If you prick a Mets fan, he'll bleed blue and orange
August 28, 2005
There is no good reason why I should care about the New York Mets.
Like all baseball teams, they are a business. I should care no more about their success than I care about the success of a movie studio or television network. Yet I choose to care, deeply and powerfully. I have cared about the Mets for 43 years and probably will for the rest of my life. I enjoy my loyalty. I enjoy the irrationality and intensity of my loyalty.
Although my allegiance is a choice, at a certain level, it is not. The Mets are part of my heritage. My parents grew up as Brooklyn Dodgers fans. Three years after I was born, they lost their team in a way that should have left them permanently disillusioned. In spite of that, they wanted baseball back and wanted me to have baseball, too. They did not, under any circumstances, want me to have the Yankees.
As my interest in baseball awakened during the summer of 1961, my parents persuaded me to ignore the excitement of the race to break Babe Ruth's home run record. They persuaded me to ignore the first World Series of which I was aware. They persuaded me to wait to begin my lifelong love affair with baseball until the summer of 1962, when there would be a new National League franchise in New York, a team that would replace the Dodgers, a team that would represent the vast remnant of the metropolitan area that refused to be represented by the team from the Bronx.
The central pleasure of my first year of fandom was rooting for a brand-new team. I loved the novelty of the blue and orange colors, and the cool, contemporary brevity of the name. I loved the logo, a baseball encompassing the skyscrapers and bridges of New York. It was the only team logo that featured a city, and it was my city. I don't remember minding that they were a very bad team, the worst in modern baseball history. I loved them wildly and intemperately. Anything they accomplished was good, and everything about them was part of me.
The Mets were bad for all of my childhood, but I never lost hope. I dreamed of them winning the World Series the way I dreamed of winning a Nobel Prize, an Academy Award or a presidential election.
Then came 1969, unforeseen and soul-filling, and neither I nor millions of others have gotten over it. The Mets remained the Mets, ordinary people competing against giants, yet they suddenly seemed to have magical powers. Everything happened as I wanted it to happen, reliably, inexorably. The young pitchers were perfect. The hitters hit when needed. Mediocre fielders made spectacular catches. The Mets won game after game and did not stop.
For months, nearly every thought I had - every sweet, pleasurable thought - was of them. It was like being in love. I was too young to perceive the absurdity, and nowhere near old enough to value my emotion in spite of its absurdity. I simply enjoyed, and I never will forget how much I enjoyed the summer of 1969.
For fans of my age, the summer of 1969 is the defining myth of the Mets.
Yankees fans have their myth: The Yankees are invincible, the team of Ruth and Gehrig, the only team for whom a season is not a success if it yields only a pennant, for whom a bad season is an anomaly. The myth is a crock, of course. The Yanks have had plenty of mediocre seasons the last 40 years.
The Mets' myth is the reverse. True Mets fans always think of the Mets as a fundamentally bad team that, every once in a while, briefly and magnificently rises up to play against type. When the Mets win, the fans feel as if they themselves have willed the team forward. We were the ones, with our slogans and signs, who took a last-place team to a pennant in 1973. We were the ones who drove Mookie Wilson's ball between Bill Buckner's legs in 1986. We were responsible for Al Leiter's perfection in the one-game playoff against the Reds in 1999. And we made Shea Stadium thunder in 2000, frightening the superior Cards and Giants into submission.
Yankees fans do not feel responsible for what the Yankees do. But Mets fans feel they create the atmosphere that allows miracles to happen.
What I want this year is another miracle. And this team will do. It is a Mets team. It is unpredictable and unbelievably frustrating. It doesn't look as if it deserves to win. But it has enough talent and spirit to allow us to dream. If things fall together the right way, the bumpy rhythm of this season could become smooth.
Making the playoffs may not be likely, but fans who live for miracles don't need the odds on their side. In our doomed but beloved temple, we can yell and scream and lift them up. We again can have astonished fun, and the mystical sense of power a Yankees fan can't know. For if we win, we will have the pleasure of the unexpected, even of the undeserved.
This is what has hooked us. This is what we long for. This is why, however much we hate them at times, we love to love this team. However good the Yankees become, they never tempt us. We are stubborn and resolute. We are millions. We are Mets fans.