Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why the Mets' 20 Inning Loss on Saturday Made Me a Believer

As I mentioned recently, I have decided to adopt the New York Mets as my local baseball team.  In that spirit on Saturday, after coming home from the local Portugese festival, I turned on the game to be the accompaniment of playing with my twin daughters on the carpet.  It was tied in the 8th at the time, and I hoped the Mets would pull it out.  It hit extra innings, and I kept putting off things I had to do so that I could see the end.  The innings kept passing, and the Mets kept getting runners on base, but they couldn't get their feeble bats to hit any of those runners home.  Finally, in the 19th, I had to get up and walk the dog, who was desperate to go the bathroom.  When I got home, it was all over, and the Mets had lost.  I was glad to have been spared such a frustrating moment, but strangely enough, I felt attached to my new fandom more strongly than ever.

That might sound kinda weird, considering the team I have committed myself to showed, yet again, its penchant for incompetence and futility.  There is something endearing, however, in such grandiose and extreme futility.  Any team can lose 2-1 after failing get runners home, it takes a special team to lost 2-1 in 20 innings while squandering an amazing relief pitching performance.  The Mets seem to have a real penchant for this kind of stuff.

I was recently rereading some old Roger Angell pieces (mostly because he's the best baseball writer ever), and found an amazing article he wrote in the mid-1960s comparing the Mets to the Yankees.  The Yankees were still the premier franchise in baseball, and the infant Mets were closer to their epically disastrous debut season than to their "Amazin'" World Series title in 1969.

Observing some spring training games, he heard a Yankees fan berating his team, and wrote this:

"I recognized the tone. It was knowing, cold, full of contempt that the calculator feels for those who don't play the odds. It was the voice of the Yankee fan...Over the years, many of their followers have come to watch them with the stolidity, the smugness, and the arrogance of holders of large blocks of blue-chip stocks. These fans expect no less than perfection. The cooly accept the late-inning rally, the winning homes, as their only due. They are apt to take defeat with ill grace, and they treat their stars as though they were executives hired to protect their interests."

That pretty much sums up my inability to root for the Yankees.

Angell had this to say, in turn, about the Mets and their (at the time, at least) rabid fans:

"Suddenly the Mets fans made perfect sense to me. What we were witnessing was precisely the opposite of the kind of rooting that goes on across the river. This was the losing cheer, the gallant yell for a good try -– antimatter to the sounds of Yankee Stadium. This was a new recognition that perfection is admirable but a trifle inhuman, and that a stumbling kind of semi-success can be much more warming. Most of all, perhaps, these exultant yells for the Mets were also yells for ourselves, and came from a wry, half-understood recognition that there is more Met than Yankee in every one of us. I knew for whom that foghorn blew; it blew for me."

I heard that "foghorn" Saturday, and it agrees with me as well.

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