I turned 21 that November. I was now ‘legal.’ I started my senior year in college, my entire life and all my dreams lay ahead of me. I got to meet and party with the members of Van Halen at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. One month after Jesse tossed his glove to the heavens I met the girl I’d eventually marry.
But 1986 also saw me get my first car. You always remember your first. It was a bad-ass silver Chevy Cavalier RS with black racing stripes. If you wanted to find me on a Saturday that summer, I’d be outside wearing my Mets hat, rock t-shirt and heavy metal spiked leather wristband. I’d be waxing my baby, using Armor-All and Windex, polishing her up—fenders, chrome, tires, windows. I had Van Halen, Scorpions, Whitesnake, Springsteen and a new band called Guns-n-Roses blasting from my tape deck. The neighbors heard me before they’d see me. Yes, 86 was a great year. My future—as well as the future of my Mets—was bright.
1989: It was sadly becoming evident that the Mets dynasty may not materialize the way we hoped. We were still reeling from the shell-shocking loss to the Dodgers in the LCS the previous October. Doc was having drug problems. Keith was battling injuries and played only 75 games that season. Mookie was sent away to Toronto—another country!!! In 50 games, 35 year old Gary Carter hit 183.
That summer my wife and I celebrated our one year anniversary. We had the discussion of ‘starting a family.’ Kids??? Hell, I hadn’t even grown up yet. I figured we should start slow. We bought a puppy instead.
I loved my Cavalier. I took care of it, did the routine maintenance, etc…But really, to this kid in his early 20’s, it was an expensive toy. Racing my friends, speeding and driving recklessly had taken a toll and after 3 years and just 51,000 miles, my car was falling apart. My wife suggested I look into buying a Toyota. She loved their cars. But not me. I was a Chevy man tried and true. Growing up, my dad had no loyalty to any particular auto manufacturer—as long as it was American made. There was no way I’d buy a ‘Rice Rocket’ and listen to my father remind me how his older brother fought in World War II.
And after all, the expression is not “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie…and Toyota?”
My second car, purchased in 1989, was another Cavalier. Sporty, equally bad-ass and blue (as in blue and orange.)
In October of ’94, the unthinkable and unimaginable occurred. For the first time in 90 years, not since Teddy Roosevelt was President, there would be no World Series.
That month I was also in the market for a new car again. My 2nd Cavalier was starting to fall apart. The repair bills were adding up. Now, as anyone who is married or who has ever watched an episode of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ knows, a home is not a home unless the wife is happy.
My better half again tried to convince me to buy a Toyota. This time I appeased her and went through the motions. I looked, I shopped, I test drove one. And then when I felt I ‘did my part of trying,’ I went across the street and purchased another Chevy.
Equally unimaginable to there being no Fall Classic that October was the realization that my 20’s were coming to an end. I was 13 months shy of turning the ripe old age of 30. My bad-ass cool looking sporty car was replaced by a nice, conservative, safe, economical 4 door sedan. Blue (as in blue and orange.) I drove off the lot in a Chevy Corsica.
With my 30’s unavoidable I was at a good place in life. And my Mets were also in a good place. Generation K were poised and ready to dominate the National League. We had Bobby Bonilla, Todd Hundley, promising youngsters named Jeff Kent and Robert Person and proven winner Bret Saberhagen, Yes indeed, the Mets future, like my own, was bright.
2001: By now, Generation K had become a punch line. Bobby Bonilla went on to be one of the most hated Mets in history. Jeff Kent was 3000 miles away in San Francisco and, teamed with Barry Bonds, was part of the most lethal 1-2 punch in the game.
However, the Mets were defending NL Champions.
Sure, we lost the previous Fall Classic to the roided-up Yankees. But things were positive. For the first time in our history we’d been to the post-season 2 straight years. We were led by the best hitting catcher of all-time, local hero John Franco, quiet star Robin Ventura, much loved Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez, lefty Al Leiter, the glove of Rey Ordonez and the hard-working Todd Zeile and Joe McEwing,
As 2001 wound down it became evident the Mets would miss the post-season. On Sunday, September 9, Steve Trachsel took the loss to Florida, 4-2. The Mets dropped to 71-73, 8 games behind Atlanta. Two days later, the unthinkable and unimaginable happened again.
As the nation came to realize we were not invincible, our own safety shattered and we began shooting questioning looks at each other while giving up many of our rights, American patriotism skyrocketed.
With bodies still being pulled from the debris of where the Twin Towers once stood, I was involved in a car accident. My Corsica was totaled. I was back in the market for a new car yet again. My wife made a half-hearted attempt to talk me into a Toyota. No way! If I never wanted to drive a foreign car before, there was no way in hell I’d drive one now.
Most of my friends and family urged me to buy a Japanese car. They all loved their Toyota’s, Honda’s and Nissans. I resisted.
I was in my mid 30’s and was doing well financially. I bought a fully loaded Chevy Impala. It was the most luxurious and most expensive car I ever owned. Huge payment, my first full size. It took me 6 months to learn all the bells and whistles.
