You tell someone that a mutual friend has recently passed away. Tell them that a co-worker you both knew has been diagnosed with a disease. Mention that perhaps you yourself are having a ‘procedure’ done cause something’s wrong and it can be terminal. The way people react (myself included) is always the same: There’s a long pause, a prolonged silence, perhaps a widening of the eyes. Maybe there’ll be a comment made along the lines, ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ or ‘If you need anything let me know.’ It’s always an awkward situation for all parties involved.
Recently, I’ve noticed I get similar reactions when I tell people I’m a Mets fan. There’s a look of shock, astonishment, disbelief, a prolonged silence as they try to wrap their mind around the concept of being a Mets fan. Sometimes a statement of consolation such as, ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ Or ‘That’s awful. Is there anything I can do?’
It has been like that for several years. And it’s getting kind of old. In 06 it was a look of consolation cause we came oh-so close. In 07 and 08, after historical collapses, it was again a look of sadness, of pity. “Oh, you guys had it locked. What happened? Is there anything I can do to ease your pain?” The new stadium opened in 09 but that made no difference. 2010: Same team, same results. Injuries, off-field distractions. A manager and GM on borrowed time. And the looks of sympathy rolled in.
2011 has been no different. Although we have a new manager who has won over his harshest critics (myself included) and despite playing pretty solid baseball for 4 months, those looks of pity, of disbelief, have once again resurfaced. “Why did you guys get rid of K-Rod?” “You guys are still in it? Why’d you unload Beltran?” “Why the heck are you guys thinking of getting rid of Reyes? I’d love to have him on (insert name of team.)” I have no answer when friends confront me in this manner. All I can tell them is I still believe. And that I have to put my faith in a higher power. Mets management works in mysterious ways.
Recently my employer had ‘Employee Appreciation Week.’ One day was declared ‘Jersey Day.’ No, this did NOT mean we had to dress up like an oil refinery or wear a shirt with a picture of the turnpike on the front. Instead, we had to wear a jersey from our favorite team. People showed up wearing basketball jerseys with players I never heard of and Hockey jerseys with French names I couldn’t pronounce.
On ‘Casual Days’ I will frequently show up wearing a Reyes or Wright t-shirt. Occasionally I’ll even show up wearing my Pedro jersey I forked over big bucks for in 2005. But this time I chose to wear my authentic Gary Carter jersey from 1986. For what I spent on that I could have bought a nice tailored suit—but I guess that shows where my priorities are.
And a funny thing happened. The looks of sympathy, of empathy, of consolation and pity ceased. A few commented on the Mets heyday, on the entire 86 season and subsequent World Series. “Man, you guys had some team back then!”
I, too, felt prideful. Unlike the times I wear my current day Mets attire, when I was dressed in a Mets jersey with #8 emblazoned on it, I noticed a different feeling. I had a bit of a spring in my step, a bounce in my stride. A little more confidence. And dare I use the word that used to be tossed around here a lot, but I had a bit of swagger.
It was nice to talk about the good times, share great memories of past glory. It was comforting to not have to try and understand or justify the workings of the Mets ‘higher powers.’ It was refreshing to talk about Mookie and Buckner, Ray Knight’s attitude, Keith’s leadership, Gary’s “kid-like” enthusiasm and even the promise of Doc and Darryl.
It was rejuvenating, almost liberating, to be able to talk about MY team, MY Mets, with some pride and not make excuses. I realized how much I missed that.