Those Staten Islanders sure are a cocky bunch.
Actually, that would be a gross generalization and probably inaccurate. I knew one guy from Staten Island in college and he seemed nice enough. I know one guy from Staten Island now — big Dave Kingman fan — and he's never struck me as over the top (except maybe in his fondness for Dave Kingman). And the patron saint of Staten Island sports figures, Bobby Thomson, is perhaps the most humble hero baseball has ever produced. In fact, he'd no doubt recoil at being called a hero.
But I encountered this one guy from Richmond County a few weeks ago, and he was raving about the season Jason Marquis, also of Richmond County, was having. As if his numbers couldn't speak for themselves, this Staten Islander had to burnish Marquis's credentials as such:
He's gonna beat the Mets when the Rockies come to New York.
That unnecessary boast has been on my mind ever since I heard it. I wasn't frothing for the Mets to take on a freshly minted National League All-Star, but something about the man's guarantee struck me as the wrong thing to say. It was hubris in a game where humility is far more helpful to your cause. It reminded me of the last Bar Mitzvah I attended, some cousin of mine from Massapequa in 1991. He taunted some Northern California relatives in his challah-slicing poem (don't ask*) that he'd be going to San Francisco in a few weeks to see “my” Mets sweep their Giants.
Their Giants swept his Mets. And our Mets went on to wander in the desert for the next six seasons.
My cousin from Massapequa. The guy from Staten Island. Will baseball fans ever learn it doesn't pay to imitate Joe Namath? That there are no sure things? That you don't write checks your ass has no way of knowing in advance whether it can cash?
Jason Marquis didn't pitch terribly Tuesday night, but his Staten Island lansman put the nahora on him. I don't know if that fellow (like my cousin and, come to think of it, Jason Marquis) is Jewish, but he should have said, “You'll see Jason Marquis and maybe he'll do all right, kinahora,” which is what we say in Yiddish or at Citi Field to ward off evil spirits. It certainly worked for me, sitting and rooting humbly in the Left Field Landing Tuesday night.
Beat an All-Star pitcher with a lineup wherein that All-Star pitcher could easily bat sixth? Why wouldn't we be humble?
Sorry Marquis, you were doomed by the hubris of one of your friendly neighborhood boosters. And the Mets…the new, improved and humble Mets…they won their fourth in a row after no one in his or her right mind was boasting about their chances.
How do we proceed from here in the Wild Card race where the odds against us are as long as the Verrazano and our prospects still distressingly narrow? Stay humble, keep a low profile and hope for the best. Kinahora.
*It occurs to me it was the candle-lighting that brought out the poetry, not the challah-slicing. If it was the bread that had to wait for 64 couplets on the Bar Mitzvah experience, it would have gone stale.
More baseball advice you might find as not so awful: Get a copy of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.