In December 1981, Dick Enberg broadcast a Saturday afternoon football game between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns all by his lonesome. Usually he was partnered with Merlin Olsen, but NBC thought it would be a draw to hype it as a single-announcer affair. (A year earlier the network tried one with no voices, just graphics.) Olsen was shooting a TV movie and he came on in the second half via satellite to ask Enberg how it was going. Professing distress, Enberg begged Father Murphy to come back because “this is hard!”
In that vein, glad to have you back…back to the blog, back in your house, back to the season. I'm very glad to have baseball that counts (I mean really counts) back, too. Looks like we're gonna make it through the 99-hour drought after all.
Weather permitting, I'm going to the game tonight which I'm looking forward to a great deal since I'll be joining an old friend and am slated to meet up with a new friend. If any of the Mets want to be friends to the fans, they'd be advised to take tonight's game. I don't believe in getting ahead of ourselves, so I won't say “take three out of four,” but you can infer what you like. I also don't believe in the Braves getting ahead of ourselves.
As for other beliefs and non-beliefs, so happy you asked. I have a few suggestions that will ensure better rooting all around. Call it a second-half manifesto for the Mets fan who wants to be the best possible Mets fan he or she can be as prescribed in a set of stringent guidelines developed by some self-aggrandizing online lunatic who doesn't get nearly enough sleep or all that much done in the course of a day.
Focus On The Mets. Got something better to do? Didn't think so.
Pay Attention. There's no excuse not to know who's on the team, not to know the general state of the team, not to know whether we won or lost last night by the next morning.
Pace Yourself. Take 'em one game at a time, otherwise you'll have no walls left to put fists through.
Be Loyal. Complain all you want about the Mets, but if you take a hike after a bad series or season, your gripes carry little weight.
Hate The Yankees. “Well I wanted them to win against Atlanta.” “I'm from New York, so I want both teams to do well.” “They're in different leagues.” Go play in traffic.
Dislike Your Opponents. They have their own fans. They don't need you. Also, if someone next to you boos some random Cardinal, Brewer or Astro, do not ask him why. Being a random Cardinal, Brewer or Astro is crime enough.
Choose A Second Team With Care. Stay out of the National League. Calculate the Interleague odds of clashing. And when we do come face to face with your No. 2, always look out for No. 1.
Respect The Other Team's Best. When lock Hall of Famers who haven't disgraced the game or themselves (so much for Bonds and Clemens) come to Shea, applause at their first at-bat is not too much to ask. Just because somebody's great doesn't make him a villain.
Acknowledge Ex-Mets. Particularly the true ex-Mets. Don't wanna go gaga for Gary Bennett? Fine. But if somebody who did something for ya comes back in the enemy uniform, ya stand up and ya cheer — at least until he does something to ya.
Don't Boo Your Own. Honest to god, you sound like morons when you do. Criticize all you want. Express some frustration after the fact if you must. But if you want your — I don't know — second baseman from another country to succeed, don't make it that much tougher on him.
Conceive Trades Realistically. How about Aaron Heilman for Derrek Lee? It makes perfect sense. Heilman's been great and the Cubs need bullpen help. Lee would be ideal between Beltran and Floyd. Hello? Hello?
Record Judiciously. I've pulled out one too many cassettes in order to preserve the last out of the first Mets no-hitter. Don't worry. When it happens, they'll play it over and over again. Keep your jinx under lock and key.
Know Your History. If you're under the age of 10, it's OK not to know the Mets have never had a no-hitter. Otherwise, bone up. Jack Lang, Leonard Koppett, Howard Blatt and Dennis D'Agostino have each written essential Mets histories. You have your homework assignments.
Absorb Details. To whomever's sitting behind me tonight or any night: Don't ever let me overhear you ask your companion “what are those numbers on the wall for?” unless you are under the age of 10, somebody's date or from way out of town. Otherwise, prepare for the most boring lecture of your life on the twilight of Casey Stengel's managing career. 37's just the first number of the many numbers to keep on file. Lucky for you, there's a place to learn the rest. Visit it often.
