I’m sure most writers have entered contests at one time or another. Especially if there’s a big cash prize or a publishing contract.
The first writing contest I entered had a prize that was much more important to me at the time.
A color TV.
Yes, I’m “of a certain age.” And yes, black-and-white televisions actually existed. But when you’re eleven years old and no one on the block has a color set, a prize like that was like winning the lottery.
Back in the day the New York Mets had this annual event called “banner day.” Fans would bring signs, many on bedsheets, and parade around the field between games of a doubleheader. The most creative would win a big prize.
And that year I had an idea that I knew would win.
Back in the day (yep, here we go again) there were actually cigarette ads on television. I know, the horror. Anyway, this brand called Tareyton had a campaign called “Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch” which featured people with black eyes. (Watch the video and look at the ad and you’ll get the idea.) And being the die-hard Mets fan that I was, I knew what to write on the perfect banner.
“Us Met fans would rather fight than switch.”
So my mom the art teacher got a big piece of poster board and together we made the banner. (Okay, she did most of the work.)
Banner Day arrived and felt like Christmas morning as I imagined watching my favorite shows in color. As my dad drove to Shea Stadium I could only think… is this the last time I’ll watch baseball in black-and-white? Will I now be the most popular kid in the neighborhood? And of course as we entered the stadium I couldn’t help but be impressed by the gorgeous green field which had only looked gray at home.
So the first game ends and my father and I carry the banner on the hallowed ground of Shea Stadium. We got a decent cheer as we went by the stands. My heart rate spiked and didn’t come down as we went back to our seats.
Then they announced the winning banner.
“Us Met fans would rather shrink than switch.”
You gotta be kidding me.
The winning kids were paraded on the field wearing oversized clothes. Seriously, that’s how they won? As we said back in the day, “No fair!”
The crowd groaned.
I held up my banner.
My dad shook his head in disgust. “We shoulda worn black eyes and torn shirts.”
But who knew the contest would have a wardrobe component?
Then we got home and my mom made it worse.
“I saw you on TV! ON TV! And the announcer loved your banner!”
It didn’t stop. That night I plopped down to watch TV as the network announcer poured salt in my wound telling viewers what show was starting. And what it should look like. “THE F-B-I… IN COLOR!”
Sure, rub it in.
Finally, to twist the knife the following year, a photo of the winners ended up in the Mets yearbook.
I finally got over it and we did eventually get a color TV, just in time for the moon landing in 1969. Which, of course, made absolutely no sense since it was mostly in black-and-white anyway because there’s not a lot of green grass or blue skies on the moon.
Anyway, that whole experience of losing a writing contest fired me up.
I never stopped entering writing contests.
And I’ll never stop writing even though I could do other stuff with my time.
I’d rather fight than switch.
Thank you so much Nic for that fun tale from the Mets and I really hope you are looking forward to Tokyo 2020 where Baseball will be an Olympic sport.
Nic Tatano can be found on Twitter and his latest book is The Lost Cats and Lonely Hearts Club which is out on Friday and available for pre-order.