I’m In The Empire Business…
Last night, while I was watching the latest episode of Breaking Bad, I was struck by a comment made by the lead character Walter White when he was asked by his partner Jesse if he was in “the money business or the meth business”. “Neither”, White replied. “I’m in the empire business.” His transformation to the dark side is now evidently complete and all it took was five seasons.
I thought about that after the show because it made me ask myself the same question about this site I started eight years ago. Mets Merized Online was born out of my need to distract myself from the real world of despair and depression that I was going through from the day I officially went from active duty to non-active. I was a mess. On top of that I started to suffer panic attacks, couldn’t adjust to civilian life, and I didn’t know it yet, but my body would soon bear evidence that my connection to active service left me with many physical and painful reminders of a time I wanted so desperately to forget.
The VA told me don’t worry, we will pay for all of your surgeries, medical treatments, physical rehabilitation, drugs and even out of pocket expenses like travel, food, etc. It was my reward for honorable service to my country. They’ve kept up their end of the deal, but I’m still a shell of my former self. I could tell you stories that would make your head spin, but I’m supposed to forget those things my therapist says.. I’m supposed go to my happy place whenever things become too much to bear. This site is my happy place.
I started it because the best friend I ever had encouraged me to write about the Mets because that’s the one thing in my life that always made me happy even when the team was losing.
Writing about the Mets also reminded me a lot of my dad, who I was very close to and who passed away from cancer. My favorite memory of my dad was a game we went to on a Friday night and I don’t even remember who we were playing. Shea was packed and we had great tickets, but the parking lot was full, and we were forced to park the car in some scary neighborhood about fifteen blocks away. Well it didn’t look scary at first when the sun was still out, but at about 11:30 PM when everything was pitch black the thought of that long walk back to the car seemed unappealing to say the least. It had rained a little that night – just a light drizzle really – but it was enough to give the dark streets that ominous shimmer and the thought that danger could be lurking anywhere. We tried to see if we could hail a cab, but there were few in sight and those we tried to stop were already occupied. “Lets just walk”, he said, and so we did.
As we put more and more distance between us and Shea we could see a group of men about two blocks ahead us in what seemed to be a little corner bodega. The sign read “Milk – Beer – Cigarettes”. It was the only glow of light in an otherwise black as hell night. “Shit’, he said. “Stick your right hand in your pocket – like you’re carrying a piece”. I looked at him and said, “Is that you’re big idea? Ripping off Al Pacino’s line from the movie The Godfather?”
All at once the two of us started busting out laughing in the middle of this deserted street save for the group hanging out in front of the 24-hour grocery store. As we got closer we saw them all decked out in their Mets gear, one of them had a cool Strawberry jersey. They were just having some beers on a late Friday night after a Mets win and we even stopped and talked with them for a little and gave one of them a cigarette. We finally got to our car unscathed and laughed all the way back to the Vegas Diner in Brooklyn on 86th street. We filled up on some eggs, pancakes and sausage before finally heading home satisfied, stuffed, tired and content. For me it was a great memory that has and will last a lifetime.
Getting back to the question of what business I’m in, my answer today is far different than if you had asked me this in 2005 or 2010. Back then, I would have replied, “Business? What business?” This is just my passion… my therapy… my addiction… Sure, when I started MMO as a multi-author site my goal was always to be different and more representative of the Mets fanbase as a whole. I needed other writers to counteract my own personal views of the Mets which are almost never mainstream. I named it Metsmerized because that word was all about passion. Still, unlike most multi author sites, few of their owners can boast that over 75% of the weekly content still comes from me. That’s the way I want it and prefer it to be. For one I do it out of respect to my talented writers who work so diligently to put out original and opinionated content that usually proves to be much more insightful than any of my rants. But mostly because the more I have to deal with the more I feel compelled to write as an escape.
I think I’ve subconsciously been doing my best to avoid this second heart procedure my doctors keep telling me I need because it’s a ticking time bomb. But it looks like I’ve run out of excuses and that it’s now – all systems go. Those damned doctors in Urology say they will not even touch me until this heart condition is taken care of. So I’ve been living on pain meds and antibiotics for the last two months to avoid the pain in my kidneys and to keep away the infection caused by the foreign bodies still nestled inside me.
I’ve had a good reason as to why I’ve been avoiding this second heart procedure. Until now, I’ve only told a handful of people what happened to me during the first heart procedure, aside from my family of course who got the news around 2:00 AM in the morning. The procedure failed because the problem was too close to my heart’s wall and they were afraid to puncture it. But believe it or not, that was the good news that day. The worse news came after I was admitted for a week-long stay and transferred out of CCU to a regular room on the 13th floor.
