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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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We're All Riders On This Train

The schedulemakers did us a favor by giving us an off day Monday. I don't mean us the Mets, I mean us the Mets fans. I was too drained for a game against anybody last night, let alone a large one against the second-place Phillies. That must mean we're doing something right as a team (if something incredibly misguided with our lives).

I'm going to reiterate a point I made and felt from the weekend one more time: I don't get how you can't get caught up in the Subway Series. The rightly esteemed Metsblog Matt offered a thoughtful take-it-or-leave-it take on the fevered pitch yesterday:

The thing with the Subway Circus is that it is so insane, it is so manic, that it makes for an abnormal environment.

Matt goes on to examine the potentially harmful effects of that abnormality, particularly on the fans. Instead of obsessing on Billy Wagner blowing one to the Yankees, he says, we should move our minds to the Phillies.

(If the above link doesn't take you there, paste

http://www.metsblog.com/blog/_archives/2006/5/22/1976463.html

into another browser window; it's worth reading.)

Thoughtful as Matt was, his portrayal of what we just witnessed and the impact it had on the course of the season left me shaking my head. I don't understand, regardless of the perfectly legitimate intellectual rigor you apply…

• Division games are what count

• Interleague is a novelty that has worn out its welcome

• Getting caught up in any three games over 162 isn't helpful for the greater good

• Mets fans are too easily distracted by pointless comparisons to the Yankees

…how you can come away from a weekend like the one that just passed and not get caught all the way up in it.

When the managers and the players on both sides offer their own “just another game” default responses before the first meeting, I know they have their reasons. They're the ones who can't get too high or too low. But then they go out and play each other like their life depends on the outcome. They should do so all the time, but not all times are like this.

The Mets rejoiced in the ending of Friday in a way that they did not when they walkoff-won against the Pirates. The world ended Saturday the way it did not when they blew one to the Phillies. And I stood and attempted to will Wagner back to good mental health Sunday night in a way I hadn't for anybody since I tried to do the same for Looper in one of these Subway situations last season (alas, I wasn't always successful).

This is great, great, GREAT stuff. You can't have it every day. You wouldn't want it every day. You need 7-2 nights short on suspense and low-scoring affairs that are more sleepy than duelish and error-filled slopfests and 9:00 starts against the Rockies. That's baseball, too. But we need jolts of toe-curling emotion in our season and there's no better conveyance for it than the Subway Series. It's a gimmick, it's a stunt, it's a sop…but it works.

It worked even though I came into this thinking very little about the Yankees. When we're not doing well and they're positioned as the story, I can't help but notice how they're doing, thus I can't help but actively root against them. This year, because we've shoved them over to only half the New York stage, I haven't been assaulted by their progress, so except for some topline stuff on injuries and alibis, I haven't really kept up on them. I like it that way.

But I wouldn't care if they were 0-40 coming into one of these. I'd want them to be 0-43 when it was over and not just for the simple math that would translate to us being 43-0 (dream big dreams). I hate them. I've always hated them. There's nothing to like about them. If you put them in front of us — assign the task of defeating them to us, not a bunch of random Royals, Rangers or Red Sox — then it's as crucial as crack that we seize that opportunity six times out of every year.

Six is a good number to my thinking. Three on the site of miracle and wonder, three where it's dark and gloomy. That's equitable (though six at Shea and none wherever they play would be preferable). I heard a talk show host who doesn't like this setup suggest, “Why don'tcha just have them play each other 162 games then?” but that's just faulty logic. Then again, that was Michael Kay, so whaddaya expect?

As long as we're bashing afternoon drive time morons, it's zero hour minus 46 or so for the insult of insults, the Mets-Phillies broadcast that has been delivered on a blue and orange platter to Blowhard and the Retard. I was annoyed at this on principle at first. Now I'm annoyed at it in practice. Business will take me away from my beloved Gary Cohen on Thursday afternoon, thus at some point I will actually be relying on Mike Francesa and Chris Russo to tell me what is going on in a regulation Mets game, pitch by pitch, play by play. Maybe I'll just listen for the woodpeckers (beats listening to those peckers).

