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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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Rooting for the End

I love the Mets because I love the Mets.

I don't love the Mets because they are such a well-run organization filled with the kind of people whose baseball acumen translates to a satisfying sense of your fate being in good hands. Only the Pirates and their sixteen consecutive losing seasons sit between the Mets and rock bottom in terms of reasonable return on resources.

I don't love the Mets because they treat their customers with care and respect. I've been to the past fourteen home games and I know they approach us with unsurpassed indifference as they hold us in utter contempt. Friday night they looked at us and saw, at best, 49,545 walking cash machines or, at worst, the reason they couldn't go home early.

I don't love the Mets because of the great mass of Mets fans. Too many Mets fans come to Mets games for reasons that apparently have nothing to do with supporting the Mets. These are the kinds of people who stand in your way in supermarket aisles and cut you off on the Southern State and boo their cats for not being dogs.

I don't love the Mets because of the players who are currently on the Mets. The players on the Mets, individually and as a unit, haven't forged an instinctual connection with me. I have nothing against them but I find myself with little in particular for them. Some are talented and seem good-natured and I appreciate their efforts on my nominal behalf. Mostly, though, I don't feel this bunch all that much. And, though it's not a jailing crime, they're just not very good.

I don't love the Mets because they are replacing Shea Stadium with World Class Citi Field. I don't like that at all, actually. I don't like that by selling off every last piece of Shea they are demonstrating their intent to blot out as much Mets history as possible so one man can indulge a personal nostalgia for a team very few of us ever saw. Mets ownership wants us to believe the last 47 years have been no more than an asterisk between Brooklyn Dodger dynasties real and imagined.

I love the Mets because I love the Mets.

That's what it comes down to on the morning of the second-to-last game of this season, the second-to-last game ever at Shea Stadium, the cloudy preamble to a murky finale. My overexposure to the Mets in September 2008 has left me with only my love as a reason for my love. It is circular reasoning whose perimeter permits no logic to permeate. I love the Mets because I love the Mets even though there is almost nothing on the surface about the Mets that I can stand anymore.

But I do love the Mets. Which is why, in my heart, I am rooting for the end today.

I don't know how to accomplish it in a dignified fashion. It was going to be easier when the scheduled starting pitcher was Undecided. I have no attachment to a rainy-day parade of middle relievers and overmatched youngsters. Let them go out and suck it up, let it be some Gl@v!nesque score before too long, let it be over with and then let whoever our enemy in the standings is this weekend go out and put us out of our misery. Then let me come back to Shea Stadium on Sunday free and clear of competitive implications — nobody riled up — and let me enjoy one final game in something resembling the sun. Give me my moments of contemplation and emotion and give me my procession of players I did feel and let me enjoy my time with those folks like me who came to love the Mets because they, like me, love the Mets.

Then Jerry Manuel announced Johan Santana would start on short rest today. And I can't root against that. I couldn't root against Jonathon Niese or Brandon Knight either, of course, but I could kind of ease out the door and not hold myself responsible. Niese? Knight? We're not serious about winning anyway. But Johan on three days' rest, whether or not it works, is an indication that somebody with a hand on the wheel actually cares about how they finish. Al Leiter went on three days' rest in Game Six in Atlanta and was predictably clobbered. Johan Santana is about three times the pitcher Leiter ever was (that's not a knock on Al, it's just a fact), but pitchers don't go on three days' rest and haven't for more than thirty years.

Johan Santana has done everything you could want from him and the Mets are sitting on the edge of extinction on the penultimate day of the season with 88 wins. That's one more win than they had 52 weeks ago this morning when they were sitting on the edge of extinction. That's the Mets for you: bring in the best pitcher in baseball and improve exactly one iota. Johan proved his worth and his grit the other night against the Cubs. If he can't produce his high-end magic on command, I won't hold it against him.

I don't hold anything against these guys. They're not that good is all. There are like five players who are and everybody else is a stopgap. How can anybody get mad at the Mets for being no better than they really are? The one movie for which I drop everything whenever it's on is Rudy. Rudy's dream is to make the football team at Notre Dame and nothing — certainly not his lack of football skill — is going to stop him. His spiteful older brother Frank, however, is not impressed by his quest or his progress.

“If you are on that team,” Frank tells Rudy, “my opinion of Notre Dame just hit the shits.”

