you for the duration. This I have learned.
We’re from New York. This post is about the Mets — and our dog, Tug McGraw.
Becoming a baseball fan can also happen through some kind of personal introduction, like meeting someone for whom that team is incredibly important. And so you brave the unfamiliar packed stadium (with its zealous crowds — and New York crowds are some of the most zealous, for sure) and learn more about the game, the team, its players, its history and the nuances of baseball so you can share the experience with this person who's so incredibly important to you.
That’s what happened when I met my boyfriend. I learned rather quickly that he has been a lifelong New York Mets fan. Through him, I’ve come to understand why a team carries such a special place in the hearts of its fans - whether the team is popular and “winning” or whether its players just go out there and give it their all without the roar of an ecstatic crowd. In New York, as in most places, if the fans aren’t happy it's an altogether different kind of roar. And New Yorkers do have a distinctive roar.
While it's always about the standings, being a fan is ultimately about so much more. There is more than one way to measure winning, of course.
All of this to say that this is how we came to name our puppy Tug McGraw after the Mets pitcher who also happened to play for the Phillies. A New York guy that moved on to Pennsylvania, that's our story - and Tuggy's too.
Like other baseball teams, the Mets have an event that brings fans and their dogs to the stadium each year: Bark in the Park. We are ready and willing to deck out Tug in some crazy-expensive Mets merch for dogs later in the season and ride the train with The 7 Line Army and their best friends to root for Tuggy's namesake’s team, come what may.
What could go wrong with a bunch of dogs and their excitable fan-owners on a subway in NYC?
As the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies squared off this past weekend, it reminded me that a connection exists between dog owners and baseball fans. That’s because baseball fans share the ups and downs of the team’s fates with strangers. It turns strangers into kindred spirits right quick.
Similarly, dog owners have a shared connection that has helped us acclimate to Pennsylvania after moving here last year for our jobs. We take Tug McGraw out for a walk to socialize and, inevitably, he creates the impetus for an introduction to our neighbors - many of whom are not keen on the fact that the dog was named after a NY Mets pitcher; they prefer the Phillies/Tug McGraw connection. We get that.
More than that, though, it’s an opportunity to share a hello with a stranger, chat about your mutual admiration for dogs and leave with a feeling of connection. That's a valuable thing when you're new to town and the locals don't quite get your choice of home team or your New York accent. The dog is the great ice breaker and equalizer. He brings people together.
And rooting for your team is a great way to break the ice, too. Mets fans share a special camaraderie, especially in the stadium. There's mutual admiration and understanding of the incredible highs and lows that come with rooting for the New York Mets. But the highs keep outweighing the lows because when you commit to this team, there's no turning back. It's a really cool feeling to bond with other people at the ballpark. It's a common language.
Being a sports fan and owning a dog bring with them the possibility of incredible joy — but not without complete dedication and some measure of suffering, depending on the season. And both relationships are fueled by loyalty, even when - maybe especially when - you're rooting for the underdog.