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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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I Can't Complain, But Sometimes I Still Do

So I sat through 28 solid innings of certifiable suck at Shea Stadium this weekend. Went to all three games, absorbed all three losses and came away with this conclusion:

I had it better than a lot of people.

I got to attend three baseball games featuring the team I root for with people I like in the stadium I love.

That the results were, on none of these occasions, the ones I would have chosen is undeniable. But other than that, I had it pretty good.

When I heard the weekly playing of “God Bless America” in the seventh-inning stretch, a ritual that I think is misplaced in this setting (but that, too, is another blog), I thought of those men and women on whose behalf we are directed to sing it and who are elsewhere these days. They would probably welcome the chance to watch their team get swept while schmoozing with friends in the ballpark of their choice.

When I landed in Mezzanine 18 and discovered I was in the land of Kowalski (and his legion of Kowannabes), I thought of Jason, who is making the most of his trip to London, to be sure, but definitely would have rather been home or here (or both) with Emily and Joshua. Kowalski, I fear, kind of ran out of steam and disappeared not long after our team did. But six innings of Kowalski goes a long way.

When I was asked several times why I was wearing a Montreal Expos cap, I thought of those fans in Quebec, however many or few there were, who were left without a team to cheer on, without the option of a Sunday or Saturday or Friday of baseball. I wear the cap now and then to remember something that was a part of our baseball lives for so long and is now gone. I also wanted to change our luck (the Expos' only postseason series victory was over Philadelphia in 1981). Plus I feel it's pretty sharp.

When I was walking toward the 7, and a couple of older Phillies fans — not at all in bearing like the frat house jerks who represented the City of Brotherly Love on Saturday — asked me about the Expos cap, I asked them in response and without rancor, “so…are you guys gonna make the playoffs?” Instead of strutting around like they were a few days from ownership of the East (god knows they'd be entitled), they were all “not if San Diego keeps winning”. They began to tell me the Padres' schedule and remind me that it's been a long time since their team won anything. Maybe they were playing it down for risk of inciting the ire of a New Yorker in his moment of despair (we're at our most dangerous when we're cornered), but mostly they seemed resigned to this sweep meaning their eventual disappointment had been postponed three days. “Good luck,” I said. I only meant it as far as I could tell these were True Believers and on some level, we're all in this fan business together.

They won three and they seemed pretty glum. We lost three and I was…happy to have been there. Three baseball games at the tail end of summer, one evening and two afternoons with friends, a full weekend of doing what is ensconced at No. 1 on my All-Time list of things I want to be doing where I want to be doing it.

I must be out of my mind. These were horrible losses. We lost Friday because we couldn't score three. We score three Saturday and we lost because we couldn't score five. We score five on Sunday — the third, fourth and fifth of them in energizing, uplifting fashion — and we lose because we allow five more than that immediately.

Friday I grumbled and pointed fingers.

Saturday I lashed out at those who would dare take pleasure in what had occurred; I actually had to take a long walk before finding the train home to blow off steam so I wouldn't be tempted to take out my frustrations on supporters of the opposition.

Sunday…I know I should be mad and fuming and intricately deconstructing a disaster that encompassed eleven walks, six errors and no more than one clutch swing (Beltran's fleetingly epic blast) by the home club, but the worse it got, the more I gave in to the inevitable — that I was attending all three thirds of a sweep of the Mets. And after Jorge Sosa gave up Guillermo Mota's grand slam to Greg Dobbs that more or less ensured this weekend was lost, lost, lost, I was left thinking…

…that's the way it goes sometimes.

How can I say I had a horrendous time when:

• I, along with my Sunday benefactors, the eternally gracious Chapmans of Central Jersey, sat in the KOWALSKI section? That meant lots of Ah! LOOOUUU! chants and, when Moises delivered, that meant lots of TIP YOUR CAP KOWALSKI — TIP YOUR CAP! curtain calls. Tip your cap, indeed, you and your backup, the guy in the WHOLE MILK jersey, and the gal on loan from Fenway wearing a t-shirt that explained in 25 words or more how the Mets would play the Red Sox in the 2007 World Series for the sake of Bill Buckner. You guys are fun when the game is close and know when enough is enough when it isn't.