That's how I see the National League in 2008. The Mets are in a position to potentially make the playoffs? These Mets? The Mets of Brian Stokes and Luis Ayala and Bobby Parnell and Ramon Martinez and Robinson Cancel and wave upon wave of underdeveloped kid and overtraveled retread? The same Mets who committed a small GDP to Johan Santana yet have gotten by otherwise on Dollar Tree bargains and almost made it? That is worthy of admiration if you squint, but not worthy of being taken seriously.

How do people boo these guys? How do you get mad at a team that isn't that good for performing to reputation? How do you get down on Aaron Heilman for being Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano for being Pedro Feliciano, everybody for being everybody? I used to lament that nobody stuck around much on this roster, that you never got to know Mets before they became something else. Now we've got a few guys who have been Mets a pretty long time, like Heilman, like Feliciano, and they are treated not as old hands trying their best but as vermin for whom you'd better call Arrow Exterminating. I won't pretend either Heilman or Feliciano has his picture tacked above my figurative headboard; they're not my favorites or anything. But geez! Heilman pitching with whatever injuries he's been harboring can't quite get the last out of an inning and you can't say “thanks anyway”?

It was reported in the darkest days of the mostly dark days of the New Jersey Nets franchise that they pumped crowd noise into the Meadowlands to make it sound fuller and more encouraging. I swear we have the opposite at Shea now. Somebody presses a button and I hear boos. It's automatic, a misanthropic mangling of the electronic cheerleading: EVERYBODY CLEAR YOUR THROAT! (BooBooBooBoo Boo Boo Boo!)

I sat in front of somebody booing on Friday night. Booed Parnell. Booed Feliciano. Booed Heilman. It wasn't drunken booing and it wasn't exhibitionistic booing. It was simple disappointment-driven booing, the frustration of watching a so-called playoff contender crumble before the mighty Florida Marlins. His girlfriend tried to talk him down, but he was just mad and sullen. He didn't know how else to respond. He just thought this is what you do when things don't go your way.

I still don't get it. It wasn't my biggest priority last night to analyze him and his 10,000 like-minded cohorts, but I don't get it. The Mets won't play any better because you boo. Shea won't feel any less tense because you boo. Your memory of the third-to-last game ever in this building won't be enhanced because you booed. All you'll have is a sore throat.

One of the Kozy Shack-sponsored video vignettes shown in the half-hearted DiamondVision salute to Shea history focused on the '73 Mets, a squad described as “injury-plagued and underachieving”. When, I asked my very good friend Jim Haines on the occasion of our final Shea Stadium game together, have the Mets not been injury-plagued and underachieving? Injury-plagued and underachieving could characterize the '74 Mets and the '75 Mets and the '76 Mets…right up to the '08 Mets. They are injured. They haven't achieved what's been in reach, their Quadruple-A underpinnings notwithstanding. But this is what they do and who they are. That is why we so often hold in highest esteem the rare edition of this club that exceeds expectations. I dwell fondly on the summer of 1980 and the heart of the 1997 season even if they lacked the happy ending of 1969 because it was so unlike the Mets to overcome expectations. Usually they simply don't live up to them. If this was news to you as of September 26, 2008, you haven't been paying attention and maybe you shouldn't have bought a ticket.

I hate the booing, but I can live with it most weekends. Not this one. I didn't buy my way in to every game this weekend and make sure I was at every home game this month to hear you boo, to have you cast more of a pall than even a lousy bullpen could on my final hours in the only ballpark I will ever truly consider mine. It's bad enough that the Mets can't win enough games to extend this season into a postseason. It's bad enough that the Mets train their employees at the Rikers Island Customer Service Academy. It's bad enough that a request for “only or mostly onions if you can please” on my final ever Premio Italian Sausage was met with bafflement and a heap of peppers. It's bad enough that for every promotion, the first 25,000 get the item and the next 25,000 get the finger, unless it's Foam Finger Day. It's bad enough the scoreboard posted three separate announcements urging you to call a Vandalism Hotline and rat out anybody you see trying to make off with the napkin dispensers before they can be auctioned for insane profit. It's bad enough that the pennant the Mets gave away at the door would receive a C+ in most arts & crafts classes (which is strange considering the Mets are generally expert at giving away pennants). It's bad enough that the whole Greatest Moments presentation, like the whole Countdown debacle, was underwhelming and apathetically handled. Everything with the Mets gives you no reliable rationale to love them but you do anyway.