Keep Your Years Straight. Don't refer to 1969 as the year Tug McGraw said “You Gotta Believe.” True, a presidential candidate once did that and later got elected, but you're gonna have to be as charismatic as Bill Clinton to get away with it.
Believe In A Place Called Hope. Whatever year it is, allow yourself to think it's 1973 if that's what it's going to take to get us where we need to be.
Go On The Road. At least once in your life, take a vacation in San Francisco to see the Mets. Or a quick trip to Philadelphia to see the Mets. Anywhere will suffice. Be the visiting fan for a day. It's a very different feeling.
Bet Sparingly. “Wanna make it interesting?” a Yankee fan once asked me when I predicted the Mets would do something better than his team. Silly Yankee fan — baseball is already interesting. Rooting for the Mets is enough of a gamble any time.
Collect Stuff. You don't have to be a world-class keeper of every baseball card ever printed with a picture of a Met on it. You don't even have to maintain a baseball library no matter how insistent Lindsey Nelson was that you do. But save your programs. Save your ticket stubs. Save the stupid mousepad they'll give out tonight. Throw it in a drawer and forget about it. Stumble upon it in five years and smile. Then put it on eBay if you must.
Display Stuff. It's always been my nature, when given the space and the organizational spark, to show off my Mets stuff. I've been surprised to learn that every other Mets fan in the world doesn't think such homage in the home or workspace necessary. Have at least a K Korner in your living room. Hang pictures of Kranepool, Koosman, Koonce, Koo. It's the right thing to do. Reminder: You can't spell Kranepool, Koosman or Koonce without Koo. (Strangely enough, you can spell relief without him.)
Wear Stuff. Rob Emproto, who had a football Giants jacket for as long as I've known him, told me recently he stopped wearing any and all team apparel. Why, I asked. Because after the Giants blew a humongous lead to the 49ers in a playoff game, old men came up to him and started crying. He couldn't take it anymore. Gave the jacket to goodwill. It's a touching story, but I don't approve. Show your colors at least when you come to the game. The inverse of this rule applies to me: Once in a while, I try not to wear team apparel.
If You're Wearing, You Should Be Watching. Ever notice how many people in Yankee caps wander around town while a Yankee game is in progress and they're not listening to it or don't seem to be in any rush to get to a television, let alone The Stadium? They're probably not actual fans. You don't see that during Mets games because you're a good fan and you're watching or listening to the Mets game and not gallivanting about in a cap representing a team you don't pay attention to.
Keep Up. Fans of a team that plays in the media capital of the world should never be taken by surprise to find Gerald Williams on their roster. They should be horrified by the occurrence, but not surprised.
Sweat The Small Stuff. Why isn't Brian Daubach getting more playing time? It's a rhetorical question for our purposes, but you're just not applying yourself if you don't lie awake and wonder.
Don't Root For Injuries. In Game Five of the 1988 NLCS at Shea, Kirk Gibson slid into second and came up in obvious pain. Mets fans cheered. There, I thought, that's it, we're screwed. Be a human being about these things. Wish no pain on anyone. Wish they enjoy a pain-free three-month stay on the DL instead.
Abide By Karma. Don't get greedy with the gods.
Understand Luck. There are only so many fair balls that trickle up the first base line and get by the first baseman. Be glad when we get them, but don't demand too much of the fates. Sometimes we have to win these games via skill.
Welcome Sincere Newcomers. Not such a problem for a .500 team, but don't chalk up everybody who just bought his or her first Mets cap to bandwagoneering. People discover baseball all the time. Make them feel at home. Just don't let them get better seats than the veterans.