Four months later, I found myself sitting at my kitchen table signing divorce papers. After almost 14 years, my wife and I decided we’d grown apart.
During the first ten years of the 21st century, as my 30’s ended and I entered my 40’s, with my future now uncertain, I realized I still could rely on my Mets.
Following the Mets personally is not always easy. The closest city to me that has a major league team is almost 300 miles away. Seeing my Mets live is much more difficult than simply hopping the 7 train to Flushing. It requires driving down to Los Angeles or San Diego. Phoenix, perhaps. It’s a weekend getaway that includes, not just the cost of the ticket and parking, but also gas, food and hotel bills.
Still, I was making good money and had no problem forking over hundreds and hundreds to see my Mets. And for spending money on Wright and Reyes t-shirts and Pedro Martinez jerseys. After all, our future was bright. In addition to David and Jose, we had Delgado, Beltran, Wagner, Shawn Green, fiery Paul Lo Duca, clutch Tom Glavine and promising young studs like Mike Pelfrey and John Maine.
Then, once again, the fabric of this nation was torn apart. Thirteen years after the impossibility of the World Series being cancelled and six years after 3000 Americans were killed and an entire generation lost its innocence, we found ourselves in the worst financial crisis of our lifetime. We were now witnessing firsthand what we had only heard about from our grandparents.
I, too, found myself unemployed for an extended period of time. Credit card debt went up, savings went down. But still, I could count on the Mets. Granted, Yadier Molina’s HR in Game 7 of the 06 LCS and Beltran taking a called third strike left us all in shock. The following September, the Mets blew a 7 game lead with 17 left and collapsed.
Six month later, March 08, I found myself getting a paycheck again. I was making only 60% of what I had been.
And then, my expensive, fully loaded, luxury car fell apart.
My Impala, though recently paid off, was costing me more in repairs than my car payment had been. After just 6 years and only 71,000 miles, driving slow, less reckless, not having gotten a speeding ticket in almost 20 years, my American-made car was heading for the junkyard. Four new cars, all Chevys, and only one lasted more than 6 years and exceeded 82,000 miles. To say I was pissed and fed-up would be an understatement.
On a Saturday in early April 2008, I got in my car. Thankfully, it started. I drove a few miles, rattling my way down the street. I did slow a bit as I drove by the Chevy dealer. I proceeded on and drove my piece of junk Impala to Toyota. A few hours later, I drove off the lot in brand new Camry. Blue (as in blue and orange.)
Those who know me literally did not believe me until they saw my new car. There was no way—NO WAY—I’d ever not drive a Chevy. And no way in hell I’d lower myself to buying a Japanese car. But here I was.
In a couple of months from now, my Camry will be paid-off. Five years and not a single problem. I love my Toyota. But still, in spite of Chevy leaving a bad taste in my mouth, I still slow down when I pass the Chevy dealership. I glance over, check out the new cars and feel nostalgic. Chevy will always have a special place in my heart.
Baseball is a unique sport. It’s not like Football where you can be a fan of one team…but still root for a different one. The Mets are a lifetime commitment, a love that extends from childhood into old age. Sure, they frustrate me. Sure, they piss me off. Sure, if Sandy Alderson was crossing a dark street late one night and no one was around, I’d debate flooring it. (just kidding) But what am I going to do? Change my allegiance after 40 years? I’m not about to become a Phillies fan where I have a ‘P’ on my head or root for the Blue-Jays and wear…whatever the hell that logo of theirs is.
With the exception of a trip back to New York in the summer of 2011, my first and only time seeing Citi Field and going overboard in the gift shop, I’ve not handed over any money to the Wilpons in 6 years.
So, yes, I’ll continue to root for my Mets, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. But money is tight. Rooting is one thing—financially supporting them is something different. I don’t plan on driving down to LA and forking over several hundred for a weekend to see a sub-par product. (The same logic applies to forking over thousands to Chevrolet, what I personally consider another sub-par product.)
The Mets are 6 weeks away from embarking on the 2013 campaign, a season where we have no hope to compete. The best thing about this upcoming season will be that it gets us one year closer to ‘the future’ that Sandy Alderson keeps talking about.
People change. I loved my Chevy’s and I kind of always will. I love my Mets. And I always will. But people do change. As a fan, one can only get pushed so much. If this person who swore he’d drive nothing but a Chevy until the day I die can now drive a Toyota, anything is possible.
(as a side note, my ex-wife, who swore by Toyota now ironically drives a Chevy)
My approach to this upcoming season will be rather robotic. If they’re on TV, I’ll watch (probably.) But, most likely, I’ll check the standings, glance at the box score. I’ll see what David Wright did, see how Wheeler or Niese or Harvey pitched. I’ll look to see if D’arnaud is living up to the hype. And then, until we start competing, I’ll move on to other things.
My approach to the 2013 Mets will be similar to passing a Chevy dealer. I’ll look, smile, feel a bit nostalgic. And keep going.