What I am left with is the ideal of the Mets, loving the Mets for the sake of loving the Mets. Loving the Mets because I always have and Shea Stadium has always been my destination and all I've ever wanted to do was go there and sit there and be with my friends — like Laurie Thursday night, like Jim last night, like Jason this afternoon weather permitting — who love the Mets for the same nonlinear reasons I do. Poor Jim. Jim blames himself for the Mets losing whenever he goes. They lose almost always when he goes. The Mets are 2-11 in our last thirteen games together. Every afternoon before every night game I've attended with Jim I am filled with anticipation for how much I am going to love sitting with him and deconstructing the Mets and life. Since August 18, 2005, the Mets are 0-10 in night games we've attended together. I had nine instances of precedent to prepare me for the loss last night and I looked forward to our going just as much as I had those other nine times. He implicitly blamed himself for Friday's loss — himself and Daniel Murphy for not being taller and more agile. Yet I've never regretted a moment we've been together in those seats.

For all the kvetching and moaning I've done since taking the September plunge, I haven't regretted any of it because I've gotten to sit next to people for whom my affection is almost boundless. They more than Santana and Wright and Reyes and the reliever of the minute club and the idiots who block off escalators and can't prepare a pretzel…they have come to represent the Mets for me. They represent Shea Stadium to me. The walkoff hits in the rain are sublime, but the nine innings that precede them are made whole by those on my left or right. They've given me a month I will hold dear from now to doomsday. For them and people like them — the people who endure 6-1 defeats that send a season to the brink and then step outside and take pictures because they'll never see Shea again — I wish the Mets would win today and win tomorrow and for the Brewers to lose to the Cubs twice and for us to go on. Surely I'd like a shot at a championship. Surely our collective psyche would be boosted should the Mets live up to that sign I saw held in the Field Boxes Thursday after Beltran scored Reyes:

NY PLAYOFF BASEBALL — ONLY IN QUEENS!

Not so deep down, though, I kind of wish the Mets and all their nonsense would just go away. It's a baseball season curdling at the edges now. It's the end of September. I don't want winter to start the night of September 28, but maybe it must. Maybe this season should stop screwing with us already. At bare minimum this season's fortunes must be straightened out by Sunday afternoon. It must not be left to the wolves baying at its failures at that moment the Mets of my youth and the Mets of my relatively recent maturity come marching out of whatever tunnel they will be kept. I've been waiting since April for this Shea Goodbye ritual. I don't need to buy two seats for $869. I don't need to join the Premiere Club for $25,000. I don't need to run to the New Era stand so I can purchase my Official Final Weekend cap for whatever they're charging (bloodsuckers). I need the postgame ceremony, however. I need it and want it. I want the Mets to admit they do have a history of which they are proud. I want to breathe in 1964 and 1969 and everything thereafter. I want to see, one more time, the Mets who gave me and my friends something to talk about. I want the Mets being the Mets before they are remarketed as latter-day Dodgers in faux Ebbets Field.

I've been on hand for, I suppose, tens of thousands of Mets fans' final visits to Shea this season. I've watched the pictures get taken and I've heard the buzz. “This is my last game at Shea…wow. I can't believe I won't be here again. Bye Shea!” Those people had their day. Now I want mine. I want it free and clear. I don't want the shortsighted sniping that the Mets fucking did it to us again in the last game, how could they do this to me? — BOOOOOO!!!!!! to ruin it. I don't want a torrent of grumbling from the types who don't pay attention to anything that isn't instant gratification to drown out the footsteps of 45 years. I want those people to leave in the seventh inning. If Shea Stadium has no more than me and my wife and the souls who share our values, even if there aren't 56,000 of us by then, fine. We will make the right kind of noise for Mr. Seaver and Mr. Piazza and Mr. Strawberry and whoever else shows up. We will make it a salute to ourselves and our love for love's sake and those with whom we've shared it. I don't need the slim prospect of a Wild Card play-in game for that.

