Thumbs Down Guy was a few minutes away from his iconic GIF becoming a memoriam.
Gary Dunaier — the 56-year-old New York Mets fan whose thumbs down animated image has become a default symbol for voicing displeasure on Twitter and elsewhere — drifted in and out of consciousness at his Queens apartment on June 6 after a varicose vein burst in his leg.
“I live alone and was able to get to the phone and call 911,” Dunaier told USA TODAY Sports. “The next thing I knew, I found myself lying on the floor and blood was pouring over the floor. I couldn’t get to the door to unlock it, so the rescue crew must have broken down the door to get in. I heard things falling onto the floor.”
Dunaier said doctors told him when he came to at a hospital that at one point he had a liter of blood left in his body — roughly one fifth what the average body has circulating.
“I came really close to dying,” Dunaier said.
>After a five-day stay in the hospital, Dunaier launched a GoFundMe page to cover medical-related expenses – including lost wages for doctor visits – that have resulted in about a $30,000 debt. He said his immediate concern is being able to make it through the month financially.
“It’s been almost going to be two years now and still I’m still in stunned disbelief at how this (fame) happened and I still have no grasp of what the thumbs down thing means to people,” said Dunaier, who returned to his job with the New York Unified Court System this week. “People come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for what you did.’ I don’t know what I did.
“If people want to get selfies with me at the ballpark, I’m glad to do it if that makes their experience at a game more enjoyable.”
Dunaier’s thumbs down was broadcast by the YES Network during a September 2017 game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays game at Citi Field, the home park of his beloved Mets. The game was originally scheduled to be played in St. Petersburg, Florida, but was moved to Citi Field by MLB because of Hurricane Irma.
Todd Frazier hit a three-run home run to left field during the Sept. 11, 2017, contest to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead, the game’s final score. The GIFs began to pop up hours later. The most popular version of that moment — created by MLB.com — was been viewed more than 155 million times, according to GIF sharing site Giphy.
“A lot of people initially thought I was a Rays fan because I happened to wear a blue shirt to the game,” Dunaier said. “The truth is that I was a Mets fan who thought it would be fun to be at the first regular season MLB game at Citi Field that didn’t involve the Mets.”
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum seized on the sensation and created a bobblehead of the Dunaier, which is for sale for $25. Dunaier gets a portion of the sales of the bobblehead, although even if those sell out, it won’t cover his medical bills. That leaves his GoFundMe page, which surpassed $3,000 on Wednesday evening.
“The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming,” Dunaier said. “I can’t find the words to say just how much it all means to me. I think Karl Ehrhardt, the legendary ‘Sign Man of Shea Stadium,’ said it best with the sign he held up after the Mets won the World Series in 1969: there are no words.”
Someone brought a #thumbsdownguy#bobblehead to Saturday’s @Mets game hoping I’d be there and he could ask me to sign it. Sure enough, I was at the game, he found me, and I signed it for him. ? Does that mean I’m officially famous now? ? pic.twitter.com/oo1kN1iCOa
— Gary Dunaier (Thumbs Down Guy) (@GaryDunaier) July 10, 2018
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ A.J. Perez on Twitter @byajperez.