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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Thank You, 2006

Make no mistake: Last night was fun.

There was Endy, gunning down Johnny Damon and turning our groans into cheers. There was Endy again, walloping an Andy Pettitte offering over the fence. There was Perez, whose game was in some ways more impressive than his Mother's Day throttling of the Brewers. He had everything working then; last night he had to do some improvising, and do so with his emotions threatening to boil over. That was a truer test of him as a student of the Jacket than blitzing the Brewers, and he got an A. So did Joe Smith, summoned into the game to face Derek Jeter, with his jeweler's eye for the strike zone and the scary ability to rise to any occasion. (Damn him.) Smith stayed cool through a nine-pitch battle and then cut perhaps the thinnest sliver off the black to sit Jeter down. And how about an A for Billy Wagner, quietly having a remarkable season?

There were a lot of indelible images, from the vulture stare of Pettitte and Brian Cashman looking stricken to Oliver's valedictory high jump over the line, Smith's quietly skeptical look in at the plate and Carlos Gomez's face caving in after his (harmless) dropped foul pop. But what struck me was how calm I was. Sure, Emily and I let out some whoops and used every private incantation we had to coax Smith and Wagner through their confrontations with Jeter and Jason Giambi. But we weren't white-knuckling it — there wasn't that feeling of previous Subway Series (Serieses?) like your heart had swollen until it was mashed up against your ribs and every Yankee hit pushed some more air out of your lungs.

It was curious, this relative detachment. And then I realized where it came from. It came from 2006.

The Atlanta Braves look much improved. I think we all sense that this year isn't going to be a leisurely stroll to the division title — the Braves are going to be trading blows with us all year. But I'm not afraid of them anymore. Turner Field is no longer haunted, the chop is just an irritating noise, and Andruw's smirk and Chipper's Joker sneer are no longer portents of doom. Beltran's march to the sea to finish July ended that era. Now the Braves are just another team — one I respect and fret about, but one stripped of its ability to terrify. 2006 did that.

And then there are the Yankees. The Subway Series has been billed as a chance for the Mets to make a statement on the New York baseball stage since Dave Mlicki and Andy Pettitte kicked it off 10 years ago. A lot of that statement stuff was bullshit to sell papers, of course — but no matter how fervently we denied it, part of it was true. In 1997 the Yankees were World Champions. They didn't win that year, but in 1998 they won a title as the Braves kept us out of the playoffs, in 1999 they won a title as the Braves kept us out of the World Series, and in 2000 they won a title by beating … us. (Sometimes I think about that and am honestly surprised I lived through it.) Happily, they haven't won since, but they were playing in October in the early 2000s while we were enduring the likes of Jason Phillips and Art Howe. In situations like that, in a town where baseball isn't really a zero-sum game but sure feels like one when discussed in bars and cubicles and newspapers, of course we wanted to make a statement. It wasn't the stuff of the apocalypse, but it was true.

But last night there was this weird sense of calm. Maybe, I thought, it reflected the fact that the Yankees are in disarray right now and we're rolling along rather nicely. But we've had previous meetings where we felt like we were in the high on the Gotham baseball teeter-totter, and back then I was reliably a pathetic mess by first pitch. So what was it?

And then I found it, something so simple and obvious that it was strange I'd missed it. It was last year. We won 97 games, same as them. We were playing for a pennant after their season was over. We lost two starting pitchers and came within a little blooper of the World Series while they tried to decide whether or not to fire their manager. All that happened in 2006, and now we're looking to build on it. We may not have 26 rings (baby), but we're not obsessed with itemizing our jewelry over here. (And besides, they haven't added to their collection in a while.)

The Subway Series will always be special. The Yankees will never be just another team. Beating them will always make us stand a little taller, and losing to them will always hurt a little more. But after 2006, there are no statements that need to be made.

I don't have any idea how the story of 2007 will end. And the story of 2006 is over. But I don't think I truly appreciated 2006 until I realized how it's shaped 2007. Because of 2006, being 2-4 against the Braves is hardly the stuff of panic, and taking the first game from the Yankees is sweet but not like winning the baseball lottery. After years of looking up at the Braves and the Yankees, 2006 showed us they're not so big. It's 2007, and we're looking them right in the eye — in fact, I daresay we might be a little taller. And we're pretty sure they'll blink first.

That's all the statement we need.