When I was sick a couple of weeks ago and I dragged myself to Shea on the Friday night when it rained and for the Saturday doubleheader and the Sunday afternoon game, do you know what my biggest anxiety was? It wasn't that I would make myself sicker. It was that I wouldn't be able to cheer properly. It was that when it came time to yell LET'S GO METS! that I couldn't because my throat hurt too much and I was coughing a lot. I went anyway and I yelled anyway. I got rained out, lost two out of three and was sold no pretzel for my troubles, but I yelled. I cheered. I went. I regretted only what was unavoidably regrettable. The rest I was all in for and that's fine. That's what I do.

For my own sake, for the team I love, for the team I've loved forever, for the team that ran us through the gamut two Octobers ago and again last September with heartbreak our only reward in both instances and for the place I will eternally inhabit even as its appointment with demolition draws nigh, I really wouldn't mind if the Mets would get it over with and lose today. I really wouldn't mind if then the Cubs — the first team I ever rooted against and is now supposed to be my temporary savior — lost. If all unlikely prospects of continuation of 2008 were to be definitively statistically eliminated, I could come to Shea Stadium Sunday and have one last beautiful, angst-free day. I would have no shot at a championship, but I'd have peace of mind where the Mets are concerned.

That's way too much to ask for. Let's Go Mets.

20 comments to Rooting for the End

  • Anonymous

    As someone with tickets tomorrow with my 5-year old son (who was also with me for Gl@v!ne's finale last year), all I can say is “well said.”

  • Anonymous

    Circular reasoning or not, you hit the nail on the head. Simply beautiful.
    I'll see you at Shea tomorrow!

  • Anonymous

    That was beautiful. It really makes me wish I was back home for one last game at Shea instead of watching on mlb.tv at school 500 miles away.
    Every day for the past month of this roller-coaster season I've come here each morning to see you guys put into words the things I feel. It has been a “happy recap” after the big victories and pretty much the only thing that consoles me after the tough losses. Win or lose, thank you guys so much for everything. You embody everything about being a Mets fan that makes me proud to correct my fellow classmates “Yes, I'm from Long Island but no, I can't stand the Yankees”.

  • Anonymous

    No – I don't want the season to end Sunday. I want a championship! It doesn't have to be pretty. From living elsewhere, from going to games elsewhere, the thing that stands out is that NY fans want their team to go for a championship. NY fans expect more than anywhere else. I would lose my mind living in Kansas City or Pittsburgh, where baseball is for inexpensive entertainment and not for sport. Angst free day? The history of this team is angst and love and pain and joy. I want my last time at Shea tomorrow to be something that counts.

  • Anonymous

    someone needs to give this to Freddy and Jeffy Skill Sets to let them know what a mess they have made of this franchise, Gregg yo finally helped me figure out why I root for this team and why I spend way too much time writing about this team and worrying about who this team will draft out a bunch of pimply kids out of high school but I do because I love the Mets. A part of me hopes that opening day at $iti Field has a lot of empty seats

  • Anonymous

    You've put into words exactly how I feel. I'll be there tomorrow, and if we're out of it and there are only a few true fans to celebrate beautiful Shea Stadium and all its glorious history, and to cheer Mr. Seaver and Mr. Piazza and Mr. Strawberry and Mr. Mays, and Pedro and Johan and Jose and David and the Carloses, it will still be an absolutely wonderful day.
    Then again, let's hope the old lady still has a few more games in her.
    Let's go Mets!

  • Anonymous

    You sound like me now. HA I think I'll get “The Mets won't play any better because you boo” tattooed on my forehead, because I'm worn out from saying it. You'd think it would be common sense, and you'd think you wouldn't have to tell a team's own fans that abuse should be reserved for the ENEMY, but there you go.
    I am sick as a dog at the moment. Illness prevented me from being there last night, and now today. I'd love to be there today, but there is NO WAY I'm risking getting even sicker and missing out on tomorrow. I have been unfailingly loyal and faithful, I have never turned on my own team and treated them like crap because they disappointed me (like all loved ones occasionally do), and I have loved every inch of that building and treasured every moment I've spent there in the past 35 years with every beat of my heart. I deserve to be there when it ends. I've earned that. I want to experience the Mets and Shea one last time before our heritage slate is wiped clean and we start from scratch as Mets 2.0, Dodgers Edition next year. I want to cheer Mike and Fonzie and Robin and all the rest of them one last time, and thank them for being Mets.
    God sure picked a crappy time to make me too sick to walk. And the Mets sure picked a crappy time to suck. But like Greg, I'm ready for this to be over. Tomorrow I will not care about October. There will be other Octobers. But there will never again be Shea. And I pray my fellow fans will recognize that and put their boos aside for one day, and focus on what really matters. This is your team. Please, just for one day, put that above your petty complaints, and feel the love.

