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Valley of the Diehards

On the first night I was inside Citi Field in 2011, well before the season started, someone who works for the Mets said to a group that included me, “You guys are the diehards.”

On the last night I was inside Citi Field in 2011, just before the season ended, we still were, at least by the standard definition that implies implacable devotion to a cause. Our cause is the New York Mets, for modestly better or predictably worse. That much is clear after 161 mostly unsuccessful games — except “diehard” implies a resistance to prevailing trends, and I don’t necessarily think that describes people like us, people who dotted select portions of the stands for the Mets and Reds on a Tuesday night long after the Mets and Reds on a Tuesday night would mean anything to anybody else.

It’s not that we’re resistant to prevailing trends. We’re indifferent to them. We’re impervious to them. We don’t know that there’s a whole wide world out there that doesn’t give a damn about the 2011 Mets when 2011, in Met terms, is innings away from expiring. It doesn’t occur to us to notice. And if we happen to be accidentally cognizant that the 2011 Mets are high on nobody’s list of priorities but our own, what do we care about anybody else’s list? Ours commences, continues and concludes with the 2011 Mets, until there are no more 2011 Mets.

When that occurs, which it will innings/hours from now, we’ll start a new list, under the heading of 2012 Mets.

But we don’t leave the 2011 Mets until every last one of them has left us. We don’t leave the 2011 Mets until the 13th inning of the second-to-last game, and if we can, we plan an instant return for the last game. We go nowhere where our team is concerned.

Our team also goes nowhere, but we figured that out quite a while ago.

Last night at Citi Field — the last night at Citi Field for this year — was great until it wasn’t, and it wasn’t great then only because it ended the way it did, with another Mets loss [1] (despite a dissonant scoreboard message that insisted METS WIN! after Justin Turner lined into a game-losing double play).

Jose Reyes was great as he embraced his chase for five decimal-place immortality before he probably chases nine digits preceded by a dollar sign. Jose homered deep twice. Jose singled shallowly once. Jose was on handmade signs. Jose was on everybody’s minds. Jose was on second as Ruben Tejada endeavored to drive him home in the bottom of the ninth. Jose was on third by the time Ruben worked one of his already-patented ten-pitch walks. Jose was atop the batting race by a scintilla of a whisker of an eyelash when he came out on deck as the potential not-losing run in the 13th. Jose stood there and watched his last plate appearance evaporate before it could materialize, just as Ryan Braun did when some Brewer got picked off before he could surge ahead of or, better yet, drop further behind Jose.

We watched Jose closely. We watched the out-of-town scoreboard obsessively. We watched TAM overcome NYY, BOS fend off BAL, PHI crush ATL and STL inevitably pound HOU to ensure two last-day Wild Card ties in a sport that allegedly requires another playoff round to generate late-season drama. Add that to whatever we divined (and confirmed, via smartphone) Braun was doing as MIL took on PIT, and I was moved to remark to my companion that even though somebody who likes something I don’t might not understand why I don’t like what he does, I don’t understand how anybody couldn’t like baseball as much as I do. We’re watching results from games we’re not even watching, and it’s thrilling — AND we’re watching a game right in front of us!

That was before the game right in front of us got all Acosta’d and Parnelled, but the point holds. How could anybody not want to be a diehard if being a diehard means one more night outdoors with baseball all around you? In the company of diehards like you to whom you don’t have to explain yourself?

Got something you’d rather do than go to the last night game at Citi Field last night? I mean besides go to the last day game at Citi Field today?

I didn’t think so.