By Ian Fried, Contributor
In August 2005 Dana Brand sent an essay to Newsday about why he was a Mets fan. The piece sent shockwaves through the Mets fan world. "This, by far, has got to be one of the best Mets articles I've ever read," one user commented in response online. Another wrote, "Seriously, that brought a tear to my eye."
Then chair of the Hofstra English department, Brand received hundreds of e-mail responses to the Newsday essay. "On the spot," he said, "I decided I was going to write a book about being a Mets fan."
Thus, the aptly titled "Mets Fan" was born. Published in 2007, the book describes Brand's first-hand experience as a baseball fan throughout the years."
There is no good reason why I should care about the New York Mets," Brand writes. "Like all baseball teams, they are a business." Still, while it is ridiculous to cheer for the success of a business, he writes, it is also impossible for him not to.
His poetic writing style and unique point of view quickly made Brand the voice of Mets fans across the globe. While Brand is inspired by those fans, his favorite writers include Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville and Dante Alighieri.
He admires Hemingway's "direct accessibility," and the way he manages to be "poetic with simple words" and he appreciates Melville's ability to probe the entire world through the metaphor of whaling.
"I never see myself writing just about baseball," Brand said. He also admires Dante, who he says, "gives you a sense of entering an extraordinary world." A world, perhaps, in which the nine Circles are nine innings, and the sins are errors and wild pitches. Nevertheless, Brand urges aspiring writers to "be influenced," but to, "find your own voice." He also advises student writers to take creative writing classes at Hofstra and put their writing on the Internet to get fresh opinions from unbiased readers.
Brand shared baseball with his parents growing up, and now shares it with his daughter. He has created a new generation of Mets fans.
The Mets have afforded Brand more than just a better relationship with his daughter. He has been working with the organization to put together a conference for the team's 50th anniversary, to be held at Hofstra in 2012. "We have the cooperation of the Mets," Brand said "It is going to be great."The conference will feature former players, managers and executives, who will discuss the team's history. "It is the first conference ever to focus on the history of a single team," said Brand.
In addition to the front office personnel that have reached out to Brand to work on the conference, a number of other members of the Mets family have contacted Brand. Broadcasters Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Howie Rose, as well as former pitcher Jerry Koosman, have praised Brand's work.
In fact, Mets Fan has received such commendation that Brand wrote a second book about the Mets, "The Last Days of Shea," which chronicles the turbulent final seasons at the Mets' old stadium.
"The Last Days of Shea chronicles the ending of a ballpark," said Darling, "but even more importantly, it reveals the spirit and resoluteness of Mets fans as they bring their ‘ya gotta believe' attitude to their new home."
Like thousands of other fans, Brand purchased a brick on the Fanwalk outside Citi Field, which allows fans to customize a message to be forever linked to the new ballpark. It reads: "METS FANS / FOREVER / THE BRANDS."