  • Anonymous

    “The Mets won't play any better because you boo.”
    I have always held this belief. It's something I have never understood at all. Like what, that they aren't trying, so maybe booing could be used as some motivational tool? Greg, you have maybe written your finest piece since I discovered your blog midway through 2007. Hopefully we all have a few more games left after Sunday, but regardless I would like to thank you and Jason for your great writing to get us through this season. You truly have the pulse of the Mets fan.

  • Anonymous

    Today, the Mets returned your love.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, you gave me a preview of this last night on the 7 and I whole-heartedly agreed with you.
    After the 9th inning today as Johan marched victoriously into the dugout, when my knees were shaking and throat was sore and tear ducts barely holding, I thought to myself, “what was I thinking?!”
    If that wasn't the gutsiest performance by a Mets pitcher in history, I don't know what is.
    P.S.: Great seeing you again today, and great to meet Jason.

  • Anonymous

    Yes . a gutsy performance by JS . Isn't it earily similar to the gutsy performance by J.Maine last yr in the pen-ultimate game? Didn't he pitch a 1 hitter? Hope the follow up game goes a bit better!! I'll be there, this time…

  • Anonymous

    Greg, this piece just rules. And just in time for my birthday. Thanks!
    Not only don't the Mets get any better because the fans boo, I actually think it has the opposite effect. I think the boo-ers (the ones who “boo at their cats for not being dogs,” OMG, classic) supply a hefty load of bad juju. The only reason it hasn't been worse is because Phillies fans are the ones who (per Bo Belinsky, and still true 40ish years later) go them one downward by booing “funerals, an Easter egg hunt, a parade of armless war vets and the Liberty Bell.”
    I can't tell you how much I hate with a violet-puce passion this idea that the Mets don't have heart or don't care about winning. I mean, come on. How often do you think Wright, et al, heard after the end of last season, from people over and over again, “You ruined my favorite team, I hate you”? Does anyone think they WANT that? That they LIKE it? That it doesn't bother them at all? Please. Even Pirates fans don't give the players that much shit. Why is it so much harder for people to accept that talent (and most especially relief pitching talent, with this bunch) is really the thing that's missing?

  • Anonymous

    I would like to think that most of the fans who will be there tomorrow are the true fans, who have loved the Mets over the years, and will be there to give Shea a proper send off. Therefore, I'd like to believe that the booing will be kept to a minimum. Or at least I hope so, I'm tired of arguing with people over it. I wish those people would just stay home. I was at Friday's game w/ my 7 year old daughter and the guy in front of me not only booed Heilman but started screaming that his mother was a whore. What kind of person feels the need to do that?

  • Anonymous

    What kind of person feels the need to do that?
    People who like being given permission to be total fucking assholes in public as loudly as possible. That's who.
    I realize this should have dawned on me a long, long time ago, but too many people come to the ballpark to take their frustrations on their lives out on the team.
    Although I think nothing is as bad as the guy who arrived in our section today wearing a Phillies jersey and a Yankees hat. One of the expensive custom ones, too.

  • Anonymous

    Jason noticed as we left some bag of douche wearing a Marlins jersey and a teal Yankees cap.
    Please tell me anybody dressed like that Sunday is barred from the premises. And kicked in the shins.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like you're getting your wish (my wish, too, it turns out).

  • Anonymous

    We saw a guy wearing a Marlins hat and my other half responded, loudly, “WOW, A MARLINS FAN? I DIDN'T KNOW THEY EXISTED.”
    I called the Phillies/Yankees guy a dickhead. I even used that word on my blog. There just was no other word. Was there?
    Anyone who paid the price to be in the building tomorrow just to be an asshole… I'm going to report them to the NARC HOTLINE.
    hope to see you at the Crane Pool tailgate tomorrow.

  • Anonymous

    BTW, I can just hear some talking point android on some political screech show twist that Heilman remark: “Well, do you know for a fact Aaron Heilman's mother isn't a whore? And what do you have against the working mothers of America?”

  • Anonymous

    For the first time ever, I feel vindicated instead of outnumbered here on the “booing does more harm than good” issue. Like, um, well… yeah.