We the fans may be Mets in every emotional way, but it was proven again Friday night that we the fans cannot hit, hit with power, run, throw, catch and pitch.
And…wait for it…neither can the Mets.
Either way, we're all on the outside looking in now. We are not in first place, which is in and of itself not a crime. I would contend, however, vacating first place two games before the season's end after holding it so seemingly tight for so long should be.
Then again, having to be a part of this team looks like punishment enough from here.
I've made the mistake of flipping on the Mets' flagship radio station during the day this week and being told that Mets fans weren't showing up and weren't showing support. Of course I'm only some guy who's been out there among tens of thousands of Mets fans for three consecutive nights, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but there have plenty of Mets fans at Shea this week and there has been plenty of support. Anybody who thinks this fan base hasn't gotten behind its team to the cusp of the bitter end is clearly looking or listening for a storyline that does not exist.
These fans, of which I was one of 55,298 (more or less), were great last night. With every reason in the world to turn our collective back on the Mets, we didn't. We roared from the first pitch. Even when succeeding pitches proved inadequate, we kept roaring for our team. There was no mass booing, even though there was every reason to produce it…if, in fact, you are the type who is inclined to empty corrosive fluid out of your lungs.
Perhaps it shouldn't be noteworthy that fans of the local team attended the local team's sporting event and cheered enthusiastically for the local team, particularly with the local team tied for first place and time running out. Perhaps it shouldn't be worth noting, but after so many losses in so short a span with such dreadful consequences for the local team's position in the standings, I think it is.
The Mets did not play nearly as well as we rooted. They fell behind, but we rooted for them — hard. They stayed behind, but we rooted for them — harder. I tend to forget that a lot of people who show up to Mets games are relatively uncomplicated people. They don't overthink the issue. They show up and they want their team to win. They don't come up with reasons to be down on them away from the ballpark and they find ways to encourage them once they're there. That's who was at Shea Friday night: Mets fans who wished the Mets would win. It was the best part of this game and maybe this season.
My night began as it almost always does, on the 6:11 to Woodside. As I rode and listened to my Amazin' playlist (you don't wanna know what's on there), I found myself recalibrating the default memory of my fanometer. I was no longer set on 1998, the choke. I clicked forward a notch to 1999, when the circumstances were maybe more dire (seven consecutive losses and a bigger Wild Card lead being blown) but the outcome (win, win, win, a little help) much more rewarding on the final weekend. I realized I was no longer rooting for the 2007 Mets. I was rooting for just the Mets — the institutional Mets who are capable of pulling a 1999, the Mets who give us reason to believe and hope even when they stumble, even when they fall as they did in 1998. I was rooting for the Mets who made me the fan I am today, all of them. It just happened to be 2007 while I was doing it.
I think that's what a lot of the people at Shea Stadium were doing Friday night. The names they wore and chanted and beseeched may have corresponded to those on the field, but this wasn't all about Lo Duca and Beltran and Wright and Reyes and Alou and Green. It wasn't necessarily about Piazza and Alfonzo or Knight and Backman or Agee and Koosman either. It was about being a Mets fan, being in it for better or worse, thinking that worse isn't what this has to be. Thinking that maybe if we do our best for them, they'll do their best for us. If that's a clichéd portrayal of what a Mets fan is, then just say we spent Friday night at Cliché Stadium.
If the Mets did their best, their best isn't very good. Their best hasn't been close to worthwhile for weeks. Maybe these Mets just aren't very good.
I didn't take a train home. My friend for all seasons Jim had parked in the Southfield (they named the lot across Roosevelt this year like a gated community for some reason) and offered me a ride. By the time we pulled out, we were fuming at the result as you'd expect. I'm loyal. Jim's loyal. Jim's so loyal that he eschewed his threat to drink six beers and boo everything in sight so he, too, could root like hell. But our loyalty doesn't cloud our judgment. And as Jim drove and Willie Randolph and David Wright offered their critiques and excuses on Mets Extra, we fumed more.
Jim and I were owed at least one beer for our trouble, so we stopped in a watering hole he knew not far from where he grew up. And after letting loose an ear-steaming monologue probably far more entertaining than anything I am capable of piecing together at the moment, I noticed I had become another cliché: my head was literally on the bar and I was figuratively crying in my beer.
I'm somewhere between my cliché personas now. There are two games left for the second-place Mets just as there are for the first-place Phillies. Those need to be played and I'm still capable of acknowledging that games that aren't yet won or lost are still up for grabs. The Mets could win Saturday. The Phillies could lose. For technical reasons, I will continue to root like hell when I make my fourth consecutive appearance at Shea today. But otherwise, I'm nearly as resigned to the fate of the 2007 Mets as the 2007 Mets indicated they are by their dismal actions on the field Friday night.
If they played the way we root, this thing would have been wrapped up in August.