There are so many people in the world who really hate baseball because they think it’s a boring sport. Sitting around watching players throw around a ball without a timer or constant play, well it’s just damn unexciting for them. They’d rather watch paint dry or the grass grow.
I say the same thing about football, soccer, hockey and basketball. Sports on the clock, despite having more action, bores the bajeebus out of me. Stops and starts, flags on the play, out of bounds. It’s a little difficult for me to keep up. I just don’t get football. I look at the New Orleans Saints to teach me to love the sport somehow. We’ll see.
Baseball isn’t boring to me. It’s suspenseful, methodical and life affirming. Time is not a factor. Every element of baseball depends on physics and statistics. The way the ball carries, the velocity of a pitch, the timing of a sprint around the bases, the photo finish conundrum if a man is safe or out because his foot touched the bag the same time the ball fell into the baseman’s mitt. It’s science, something godly.
Even scoring a game is a thing of beauty. Each player has a position number, and each play has a symbol. If you keep a score card as a game unfolds, you could frame it as a cryptic story of nine innings of baseball. An entire game’s story can live forever in a score card.
Baseball is a metaphor for life. If you follow the game, you know this. It’s almost a cliche. A player will “sacrifice” himself in order to move up a runner or send him home. “Covering the bases”, “Touch Base”, “Dropping the Ball”, “Play hardball”, “Three strikes and you’re out!”…it mirrors a pattern for life’s road map. We’re all in a game we call life. Baseball just makes the elements of the human spirit into a fun way to spend an afternoon near a green field with a lot of screaming people and beer. If the screaming people are on your side, you’re good. If you like beer – even better.
When a team, like the Mets, have had fruitless seasons, dashed hopes and long stretches of losing, you learn to take it in stride. You understand how you don’t always win in life, and you know that despite a serious loss, the world will continue to spin, and there will be another day (or game) tomorrow (or next year).
Losing creates character in human beings who don’t really win in life, but know how to appreciate what matters: Their family, their home, their friends, and their sanity.
Losing strengthens your resolve when real challenge and adversity hits.
Losing makes one feel lousy, yet empathetic to other losers in the world.
Losing makes the winning even sweeter.
As a person used to seeing her team lose again and again in a town where the Yankees win and win so much, the Mets’ current winning streak is …mind blowing. I don’t know how to take it in.
Maybe I should talk to a Yankee fan who knows how it feels. They always bring up their world series rings. (Rings they aren’t wearing, but their millionaire heroes are wearing for them.)
Yet, I don’t want to be told how to win by fans who’ve had it easy for so long. They don’t know how to win because most Yankee fans haven’t understood the pain of losing. Even when they lost against the Red Sox in the ALCS in 2004, or did not come in first in the AL East, nor made it to a post season, they were and are…winners.
The Yanks are an older organization. They are a storied team. They have Babe Ruth, Yogi’s malpropisms, and Lou Gerhig’s speech (man, he’s even MY hero). In a baseball market like New York, Mets fans have been growing mushrooms under the shade of this Bronx team.The Mets are 54 years young and still trying to fill the shoes the Dodgers and Giants left behind decades ago – while the Yankees take on their white toothed prom kings who turn into stars when the pinstripes touch their skin.
The fact the Yankees are fading right now, means you’ll see who their true fans are, and who were just along for the winning ride. Will the hot, pretty girls who longed for Jeter still come to the ballpark now that #2 is retired? Will they be keeping track of trades and who plays shortstop? Will the Donald Trumps and Lorne Michaels still show up to the park or decide to go the Hamptons instead?
Local media loves the Yankees. The NY Post editorial placement will focus on the Yankees when they lose, and place the Mets second when they win. Average people anywhere in the world wear the interlocking NY baseball caps and jerseys. You don’t even have to be a fan. Wearing Yankee gear is a fashion statement. You’re just a guy wearing a Yankee hat that means nothing to you.
This isn’t belly aching. This is loyalty.
When someone wears a Mets cap, it usually means they are a true fan. That cap has suffered the agony and the pleasure of a hard luck team. It’s likely that cap has been turned inside out and worn on that head during a rally. Its fabric is dry soaked with sweat from that fan’s brow after a close shave win. That cap has been thrown into the air after a startling walk off home run, and cried into after a major loss. Nobody wears a Mets hat unless they are in the tribe. (Or, unless you really don’t care and you’re only wearing because your cousin from New York gave it to you, like the valet parking guy told me last Saturday in West Hollywood who said he was a Dodgers fan. Okay – I’ll give him that.)
When the losing streak ends, and you begin to see some wins, you take it in stride. Your sense of entitlement is earned, hard worn, and will quiet those who mocked you. Maybe in “1 A.D” (2015 is year one “After Derek”), the Bronx “aura & mystique” will stand aside and let the under dogs win for once.
There’s feeling in my bones – this team may make it. They are young, hungry, having fun. We have half the team out on injuries, but the bench is deep with great talent picking up the job. There’s our pitching phenom – Jacob de Grom – rookie of the year. And Matt Harvey’s back – the Dark Knight. People show up to the stadium with Batman masks. When Harvey debuted at home last week, the crowd was so electric and loud, it was as if their collective shouts swirled and rumbled to create another beast, growling, roaring.
I’m in tears thinking about it.
The Mets have won ten games in a row at Citifield. As I write this, they are playing a day game. The score says they are ahead. But past losses have instilled that good old fan superstition to say absolutely nothing and pretend it’s not happening. Because if we claim it, if we shout it before the ninth, if we pronounce it – we could lose it all.
It’s only April. There is so much baseball ahead. So many opportunities to win and to fail.
So for this New Yorker, I have to live in the moment. I say it loud, and I say it proud:
“LETS GO METS!”
UPDATE: The Mets swept the Braves today – making it 11 consecutive wins. A franchise record.