If you need one more reason to hate this, think of the slap it is at loyal, talented, Metsblooded Howie Rose. Maybe Howie's good-humored about this. Maybe he'll enjoy his day off. But I doubt it. Back in 1990, when Howie was a backup PBP'er and Murph wasn't going to make a road trip (a rarity then), whoever was running the FAN decided it would be a fine idea to pair Gary Cohen with the son of Jack Buck in St. Louis and the grandson of Harry Caray in Chicago. Howie disguised his disgust only moderately. When a caller told him he deserved the gig, he replied, “my father owned a hardware store.”

Howie actually used to drive me just a little crazy by his evenhandedness toward the Yankees when he was call-taker. He admitted he came from a generation (maybe the recessive part of it) that was able to root for the Mets and not hate the Yankees. That was long before Interleague play was more than a World's Fair exhibit, so I suppose it wasn't completely off the wall.

I think the calm, rational, can't-we-all-just-get-along? Howie Rose got caught all the way up in the Subway Series Friday night. When The David's ball fell between Damon and the wall, Howie accented the moment in an absolutely Amazin' Matteau! Matteau! manner: Put THAT in your books! The Mets beat Rivera in the ninth! Why not? It was a four-alarm classic, it deserved a four-alarm siren.

Like the two contests that followed, it sure as hell wasn't just another game.

7 comments to We're All Riders On This Train

  • Anonymous

    I think you've captured the the series perfectly…with the one exception that 6 games is the right number to play.
    Now, I know they'll never go back to 3 per year (can't turn down guaranteed sellouts) but the excitement associated is always going to be inverse to the number of games played.
    Why 3? There's a guaranteed winner and loser each year. More at stake when it's at the home stadium. Bigger mix of each team's fans at each game, requiring more crowd participation. Promises of “we'll get you next year!” and “You won't win when you come to our stadium” etc
    PS. Love the title of the article.

  • Anonymous

    Thinking back to '97-'98 when it was three in each park and it didn't seem quite right (especially '97). The competitive juices are pretty gurgly right now, but yes, that would add an extra edge if it came down to two of three. Don't know if it needs more edge, though. I've never sensed a letdown (except maybe for 2003 when the entire season was a letdown).
    With six, I'd add a caveat. Only Mets fans should be allowed in Shea for one game, only Yankees fans should be allowed in the overrated parking garage for one game. I'd like to see a true home field advantage materialize just once to see what that's like, just for the hell of it. Like MLB giving back three guaranteed sellouts, it would never happen.
    PS: Thanks. Just a little of that Human Touch.

  • Anonymous

    I'm with you, Greg; Interleague Play (The Subway Series, at the very least) has been a great addition to baseball in this town. If you don't think so, you're missing something. It's a series you can count on every year to make your blood flow a little quicker, regardless of what's happening in the rest of the season.
    I don't know if anyone felt my same pang of nostalgia, but didn't it seem a little strange to be playing a Subway Series game without Mike Piazza? I mean, D-Wright was certainly channeling Big Mike with his Ramiro-Mendoza-style rocket into orbit, but it was more than that…seeing the Yankees with Jeter, Bernie (reaching base 5 dubious times in a row), Posada, Rivera…all these guys who have been the villains for a small eternity, I was struck by the fact that I didn't have my hero to root for against them…Mike Piazza is really gone…
    I wonder if the Subway Series will still hold its enormous appeal to me when all the participants (on both sides) of that epic duel in 2000 go the way of #31….

  • Anonymous

    Hehe. I guess you're Living Proof?

  • Anonymous

    Glad you mentioned Mike. Watching Friday night's game early, I zeroed in for a moment on Lo Duca and said to Stephanie, “first one of these in nine years without Mike.” It was a passing thought, but a thought worth having.

  • Anonymous

    Addendum: Mike was injured in 2003 and missed that debacle, but first one without any trace of Mike.
    This year, even without their once and future Hall of Fame catcher, the Mets did manage to prove it all night.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, 2003, a year worth forgetting. That injury was the beginning of the end for Mike, no doubt. It was deeply saddening to see him gradually lose the awesome power he once wielded, but you can't really blame him: It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City.