By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper
I remember when I was a kid, I skinned my knee or something. I was crying, putting up a fuss. My dad was minding me at the time, and he got the Band-Aid and the Bactine, and I was good as new. Of course, I wasn’t used to this side of my dad, whom I referred to adoringly as “My hero” for the rest of the year (I was four, leave me alone).
My dad got me into the Mets of course. And into a lot of things that would have many people accuse me (even until this day) of being a tomboy (and there’s nothing wrong with it). But there are two things my dad got me into that have deep rooted childhood memories: baseball and pro-wrestling. Who wasn’t sitting in their living room with their dad on a Saturday morning, watching Hulk Hogan take out the Iron Sheik during the era of Reaganomics?
Dad called me on Saturday and we talked about a few things, namely about my affiliation with those two sports and one fallen icon, one troubled. We talked about Randy “Macho Man” Savage (who was one of Dad’s favorites) who passed away last week, and about Gary Carter, my guy from the 1980s teams, who was diagnosed with four brain tumors found in a recent MRI scan. My words to my dad exactly were, “This is a bad week for my childhood heroes.”
Today, I found out about another fallen hero, a champion if you will, someone who was a voice of the Mets kingdom, a true friend and a brother to all Mets fans around the globe. That fellow is Dana Brand, who sadly passed away yesterday from a heart condition at age 56.
I first met Dana in 2007, appropriately as the Mets were blowing their lead in the final week of September. He was doing a book reading on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for his recent release of the Mets Fan book, a chronicle of his devotion the team that would form yet another connection between us and the folks who came to support his book. I met several Mets bloggerati that day, but this was Dana’s moment. I was extremely flattered when in 2009 his book The Last Days at Shea, he mentioned that very day in his book and singled out myself and the ladies I attended the reading with by the nicknames we coined ourselves back then: The Joan Whitney Paysons.
Dana was the type of fellow who had an infectious personality, not unlike the very people I would write about at My Summer Family, my retired blog that I started the same year his first book was released. I knew Dana was a fan of MSF, commenting every now and then, and even giving me words of encouragement as I retired it, telling me I was an important voice of the soul in the Mets community. (His words, not mine, and you have no idea what it meant to hear that).
I’d run into him at games of course. I’d see him at the line at Shake Shack, where we mourned the loss of Shea Stadium for the new CitiField in 2009, I’d see him at charity events…we even attended them with our respective parents! (Him with his mother, me with the same dude who put Bactine on my knee). I’d hear him read from his books at events like Amazin’ Tuesdays. But I never forgot how we were first brought together: by our team, the New York Mets.
Dana was a sincere guy, and he was passionate about writing about the Mets just as much as he was passionate about the team. He was true voice of the fan. He wasn’t into being a mouthpiece for the organization, which we see so many doing these days. He was a fan, and he wore his heart on his sleeve because of it.
I haven’t seen Dana in a while. Last I heard from him, it was in an email format, asking about interest in a Mets 50th Anniversary Conference at Hofstra University, where he was a professor of English literature (yet, another bond we had, with me being an English major). I sent him my info, I would be thrilled to attend. Apparently some of my friends saw him at a Mets event on Saturday. Sadly, I could not attend. That is truly my loss.
I was saddened to learn of my friend’s passing this morning, and with a very heavy heart I write this today. I’ll always miss him, and I’ll certainly raise a glass to him when the Mets win a championship. I also hope we honor him by having the conference next year. Dana would certainly want it to be that way.
Dana Brand is a champion and a hero to the Mets blogging and fan communities. I can only wish that somehow, he knows about our outpouring of love and grief for the fan and man he was. Rest in peace, my friend.