Lets be honest. We all could have been Yankee fans. We could be wearing Derek Jeter jerseys, praying every night to our God Mickey Mantle and ending all debates with the robotic illogical response, “27 Championships.”
But we’re not. We’re Mets fans. And like a marriage, we’re in this for better or worse. Lately, however, it’s becoming hard to remain faithful and to love, honor and cherish this team.
Why exactly did we become fans of this team in the first place? Was it an older brother, a parent? For me it was my dad, a former Brooklyn Dodger fan who followed the Mets since their inaugural game. When I first learned baseball and incorporated Mets hats, jackets and t-shirts into my wardrobe, it was easy. The year was 1973, we went on to be NL Champions and were a good, competitive ball club. We had players, heroes, that a young boy could easily idolize. But what if it was now?
Imagine you have a son or nephew or younger brother who wants to become a Baseball fan in 2010. Would you steer his allegiance to this team? Why would you ask an impressionable child to devote a lifetime of baseball loyalty to a team and an organization such as this? Especially when there’s that other team in The Bronx?
It’s now approaching 25 years–a quarter of a century–since these Mets were Champions. To a young child, that is an incomprehensible amount of time. 25 years ago??? You might as well be talking about Babe Ruth. In the same time that we have won 1 championship and 2 pennants the Yankees have taken home 5 Championships and 7 pennants. They have won more Series’ in the last 11 years then we have won in almost 50. Now try to convince that young boy or girl to root for the Mets instead.
But it runs deeper then that. There is losing–and then there is losing. The Red Sox were cursed for 86 years but yet Fenway sold out seemingly every night and Red Sox Nation stayed faithful. The last time the Cubs were champions was 1908. Christy Mathewson led the league with 37 wins and Tim Jordan of the Brooklyn Superbas led the league in HR’s with 12. But yet, can you think of a more devoted fan base then the Cubs? The last time the Giants were Champions the highlight of that series was ‘The Catch’ by Willie Mays. The Giants, despite having some of the best HR hitters in the last half-century, have yet to win since leaving The Polo Grounds for San Francisco. Yet, their fans remain dedicated.
We, too, are no strangers to losing. For the first 8 years in our history we averaged 105 losses per season. But we were ‘lovable losers.’ Sure, we lost, but at least we were funny. Entertaining. It was Casey Stengel who said, ‘I’ve been in this game 100 years and I find new ways to lose every day I never knew existed.’ In the late 70’s/early 80’s we lost, too. The players we had were barely one step above AAA. But they hustled and they played with heart. And although Shea had 45000 empty seats every game, no one booed. We still cheered for them because at least they tried. One rare highlight during those dark days was when we won 5 of our last 6 games in 1979 to stay under 100 losses for the season. Times were so bad we were actually proud of that “accomplishment.”
When my father taught me the game, I asked plenty of questions. But they were all baseball-related. What’s the difference between a sacrifice and a suicide? What’s the difference between a passed ball and a wild pitch? But nowadays if your son is asking questions, they are of a different nature. How does one explain to their son or daughter why your closer beat up his father-in-law. Or explain Rape to a young child when they read about accusations surrounding your ace. Or explain why certain members of this so-called “team” refused to go to a hospital to visit wounded soldiers.
Even our own heroes have checkered pasts. I was too young to remember 1969. But when I asked my dad where those players were now the answers made sense to a 7 year old. Ed Charles retired. Donn Clendenon became an attorney. Tommie Agee owned a restaurant. Ron Swoboda was the sports anchor on Channel 2.
Move forward. How do you answer your 10 year old when they ask, ‘Whatever happened to Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry?’ Try to explain why part of the reason Keith Hernandez is not in the Hall of Fame may be due to his cocaine use. Or why Ray Knight, although series MVP in 86, was gone the following year for more money. Whereas my dad explained to me what a balk was nowadays one must explain what Rehab means.
Even our expensive new stadium has done little to increase interest. As bad as things may seem now, imagine how bleak they may look in 15 years. The kids of today are becoming the Yankee fans of tomorrow.
It’s difficult to be proud of anything Mets-related. What happens ON the field has taken a back seat to what happens OFF the field. This club has been transformed from a major league team to a reality show. But this season will end shortly. Jerry Manuel? Omar Minaya? Howard Johnson? Luis Castillo? Who will be voted off next? Stay tuned…