- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Bottle This Stuff

I got an email today from an old pal and fellow dedicated Met fan in New Orleans, where I was once nearly assaulted for watching the Mets instead of porn [1]. My old pal's question: “Has this whole season been one of the best goddamn things to happen to you in years or what?”

Better believe it. But it got me thinking. The closest thing to the dizzying 2006 season so far is 1986 — no pennant race to speak of after June, a suspense-free summer of jaw-dropping domination. But for me as a Met fan, this year really has no parallel. I'm old enough to remember 1986 — I was 17. But for me, 1986 didn't unfold on TV or the radio. I was away at school [2], and had to content myself most days with a paragraph and a box score in the newspaper, assuming the Mets weren't on the West Coast. Sure, I saw the team on WOR when I was home in Florida, caught whatever Games of the Week I could, and soaked up as much of the mythology of that swaggering band as I could hold. But that's not the same as seeing the team day-in and day-out. Until the postseason, I couldn't do that. By necessity, my fandom was secondhand.

As bloggers go, Greg and I are old men — as far as I can tell, most of our bloggy peers are in their early to mid-20s. Which means they didn't see 1986 either — they've absorbed it via books and rain-delay programming and videos. We've had other great seasons, but there wasn't a cakewalk in the bunch — 1969 required a lengthy, from-outta-nowhere chase of the Cubs, 1973 was stranger than fiction, 1988 wasn't a runaway until late (and even then the team felt vulnerable), 1999 demanded a 163rd game, 2000 was a wild-card berth. If you're a twentysomething blogger, or a 37-year-old who couldn't see most of the regular season, this is uncharted territory.

Uncharted territory filled with wonders. These days it feels like we play two kinds of games — ones in which we dominate from the starting gun, and ones in which we wait patiently for late-inning magic. (And every so often we somehow lose one.) Suffocating defense. An offense whose power, speed and patience makes it trebly deadly. Starting pitching that's serviceable to good, relief pitching that's lights-out. Limitless confidence. These days even our missteps are entertaining — if starting pitchers keep getting on base, I suppose it's logical that they'll eventually step over one. Games like tonight [3], in other words. We're fans of the best team in baseball, baby. You could look it up [4].

I can only imagine this is what 1986 felt like, as we pulled away like Secretariat at the Belmont [5]. But the parallels with 1986 shouldn't just be the stuff of celebration. There's a warning in there, too.

A summer like this, whether or not it comes with a magical October, is a once-a-generation thing. Injuries wrecked the 1987 Mets, bad defense and bad luck and ghostwritten columns flushed 1988 down the toilet, and after that the team became more and more poorly constructed until finally imploding in the summer of 1991. The Mets didn't win anything in 1987 — or in 1970 or 1974 or 1989 or 2001. A young talented core is a marvelous thing to have, but it guarantees nothing. Hell, a regular season like this one guarantees nothing — the '86 Mets needed some hairsbreadth escapes to avoid being a historical footnote.

Don't get bored, complacent or jaded. Don't mutter about how long it's taking for October to arrive. Yeah, we've all thought it, and it's just human nature to want to get to the main event, to see how it all turns out. But fight it. Soak these days in. Carpe Met'm, boys and girls. Write down the details and promise to do your best to remember. You owe it to yourself. Because we'll forget. Because before you know it we'll be watching some Met hit into a double play during a meaningless late-season game. Because it might be 2026 before a summer like this comes along again.