Manage Your Quirks. I have a friend. Good guy. He likes to keep score at every game he goes to. He likes to keep score at home on occasion. He likes to compile all the statistics from all the games he scores. He likes to keep track of who his seasonal and all-time leaders are in each statistical category that he scores. All of that is his business. When he calls me up and starts a conversation with “guess who set a scorebook record for most triples in a Mets career?” it becomes my business. And I have to be in a very good mood to be in that business.
Find The Game. If the Mets aren't on WFAN, they're almost surely on WBBR, 1130 AM. If they're not on MSG, check FSNY, WB-11, Fox 5 or ESPN. There aren't that many places they can be hiding.
Carry A Walkman. I'm a fossil. I still call it a Walkman. Whatever kind of miniature radio works for you, keep one on you. Life gets in the way of baseball, but make every effort to minimize the damage. How many other things in life are broadcast live like baseball? Try not to miss a pitch.
Read The Papers. Or the Web. There's too much information available about your team to not take advantage.
Acknowledge Your Sources. Don't say “I heard the Mets are trying to trade Looper” unless Omar Minaya called you with that info. The beat writer who digs up that nugget deserves the credit.
Know The Score. Literally. If a game is over and you are wearing the sacred NY on your person, be prepared to inform the inquiring passerby. There's no better feeling than being able to answer, “Mets won 6-3. Benson got the win. Wright hit a homer. Beltran got three hits.” If the result is not so felicitous, make one up that is. You're never gonna see that nosy jerk again anyway.
Prospect Lightly. Know your minor leaguers, sure, but pencil them into the 2006 lineup at your own peril. What game in this series will Kazmir pitch anyway?
Moneyball Isn't Everything. It's not worthless either. Don't view every Mets move through the spectrum of stats vs. scouts. There's room for Roberto Hernandez and Heath Bell on the same roster (if none for Felix Heredia under any circumstances).
Think Before You Think. No thought before its time. Don't say, even to yourself, “Wow, once the Mets wrap up this Friday night win over Pittsburgh, we can go for four in a row tomorrow.” Think instead, “The next pitch is being thrown. I certainly hope it bodes well for my Mets.” We'll save each other a lot of grief.
Curb Your Enthusiasm. If and when and if the Mets get on that roll we've discussed so much that you'd think we work for a bakery, let's see how it unfurls before we're sure that this is the one that will turn us around. It gets dizzy early around here.
No Poormouthing. Woe is us! We're Mets fans! No trade works! We lose all the time! We're cursed! Take that somewhere else. We are clearly not the most successful organization in baseball but we are clearly not the least successful. Context, people. The White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917. The Devil Rays have never sniffed 81 wins. The A's choked away four straight playoff appearances. The Cubs swapped a young Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. The Padres haven't no-hit anybody either. Lameness abounds. It ain't just us.
No Apologies Necessary. When encountered by the non-fan in a fannish situation and you have to excuse yourself to get a score or scream into a towel, be who you are. Don't tell them “there's something wrong with me taking baseball so seriously.” They're the ones who are nuts. They're the ones who are missing out.
No Being Glad The Season's Ending. Anybody who whines anything like “at least football will start soon” is whistled 50 yards for ingratitude. Football? Fall? Winter? A Mets loss in August is better than no game in November. You can have a baseball game on a Thursday afternoon in August. All you get on Thursday afternoon in November is more November. That's about as awful as it sounds. Come the offseason, you, me, all of us will be wishing and hoping and counting down for spring training. As Warren Zevon suggested, enjoy every sandwich — all 162 of them.
Shea Is Readily Reachable. It's next to a highway, a subway, a railroad, a marina and an airport. It's right there. Plenty of good seats are still available. Attendance of at least one game annually is mandatory for every Mets fan who is within reasonable proximity of the ballpark. Save for physical incapacity or prohibitively dire financial straits, there's just no reason not to come on down and Meet the Mets. You could mention several but I won't accept any.
High-Five The Good Things. If you're at Shea and Cliff Floyd homers, raise the hand of your choice and find the hand of your neighbor in the air. Celebrate. Is there something besides baseball that rates it more? Still didn't think so.