6 comments to Thank You, 2006

  • Anonymous

    excellent post. as much of a crash-down 2006 was, it was that year that made me the Optimistic Mets Fan that I am. I started to worry in the 8th with Oliver Perez with him tiring and Damon and Jeter coming up who had both hit him hard. Then Damon whiffed at one of Perez's fastballs and I realized, he's got them.
    The worry isn't there, the fear of impending collapse isn't there, these Mets aren't those Mets. There's an underlying confidence(and a bet, Mets over 89.5) that the Mets will be in the postseason.
    Oh, and last night at the game, it was very subdued compared to past years. The Mets fans can still rise to the occasion of a game like this no matter the season, but it seems the Yankees can't quite handle being losers and still have a fervor for their team. In fact, I'm sure a lot of those funneling out of Shea after 8 last night were Yankee Fans. But they need to get used to losing once they hear Enter Sandman.

  • Anonymous

    word, as the young people say. do they still say that?
    i'll add one mention about the jewelry. any time yankee fans — or commentators, for that matter — brings up the rings, they have just tacitly acknowledged that they're withdrawn from whatever conversation is being held about current baseball issues.
    because as we've noted before, it's an awfully long time between rings, we're into the seventh year of this drought, you could probably fly to saturn and steal a couple in the time it's taken for yankee rings to be a relevant part of any discussion.
    that team, their enabling sportswriters and skank fans in particular have been living on the vapors of the past to a degree that would be recognized as unconscionable in any other precinct of the baseball universe.
    previously i found it irritating; now, given the shift in fortunes, i merely find it tedious. skank fans are the crazy old uncle ned of mlb.
    what's the over/under on torre?

  • Anonymous

    Twenty six rings?
    That's so last century.
    As far as Torre goes, if the Yankees emerge from this six game stretch with the Mets and Red Sox 15 games or so out of it, I think Joe's taking a much earlier flight to Maui this year.

  • Anonymous

    As this afternoon's contest is looking like a laugher in the making, the Fox guys are beginning to get away from the “it's all about the Yankees” script they start with, and are giving the Mets some props for a change. McCarver had knowledgeable things to say about the Mets' outfield prospects, and they had a quick clip of Willie in cap and gown, delivering the commencement address at Fordham this morning (his daughter was graduating).
    But then, when the Mets loaded the bases, they gave it all away by flashing uo a graphic showing that the guy on second was “C. Floyd.”
    Still, no amount of Foxism can change the fact that the Mets have scored in every inning so far and have kept a far-less-than-sharp T. Glavine in a positiion to figure on the winning side, should things continue to go well.
    Ya feel bad for the poor kid who got his finger broken by the comebacker, and maybe even for Robinson Cano, who's doing an excellent Lucy Van Pelt imitation at second base. But for all that, tell me that these Yankees don't look completely snakebit and doomed.

  • Anonymous

    The funniest thing about last night, one of the funniest things I've ever seen on a diamond, was Jose's hilariously half-assed attempt to deke the umpires and get a double play. I laughed when it happened,and every time they showed it in three hours worth of subsequent replays.
    Then there was today's game. Good thing they aren't putting a retractable roof on CitiField, I'd hate to miss authentic experiences like my wife and daughter shivering in the concourse. But you couldn't argue with the result. Most gratifying was just shutting up the Yankme fans (or at least those who stuck around once it was 8-2) who were so absurdly boisterous before the carnage began. One fool in the men's room line tried the “26 rings, baby” routine and was roundly mocked for living in the past, being 12 games out, and wearing a Jorge Posada shirt (“Hey, with those ears, he's the only guy on the field staying dry”).

  • Anonymous

    any time yankee fans — or commentators, for that matter — brings up the rings, they have just tacitly acknowledged that they're withdrawn from whatever conversation is being held about current baseball issues.

    I said much the same thing at almost exactly the same time last year. It bears repeating here:

    I actually LOVE it when I hear “26 RINGS, BAY-BEEEEEEEEEE!” because, that's when I know I've won.
    “26 RINGS, BAY-BEEEEEEEEEE!” is the last bullet in the gun.
    “26 RINGS, BAY-BEEEEEEEEEE!” is the last arrow in the quiver.
    “26 RINGS, BAY-BEEEEEEEEEE!” means they're out of arguments, out of ideas, out of breath.
    “26 RINGS, BAY-BEEEEEEEEEE!” is the Yankee fan's equivalent of “Oh, yeah?”
    It means you've won.