A grown man asked me to take a picture of him with a minor league baseball team’s mascot this weekend, but before I did, he needed to put on his puffy shirt. You see, he was just trying to match Sandy the Seagull.
There are certain phrases Seinfeld introduced into the lexicon, as well as various everyday objects and phenomena that fans of the show will forever associate with it. A puffy shirt falls somewhere between these two categories, amidst low-talkers, double-dipping a chip, marble rye, and Junior Mints. All (plus many, many more) were incorporated into July 5th’s Brooklyn Cyclones game, where the Coney Island-based team held a “Salute to Seinfeld” night in honor of the 25th anniversary of the show’s premiere as The Seinfeld Chronicles. The event, held at the temporarily renamed “Vandelay Industries Park,” sold out upwards of 7,000 tickets within minutes of going on sale back in May.
The author, left, and Sandy the Seagull in a puffy shirt.
Why are we clamoring to celebrate a show that is so ubiquitous, its fandom — especially among New Yorkers — is presumed? Seinfeld and a baseball game at Coney Island: what’s more American than that? For one thing, it’s amusing to watch the Soup Nazi (actor Larry Thomas) incorporate his catchphrase (“No soup for you!”) into Seinfeld-themed sideline contests such as the Junior Mint toss, fishing for marble rye, and the “Pick or Scratch” (as in nose) game. A latex salesman and a uniformed postal service employee were among those who threw out the first pitch, much to the Newman-esque disgruntlement of the hundreds of uniformed postal service employees I saw on Saturday.
Seinfeld is ripe for trivia, it being a trivial show. While cult-status sitcoms that followed — Arrested Development chief among them — used their inside jokes as recurring bits, Seinfeld was a geyser of ephemeral schticks. Recognizing a lesser-known Seinfeld joke is like spotting a dime. This is where the Cyclones’ curation impressed. A contest for the person with the fattest wallet (bonus points for hard candy in there), á la George? Custom-made Keith Hernandez “Magic Loogie” bobbleheads that say, “I’m Keith Hernandez” and “Nice game, pretty boy”? A cereal-eating contest? I had to think about this one for a second: combining Jerry’s favorite food with a contest?
These deep-digging inside jokes are a big part of why I imagine the Cyclones’ tribute appealed to Seinfeld fanatics from 14 different states and three different countries. There’s also something to be said for celebrating the thing everyone likes among your fellow superfans. It’s why conventions celebrating The Beatles — another iconic cultural entity whose universally beloved status is rarely questioned — continue to thrive: you can have a conversation about them with most people over a certain age, but will it be nerdy enough to make you feel like part of something? Loving something as common as Seinfeld or The Beatles does not predicate participation in a subculture, as many fandoms do, but superfans of those things still crave connection with other obsessives.
The Cyclones lost miserably (18-2 to the Aberdeen Ironbirds), but I’d venture to say many attendees didn’t particularly care. We were far more interested in who won the Elaine dancing contest.