• I got up to visit Laurie, seated far away from Kowalski Kountry, and met, at last, the prodigy Jordan who, at 7, is not only totally her aunt's niece (Mets are No. 1, Yankees are No. 0, she reminded me), but is totally a daughter of Long Island? (With Jimmy Rollins at bat: “I'm going to get my daddy to drive his truck over him.”)

• I had not one but two encounters with Coop, the second time even better than the first because we traded cat pictures and she introduced me to a guy whose first words to me were “I'm so drunk,” which removed any potential awkwardness right off the bat?

• I tasted Protein Tastees Gourmet Crackers, a foodstuff handed out for free before the game and abandoned in droves during it? Protein Tastees Gourmet Crackers would fail in a taste test versus drywall, but like Ah! LOOOUUU! swatting fly balls as Billy Smith did pucks in his prime, they should be experienced once just for the wonder of it.

This stuff doesn't happen in real life. There are no Kowalskis leading us in vocal battle with Section 16 when I'm on a conference call. There are no Jordans counting off all her different Met “hotties” when I'm at Pathmark deciding whether four bananas are sufficient given their ripeness. Coop and Zoe don't break into luxury boxes as I ante up for my Visa bill. And I don't while away hours with people like Sharon and Kevin and Ross on Sunday and Charlie on Saturday and Rich and his mom on Friday if I'm not at Shea Stadium.

This, when I don't have something else I must do, is what I want to do: go to Mets games and enjoy them. Management is not responsible if the Mets don't cooperate to make it a fully optimal experience.

Bad baseball on the Mets' part? No doubt, no duh. Hurt them in the short/long run? I dunno. We're still in better position than the Phillies (to say nothing of the Expos). Our team wants to clinch a division and play in October, they'll go to Washington and beat the Nationals and then Miami and do the same to the Marlins. Due respect to 93% of our remaining schedule, but we couldn't ask for an easier slate to finish up with. If the Mets are serious about providing more than a pleasant diversion for another two weekends, then they'll win some games starting now.

If they don't, they don't. I can't break it down any better than that. They have problems. They need Delgado back. They need at least two more relievers to reveal themselves as at least risky (because risk implies the possibility of reward — right now all Mota and Sosa and probably Schoeneweis amount to is guaranteed failure). They need to stop gripping the handles of their Louisville Sluggers as if they're paid to produce sawdust. They need to bring the shortstop into the cage to work on his mental approach to everything. They need to drown out the suggestions that they are MVPs and the like because it seems the more they hear it, the more they desperately try to live up to it. They need to stop running for a minute so they can stop and think.

They need to catch the ball.

There's really nothing new that can be said about the Mets' sudden downfall, because we've seen it. We've seen them go down and we've seen them come up. We thought the last uprising meant the cycle was complete and that we had this season figured out. But now it's Phillie vu all over again and questions abound. Three-and-a-half may be too many to give up in two weeks' time, but otherwise we've been here before. After the mid-June swoon. After the Rockie/Astro sleepwalk prior to the break. After the determined mediocrity versus the Bucs and Nats at the end of July. After that previous Phillie melodrama. There's always a temporarily happy ending to those grim bedtime tales.

Now another chilling chapter has unfolded. I have no idea whether we get through it safely or if this is the one that trips us up…the end. I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out how the Mets lost three consecutive games right in front of me and I left Shea after the last of them feeling pretty good about life.

This fan business can be strange stuff.

29 comments to I Can't Complain, But Sometimes I Still Do

  • Anonymous

    Hey Greg – hanging out with you made the suckitude tolerable.
    If one can't be snarky and laugh at a game like this one, when can one be snarky and laugh?

