This Is Not a Beard: Scenes From the Brooklyn Cyclones’ ‘Williamsburg Night’

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Strict criteria for beard-based food vouchers. Photo: Chadwick Matlin

Thursday night was Williamsburg Night for the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ lovable Minor League team. Among the promised attractions: food vouchers for bearded fans, a postgame running of the bases for anyone wearing skinny jeans, and a shuttle bus from hipster ground zero. The evening started at Full Circle Bar, a Skee-Ball dive on Havemeyer. Twenty-five bucks bought you a beer, a hot dog, a ticket, and a ride. Thirty minutes before departure, a few dozen people milled in the bar. None drank PBR. Budweiser — the Fourth of July–edition can — was ascendant.

Paul Martino, a 29-year-old statistician, wore a 1979 Pirates World Champion vintage tee, and had Ryan Gosling’s hair and Wolverine’s beard. Martino is a part-time professional air guitarist (stage name: Math Romancer) who just finished sixth in a New York City contest, one spot short of qualifying for the next round. He’ll try again elsewhere later in the month. What’s his performance style? “I don’t do a lot of choreography; I do a lot of stream-of-consciousness air guitar.”

The transportation arrived — a yellow school bus. Purposely ironic, or inadvertently ironic? Unclear. Thirty or so people boarded; mostly white, mostly young, mostly part of Full Circle’s Brewskeeball circuit, a refuge for those who find bowling leagues too demanding. A blonde, pigtailed, tattooed woman called everyone’s attention to her smartphone so she could take a picture. Folks smiled and held up their hands, middle and ring fingers tucked in. Rock and roll. Beers in a cooler were on sale in the back of the bus.

Photo: Chadwick Matlin

Arriving in Coney Island, the group put on complimentary Brooklyn Cyclones jerseys. The postgame skinny jeans event was discussed. “It’s hipster night,” explained Sarah Knee, a 25-year-old who works in digital advertising. I corrected — it’s Williamsburg night. “Same thing,” she responded

Knee, a kickball player and Brewskeeball rookie, wasn’t pleased with the hipster stereotype, but she leavened her disappointment with detachment. “It’s everywhere. I don’t fight it. I don’t care enough. There are so many better insults!” She moved to Williamsburg from Bed-Stuy four years ago. “I became an alcoholic, and I figured the bars were close,” she joked.

A guy without a shirt on sat down in our section. He wouldn’t put one on until 8:47 p.m., 107 minutes after the game began. He had four tattoos and a studded belt. Nearby, a woman was wearing a hat that read “CUNT” in big embossed letters. Kids scampered about.

Photo: Chadwick Matlin

The game had begun. The Cyclones took an early lead despite a few questionable calls from the ump. The PA system cued up a “Charge!” cheer from the crowd with one of those fake organ loops. Someone in the Skee-Ball section played along and yelled “Charge!” His fellow spectators giggled.

The Williamsburg contingent argued that the entire concept of hipster is asinine — a concoction of the media to trap a heterogeneous group of people inside an overly simplified archetype. And its association with Williamsburg, a place of racial, religious, and socioeconomic diversity, is just as lazy. “All it is is a neighborhood where like-minded people enjoy activities,” Andrew Harmon, a 30-year-old architect, said. He lives in Greenpoint.

John Fisk, a 35-year-old freelance graphic designer, suggested hipsterdom is nothing new. “Hipsters came out of the twenties, dude.” Fisk had a handlebar mustache and sideburns down to his jaw. (“I first did it for Kids vs. Cancer,” he said about his mustache. “I never did it before, decided to do it, to see how I like it.” He liked it.)

Photo: Chadwick Matlin

Across the stadium was a dude who came out of a much different Williamsburg in the fifties. Mike, who didn’t want to give his last name, is a 67-year-old who moved from Williamsburg to Queens when he was in grade school. What does he think about the neighborhood today? “Fuhgeddaboudit. It’s very different.” It’s cleaner and less gritty, he said, like the rest of New York City. “When I was growing up, you could tell where you were from how it smelled.” He swam in McCarren Park Pool (the old one), went to P.S. 19, and remembers when scooters “were a wire and wood milk crate, a two-by-four, and a roller skate nailed together.” I asked what he thought about hipsters. “Hey, everything changes,” he said.

On the field, the Cyclones were down to their final out. Men on first and second, bottom of the ninth, with Mets’ Über-prospect Brandon Nimmo at the plate. Ironic detachment was nowhere to be found among the Skee-Ball crew, which started “Let’s Go Cyclones” chants and recorded the at-bat with a video camera, one guy narrating with the boyish enthusiasm of Howard Cosell.

There’s the windup, and here’s the pitch: strike three. The ballgame is over. The Cyclones lose 5–4. There were a few groans.

The teams walked off the field, and the crowd began to file out. The PA announcer didn’t mention the skinny-jeans run — it appeared to have been canceled. The Skee-Ballers didn’t seem to mind.