After a few hours of phone calls with family I finally fell asleep until I was awaken by the blaring sounds of alarms, bells, and the voice of someone on the PA system screaming this is not a drill, evacuate the 13th floor. I yelled out from my bed to my roommate across the room and asked him what the heck was going on. I heard a loud commotion outside my room, but the guy in the other bed wasn’t moving and all of a sudden I became aware that there was smoke coming into our room from under the door. All of a sudden a nurse rushed in and screamed whatever you do don’t leave your room. She was wearing a gas mask. I asked he if she a mask for me and she told me, I’m sorry, but they’re all gone now. She ran to the sink and came back and handed me a wet towel and told me to breathe though the towel. Then she ran out and left me alone with the old man in the other bed who was still motionless. The smoke was getting thicker and blacker.
Rushed to the phone, but it was dead. Grabbed my cell which only had one line of battery power left and dialed my uncle while wondering if this would be the last call I ever make. My aunt picked up and I told her, listen carefully, I think the hospital is on fire and I’m on the 13th floor. She thought I was hallucinating from the anesthesia. She tired to calm me down, but I told her to shutup and just tell everyone that I loved them. I pulled all my IV’s off, I tore off the the EKG wires from my chest, and I ripped off the oxygen tubing from my nose. I quickly grabbed my clothes from the locker, threw on my Nike’s, turned to guy in the bed, and said whoever you are, God protect you.
Less than eight hours removed from my heart procedure, I opened the door and dropped to the ground to see if I could spot the danger. All I heard were people shouting and panicking and heading for the stairs – I made my way toward them when out of nowhere an emergency responder grabbed me and asked me if I was the heart patient from 1309 and I said yes. He said I need you to keep up with me… take a deep breath and we are going to pass through the part of the hall where most of the smoke was – try to keep your breath as long as you could. Instantly, adrenaline took over my body and I was hauling ass. We made it all the way to the elevators, but only to find out they were all shutdown. I knew there was no way I’d be able to go down 13 flights of stairs, but this guy told me there was a safe room on the 11th floor. That there was no way fire or smoke could penetrate it. How’s your heart, he asked… We raced down and it felt like whatever was happening was now coming through in waves… it was beyond surreal…
We made it there and he locked me into this area where there was a nurse already waiting there to help me. My guardian angel said whatever you hear, don’t worry about it. The fire is under control, the smoke is the real danger now and we are working on it. I promise you that help will be coming back for you. I had no idea of knowing if he was telling me the truth or just telling me what I needed to hear…
When the nurse connected me back to a heart monitor, my rate was over 250 beats per minute. She told me she had to inject me with something to bring it down and give me some narcotics to calm my nerves. The computers are down and I don’t know anything about you… If you have any allergies, now’s the time to tell me… There was another guy in my room, I said, what happened to him? I know as much as you do, sir, she said as she injected something into my new IV… Whatever she did it worked.
About two to three hours later, firemen were passing to and fro and every now and then one would pop his head in and asked if I was the heart patient from 1309. They’d smile and give me a thumbs up and one even gave me an ice cold Mountain Dew (I hate Mountain Dew). One guy came in… Navy or Marines he asked me… and I said Navy. That’s what we all figured he said, I served on the Enterprise. I smiled and said, I served on the Frigate that was protecting your ass. He said, then I guess this makes us even and winked at me. “Everything’s okay now. They will be transferring you to the ICU in a few hours, and things will slowly get back to normal around here.” They did.
Hopefully, my second procedure won’t be as action-packed as the first one.
So after this long and winding road, let me answer the question of what business I’m in. As soon as I get out of the hospital, I’m in the business of officially running a Mets Fansite for a living. Not just any Mets Fansite, but in my opinion the #1 Mets Fansite. I never intended this site to grow as big as it has, and I certainly had no idea that the larger it grew, the more costly it would become to run. When I suffered through the peak of some serious financial problems that almost caused me to shut things down, I decided to educate myself and get this site to a point where it would sustain itself.
I have a lot of MMO writers and readers to thank for keeping the site going once we outgrew shared hosting. I’ll always be indebted to them, especially the ones who steered me in the right direction and told me that moving forward advertisers needed to pay based on ad impressions and not the low monthly rate I had been charging.
So now, thanks to some new partnerships with great sports entities like FOX Sports and USA Today Sports Group, things have changed. So much so, that this site now needs a full time owner who can put in 60 hours a week. The pay’s not great yet, but it’s enough for me to now devote all of my attention to MMO. We are now discussing some new initiatives for the 2013 season and some very dynamic changes we will be rolling out in a couple of months.
When I received our last two months of earnings checks from our advertising partners, at first glance I thought they had made a mistake. But they assured me the earnings were legit and that I should keep on doing whatever it is I’m doing. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do – only now on a full-time basis.
I’m now in the empire business… The Ultimate Mets Fansite business…
We are STILL as independent as ever… That means the same no-holds barred opinions we have always provided… In fact… Expect more of it…
So anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…
Thanks for reading and all of your support…
About the Author: Joe DeCaro
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.
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