Admittedly, I chuckled too. When Will in Queens dialed WFAN in New York two weeks ago and got choked up discussing Chase Utley’s slide into Rueben Tejada his trembling call became an overnight sensation. Most people snickered and poked fun at what appeared to be a middle-aged man getting emotional over a baseball game, as though the Mets shortstop’s broken leg was a personal affront to a loved one.
Mike Francesa summed up most people’s feelings as Will hung up. “Will are you crying? You’re not really crying over this I hope. Jeez. Come on, calm down. Jeez. Will come on, come back to us.”
But a funny thing happened as the audio of Will’s call spread through cyberspace and popped up on Facebook pages and in email inboxes leading up to Game 3 of the NLDS at Citi Field. Mets fans connected. They understood the depth of pain Will was feeling. That punch-in-your-gut, slap-yo-mamma part of sports, where something you love, the team/family you bleed with takes one in the eye.
We all get emotional about sports. If we didn’t, why would we care? Now maybe it doesn’t manifest itself in crying during a call to a sports radio station. Perhaps you haven’t shed a tear since elementary school. But you’ve jumped for joy, cursed in an empty room, punched a pillow or high-fived a stranger. And how different is that from Will?
1987. I was eight years old. I sat on the couch and watched the Mets miss the playoffs after winning the World Series the year before. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. My dad looked at me and asked if I was crying. Then he laughed.
“Dame, you’re gonna have to get used to this if you’re gonna be a Mets fan.”
1989. Bases loaded, two outs in my Warwick (NY) Little League game. My Red Sox team trailed by just a run after rallying for two in the final frame. I grounded out to short. Game over. I came home and bawled my eyes out. I felt like I let my team down. My mom tried to console me, then gave up. She made me go work through my Goodwill Hunting moment in the front yard.
“Dame, it’s not that big a deal. Don’t worry, your team isn’t that good anyway.”
So yeah, I snickered at Will. I hadn’t cried over anything sports-related since C&C Music Factory was a thing. But if I was honest with myself, I’d have realized I’ve felt the same way too. Maybe it was decades ago, all before middle school. But Will just tapped into something that most adults get sanded down over years of cynicism about athlete behavior, owner greed, and overpriced beers.
In a hugely classy move, Francesa invited Will to watch Game 3 with him from his seats behind the plate. He was a bigger celeb than Mike that night. He was taking pictures with fans “non-stop.” Mets third-base coach Tim Tuefel handed him a ball. He was a walking photo-op at the Mets World Series rally early this week.
I invited Will onto my show Thursday night. “I had people coming up to me at the Met rally, ‘Will you hold my child. Can I take a picture with you.’ I’m serious. It was a little weird, but we did it!”
There was something that Will (a junior high math teacher) tapped into for every fan. “I got people hugging me in the street. My kids are coming in – their parents are crying over it. I’m serious.”
“My wife will come home, and she’ll bring home the papers. There will be a story that says here’s Will from Queens who cried on the Francesa Show. But that doesn’t bother me. It was just honestly how I felt at the moment.”
“I guess it was everything. It just happened so fast. It just kinda came out.”
“We Are All Will in Queens” signs have popped up everywhere, and I totally get it. He embodied being able to fully express the connection we all feel in some way to our teams and players. Most of us cloak it in adult detachment. But occasionally you’re an eight-year-old on the couch.
As Will left the studio he thanked me for having him come in.
“Oh man Will, pleasure was all mine, I loved the passion. I loved the emotion.”
Will responded, “Those were the exact words Tim Tuefel said to me.”
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.