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From Everything.Sucks

The New York Mets are a Major League Baseball team based in the New York City borough of Queens. They compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) East division. They are one of two MLB teams based in New York City, the other being the New York Yankees of the American League (AL).

Craig Calcaterra wrote a piece for NBC SPORTS called ¨We need to stop glorifying the 1980s Mets¨after three New York Mets were accused of raping a woman.

The story is about a woman who accused three New York Mets players — Dwight Gooden, Vince Coleman, and Daryl Boston –of raping her during spring training in Florida in 1991. They were never charged with a crime. The woman, who has since died, was one of many who came forward with accusations of sexual assault, sexual impropriety, and domestic violence against Mets players over the years. Like almost all of the others, however, her story was basically ignored by police and the public and her character was attacked. She was a “baseball groupie” the police and the press said. Nothing probably happened, but even if it did, she was probably asking for it. Her account is particularly harrowing, however, mostly because of the specifics of the alleged rape, but also because, unlike some other accusations against Mets players, hers has not been talked about much over the years. Indeed, while it made the news at the time, it was quickly forgotten and even many hardcore Mets fans have no memory of it or never heard of it in the first place.

There’s a certain sort of fan, a certain sort of media member, and a certain sort of social media account that tends to glorify old school sports, with “old school” these days generally consisting of the 1970s and 1980s. Sometimes it’s serious glorification, with the point of view being that of an old-timer who genuinely thinks the olden days were better and who laments the alleged lack of hard-nosed play in today’s game. Sometimes it’s a lot more tongue-in-cheek. Tweets or stories in which the speaker praises mustaches, bright polyester uniforms and elevates less-than-savory characters into admirable anti-heroes. There’s overlap, of course. Both sorts like to call guys of a past era “badasses” for stances, attitudes, appearances, and acts that, if a modern player were to do it, would more likely lead to criticism. Even the tongue-in-cheek remembrances have a heavy dose of sincere admiration for their historic subjects. We’ve all done this to some extent. I’m sure I have a load of posts on this site singing the praises of some guy from 30-40 years ago simply because he played 30-40 years ago. I’ve posted that photo of Dave Parker smoking in the dugout many times and have uncritically shared countless anecdotes about facial hair, doubleknits, multipurpose stadiums and the behavior of players who trod the base paths when Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan ran the show. It’s fun. It helps connect people to a part of the game’s history they may not be familiar with or which, if they are, they may simply be happy to remember. Baseball’s past is more important to its present than the past of most other sports are to their own so it makes perfect sense that those of us who write and talk about it are going to walk down memory lane a fair bit. But there’s a danger in all of this. The same danger there is with respect to all nostalgia: in fondly remembering the past, we tend to whitewash parts of the past that should not be fondly remembered. Or, worse, we simply forget the ugly parts of the past that we should never forget.

One of the most commonly-recalled teams of the old school era are the mid-to-late 1980s Mets. It’s rare to go even a few weeks in a baseball season when they are not name-checked, written about, or otherwise remembered by someone in the sporting press. There are many obvious reasons for this:

The 1980s Mets were a great team that won one of the most memorable World Series in history. That the Mets are a franchise known more for dubious accomplishments than triumphant ones makes that dominant 1986 club even more memorable than it’d be if it were another franchise;

Like a lot of winning teams those 1980s Mets teams had a lot of superstars — a future Hall of Famer included — but it was also a colorful team with big personalities and with players whose life and career arcs make for great storytelling. Some of that storytelling is heroic. Some of it is comic. A lot of it is tragic. More than most baseball teams, those Mets lend themselves to almost any sort of narrative a writer wants to pursue;

Finally, the fact that the Mets play in baseball’s biggest media market no doubt raises their historic profile. When a lot of reporters are scrounging for stories, some of them are likely going to check back to the past to give their version of a story a different, historic angle. “The Mets just did something dumb? Hey, let’s remember back when they weren’t a laughingstock for a couple of years!” Add in the fact that a few of the players on that club later joined the early parts of the 1990s Yankees dynasty, and you have a story that can potentially relate to both teams in the market, giving the story some nostalgic synergy.

So yes, it makes perfect sense that the Mets are the most often-recalled baseball team of the 1980s. It makes perfect sense that they have ensconced themselves in the minds of fans, writers, and historians alike. But it also means that, more than any baseball team in living memory, the dark side of the 1980s Mets has been glossed over and, in some cases, forgotten.

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