  • Anonymous

    Dude, I warned you about where you were sitting!!! I had the unfortunate luck last weekend to be sitting in Kowalski Kountry for his first game back at Shea after being banned.
    Jordan now habitually refers to Pat Burrell as “The Devil.”
    And you of all people should know better than to say something like this:
    Our team wants to clinch a division and play in October, they'll go to Washington and beat the Nationals and then Miami and do the same to the Marlins. Due respect to 93% of our remaining schedule, but we couldn't ask for an easier slate to finish up with.
    Don't you know this team by now? *groan*

  • Anonymous

    OH!! They need to catch the ball.
    May I just say that MY ENDY did a FINE job of that yesterday!!!!

  • Anonymous

    And now, since that number hasn't been reduced beyond 11 for the last 72 hours, WE are reduced to pulling for the Braves (ptooeyyyy) and the Cardinals (yeeeeeeccchhhh) to do what we could not do to the Phillies.
    Just when we get the hang of dominating our biggest rival, now we can't beat our new biggest rival. I hope we don't play Philadelphia in the post-season.
    Then again, at this point, I hope we get to play SOMEBODY in the post-season.

  • Anonymous

    I think the best kind if rivalry is the civilized one that you can have with fans like those older Phillie fans you mentioned, not the beer fights and ejections rivalry seen throughout Shea most of the weekend.
    Hopefully all this pathetic losing will remind the Mets that they don't deserve anything, and have to play hard to get anything.
    For what it's worth, the Mets have by getting swept, pretty much guarenteed(like last yaer) that they'll clinch at home.

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    First of all, what Inside said: if I'm gonna watch the craptastic on display, I'm glad I got to watch it with you. Hope my monkey-in-a-tree nattering didn't take too much away from your experience.
    Talk to you soon!
    PS — Ben Chapman was a racist!

  • Anonymous

    Nice, very nice!! BTW, that “guy” I introduced you too was my cousin Jay the Dawg. He's perpetually drunk though, so don't be surprised if you ever meet him again, he says the same damn thing!

  • Anonymous

    Remember they showed the couple on DiamondVision yesterday who were at Shea on their wedding day?
    We ran into them in the subway station afterwards and Jordan was all over them. She ran up to them and said “you got married today at the Mets game! We saw you on the big TV! Everyone saw you! Congratulations!” The bride gave Jordan a rose from her bridal bouquet. :-)

  • Anonymous

    Has anyone noticed that they never hand out samples of anything at Shea – save Klassic Kozy Shack, and they're really pushing the Other Stuff That's New – that's even remotely edible? In fact, it's generally disgusting?
    They were handing out sweet n salty granola bars last week and we were all 'Yummm, these will come in handy in a few innings”.
    I bet they're still under our seats. Along with the ones everyone else started eating and quietly dropped.
    They go along with the shrimp chips from Asian Heritage Night.

  • Anonymous

    you know, the poor woman was a good sport about being there, and about going into the SNY booth, and everything else.
    DUDE! YOU HAD TO MAKE HER RIDE THE SUBWAY? EVER HEARD OF CAR SERVICE?
    Seriously, you married WAY up if she RODE THE SUBWAY after having her wedding reception at the ballpark where she described herself as “getting there” when asked if she was a baseball fan.

  • Anonymous

    en espanol, endy means “CATCH THE BALL”
    while alou means “slower than the largest boulder”

  • Anonymous

    HI Greg,
    By being in the stands on Sunday, do you know that you missed Gary Cohen singing the Fordham University Fight Song in tribute to the Rams beating arch-rival Columbia on Saturday? Being an administrator at Fordham, it brought tears to my eyes (as it also did Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling but probably for different reasons).

