You don't have to be a graduate of one of Colorado's prestigious school systems to know the Rockies are in trouble. They've lost a blowout, a squeaker and a moderately competitive slugfest. Even education-conscious Mike Hampton could have calculated his former team's current odds of survival as prohibitive long before his celebrated cameos at Denver County's highly regarded parent-teacher conferences.
Yet I envy the Rockies. They've made it this far. They'll probably be dismissed as hopeless lightweights when (when, not if) they lose this World Series, but I hope their fans have enjoyed the unanticipated ride. No, they're likely not enjoying much right now, as evidenced by Fox's continual closeups of thousands of them between pitches — the home team's behind, the faces will be mopey, just shoot the action — yet the luckiest among them got to sit and shiver at Coors Field Saturday night. They were at the first game in the National League park. This marked seven consecutive years for certain that we could only imagine that the first game in the National League park was taking place at Shea Stadium.
I caught the slightest and most accidental snippet of the last World Series game played at Shea as I flipped by a regional sports network that shall remain nameless. It aired Friday, October 26, which happened to be the seventh anniversary of the Mets' most recent Fall Classic appearance (and, it dawned on me, their crosstown rivals' most recent Fall Classic triumph). Putting 26 + 1 together, even though I'm no Mike Hampton, I realized Saturday would be October 27, or the anniversary of the last Mets World Series title won.
So I popped Game Seven, the only Game Seven truly worth identifying as such, into the DVD player. Didn't watch all of it, just the good stuff: El Sid turning the tide in long relief; Mazz starting the rally in the sixth; Teuf drawing the walk that loaded the bases; Keith securing his postcareer broadcasting sinecure by driving in the first two runs; Keith furious at the lousily lazy call by Dale Ford that cost him second base when Dwight Evans couldn't handle Kid's right field fly which tied it; Knight's MVP laser of a homer in the seventh, the run that gave us the lead we never relinquished; shaky McDowell giving way to steady Orosco; Darryl's moon shot and subsequent trot around the solar system; Jesse swinging away to drive home the eighth and final run; then Romero, then Boggs, then Barrett going out, out and out; and then Jesse and Gary and everybody else dogpiling on the mound.
It happened. It really happened. The Mets won a World Series. The Mets have won two World Series, but this was the one that happened least long ago. That it's been 21 years (soon to be referred to as 22 years) and counting…well, that's too long, but at least it happened. I have evidence. I have hard digital evidence that the Mets did what the Rockies won't, which is beat the Red Sox in the final baseball games on the calendar.
October 2007 has been a month for anger and healing for most of us. Our emotions weren't at their prettiest on September 30 for obvious reasons and they've needed time to mend. Of course I envy the Rockies, even down 0-3. Of course I wish we had held on for one more day and then some. Of course losing twelve of the final seventeen was lethal when losing merely ten of the final seventeen would have satisfied all constituencies — the Mets still would have sucked as they were so determined to do, but at least we would have been sucked into the playoffs along with them. And from there, who knows?
I'd be way happier if we were in, let alone succeeding at the 2007 World Series, just as I would have been way happier last October had we engaged in baseball beyond our last Game Seven. Unlike Tom Glavine, I was devastated when he and we came up short on September 30. But it neither made nor broke my allegiance to my team.
I've given a lot of thought to Dan Shanoff's post on fandom by way of Jason's piece from the other day. I suppose I'm one of the undiscerning masses from whom Dan distances himself. My route to becoming and remaining a Mets fan was neither clever nor circuitous nor unorthodox. I imagine it's a pretty typical tale for Mets fans of my vintage. With atypical brevity, here is the essence of my story:
• I was little
• They were local
• It was 1969
After winning that first world championship, the Mets went a long time thereafter without winning a second. They paused to attain the aforementioned belt from '86, but have continued their unabated nonwinning ways otherwise.
With me rooting like hell for them regardless.
Probably the most telling characteristic you could infer about me and my Mets fandom is I'm stubbornly loyal and possibly loyally stubborn. I chose my favorite team when I was 6, I chose my political party when I was 7, I chose my favorite song when I was 9. I've remained faithful to “American Pie,” the Democrats and the Mets without hesitation, even if none of them has spent much time at the top of its respective chart since 1972, 1970 or 1969.
But in the long Met run, the paucity of Commissioner's Trophies on display in the Diamond Club lobby doesn't quite matter. I caught that smidgen of Game Five from 2000 and I was bummed. I treated myself to those highlights of Game Seven from 1986 and I was conflicted — Yay! for winning, Damn! for winning almost half my lifetime ago and not following up for more than two decades. Yet so what? I didn't stop being a Mets fan because we didn't qualify for more World Series and lost the one World Series in which we did participate. I'm apparently deriving some benefit from being a Mets fan, even if success by association isn't it.
Let me let you in on a little secret: I didn't hate being a Mets fan in September 2007.
Don't misunderstand me. I didn't enjoy the squadrons of Phillies, Nationals, Marlins and Cardinals clomping repeatedly on the home plate of my heart for half a month. I didn't enjoy the Mets' myriad pop-ups, errors, blown holds and seven-run tops of firsts surrendered. I didn't enjoy earning our way into infamy. All of that and so much more created utterly hateful circumstances in September 2007.
But I enjoyed that I was doing what I do. I was being a Mets fan. It wasn't working as desired, but I was watching Mets games and listening to Mets games and attending Mets games and talking about Mets games and writing about Mets games and reading about Mets games and thinking about Mets games. I was doing that while hoping there would be Mets games to attend at Shea Stadium in 2007 as late as October 27 and 28 and 29 — if necessary — but I would have been doing it had that hope not existed at all. The level of frequency and activity has varied from year to year, but there hasn't been a season since before I was 6 when I wasn't watching, listening, talking, writing, reading and thinking Mets. (I'd include attending, but I had to wait 'til I was 10 for my first on-site visit to Shea.)
Here, I think, is the deal, historic chokes aside: they're pretty good at being my team; I'm awesome at being their fan. This has been going on all my life. It will be going on all the rest of my life if I have my way. It will include several to many Mets World Series appearances if I have more of my way, but that part of my way is way out of my control. I can also declare, four weeks removed from The Worst Collapse Ever, that it's surprisingly irrelevant. My stubborn loyalty and loyal stubbornness is not win-dependent. The joy my Mets fandom has brought me for going on 40 seasons has little to do with winning and everything to do with being. I love being a Mets fan.
Not that I would reject out of hand a few more Mets games to watch, listen to, attend, talk about, write about, read about and think about tacked on to the end of every year, this one included.