  • Anonymous

    All's I can say is…there's no way in the world they can possibly be that bad for the next two (four? six?) weeks. There's no way in the world they can continue to make six errors a game and run the bases like Jimmy Piersall (who, if he was watching, could at least have taken pride in the thought, “Hey, at least I did it on purpose.”). A team that has that kind of collapse — playing that badly against the Marlenes and Gnationals? That's a manager-firable offense, IMHO. And Willie is too lucky a cuss for that to happen to him.
    And one more thing: The last time the Yankees won a World Series, they played at least that shitty for big vomity chunks of September. Remember the sight of them walking mirthlessly past the division-clinching champagne which they were technically entitled to (because of other teams losing, not themselves winning) but couldn't bring themselves to actually indulge in?

  • Anonymous

    Worth noting the '06 Cardinals and the '05 White Sox didn't exactly burn up the track in September of Their Years. I wouldn't recommend it as a formula, but maybe as a barrier against panic.

  • Anonymous

    The shrimp chips (or Shrimp Fries as I believe they translated) were moderately edible. Protein Tastees…wow. I'd rather eat the long-sleeve shirt.

  • Anonymous

    Gotta.
    Play.
    Somebody.
    Name two viable alternatives in the National League that don't fill you with dread for one obvious or obscure reason.

  • Anonymous

    Their wedding video will put everybody else's to shame. (And will probably be very popular in Philadelphia.)

  • Anonymous

    Well, since all of those teams have twenty five guys that invariably kill us every single time what do you expect?

  • Anonymous

    Not to mention the '06 Detroit Tigers who endured an even more spectatcular collapse culminating in a final weekend sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals to cost them the division and resulted in them drawing the Yankees in the first round.
    Where they clearly stood no chance.

  • Anonymous

    I meant this part, Greg:
    we couldn't ask for an easier slate to finish up with.
    That almost always spells doom for this team.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, the memories!!! I watched that last, improbable Detroit-KC game on the edge of my seat and did the happy dance for hours. It was a beautiful day for us Twins-type peeps.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but doesn't everything?

  • Anonymous

    Almost always = 1998 mostly
    This team has embarrassed itself against all comers on occasion. Given the choice (which the National League hasn't provided), I'll take my chances versus Florida and Washington, even though they're as capable as anybody of beating the Mets (as the Mets are of beating them…or themselves).

  • Anonymous

    I mean THINKING LIKE THAT!! All you have to do is assume that a certain stretch of games should be easy, and watch the house of cards–along with the division lead–come tumbling down.
    And please don't bring up '98. I had a '98 meltdown a few months ago, and it wasn't pretty. Don't remember what brought it on. But my blood pressure went up dramatically as I relived that horrific nightmare of a September.

  • Anonymous

    Re-read what I wrote: “Due respect” is given. In the three seasons I've been doing this and the 12 seasons you've known me, have I ever counted a win before its time? Ever?
    The point is the Mets don't have to climb their way past the Braves as in past years. The Braves don't matter (except for playing the Phillies). The Phillies, to the extent we don't play them and they are behind us, don't matter. We have, statistically, the two divisional opponents a first-place team should beat, no matter what Todd Dunwoody and Mike Thurman did to Brian McRae and Armando Reynoso a generation ago.
    Reliving 1998, as long as we don't do it in practice, shouldn't be worth more than a cold sweat at this point.

  • Anonymous

    well, back when C2 (that half real, half fake sugar coke) came outthey gave em out at the Subway series at Shea. Although, if they saw the subway platform I understand why they didn't do that again..I got free popcorn during the popcorn day this year..but taht's about it. I get more free stuff getting out of the Subway before work.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely, two teams we SHOULD beat. And I wish I had the confidence that we WILL do that when we need to.

  • Anonymous

    Now, now guys…not to pee on your parades here…but this kind of stuff happens AGAINST the Mets…not for the mets. :-)

  • Anonymous

    Prob'ly wasn't a Cardinal or White Sock thing before last year either.
    Though what the World Series has to do with these Mets, I'm not so sure.