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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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The Silver Lining, After All

So yesterday afternoon I tried to sum up my feelings about Jose Reyes leaving the sad, broken Mets for the temporarily nouveau riche Marlins. I wasn’t happy when I started writing that post, and I wasn’t any happier when I finished. I gave it a final read, posted it and promoted it.

But let me tell you what I did after that. It’s a little thing and a personal thing, but I think you’ll see why I’m sharing it, and maybe derive some comfort from it.

It was time to get my kid from school. I changed my shirt, settling after not particularly conscious thought on my orange ’69 Series Game 3 shirt, the one with a Nixon-era Mr. Met on it. Walking across my neighborhood, I pulled out my phone, put in my headphones and cranked a song I love — “Romance” by Wild Flag. This would be an awesome song to play at Citi Field, I thought idly — a conclusion that probably has to do with the line “sound is the blood between me and you” reminding me of the bond that develops, in good times, between a confident team and its hometown fans.

(This is a mildly insane idea. “Romance” is way too indie to work in the vast space of Citi Field. But that’s not the point. Bear with me.)

I listened to the song again, my footsteps drifting along the well-worn route, and found myself thinking of Ike Davis and Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada in their new, much improved uniforms, of balls landing fair and clearing walls in walkoff victories yet to be. I thought about being at Shea for the Grand Slam Single and for Piazza lining a laser beam off Mulholland and how the stands had moved and flexed as we all bayed at the sky. I thought about getting your errands done early for that first weekend spring-training telecast and settling happily onto the couch, knowing that even though it was still vile outside, those players in mesh tops were a promise that kinder weather would be soon at hand. I thought about my family’s calendar defaulting to 1:10 and 7:10 and adjusting to the occasional 4:05 or 8:05 or enduring a hard week of 10:15s.

I walked along in my Mets shirt with all these thoughts playing tag in my head and the music in my ears, and I realized I was happy. I honestly was. I wasn’t thinking about Jose Reyes, or the Miami Marlins, or Bernie Madoff, or any of it. Not by a conscious act of will, but because my mind had wandered off somewhere better.

That’s my story. But if you read this blog, you’re not so different from me, or from Greg. And that’s why this will all be OK.

I’m not going to tell you exactly how it will be OK, or when. Because there’s more uncertainty and dismay and anger to work through before this star-crossed, scar-marked period in Mets’ history ends.

But it will end. There will be new players who we watch grow and learn before our eyes, going from coltish prospects to incandescent rookies to sturdy veterans, and we will love them all the more for having urged them through their early maybes. And even amid the gloom before they arrive, there will be gritty come-from-behind wins and unexpected laughers. There will be rising apples and Let’s Go Mets chants and hunches proved true and statistical glasses that all of a sudden you’re damn sure are half-full.

And even when you don’t feel that way, there will be Mets Classics and DVDs and just reliving the highlight reels in our own heads. There will be reconnections with old Mets fans and meetings with new ones, excited exchanges about first games seen and classics witnessed. There will be new fans drawn to impossible dreams and wise old heads who remember when those dreams came true.

There will even be nights when a little thing happens like a song proving evocative enough to lift you above the gloom and bad news, until you realize you’re happy not despite the fact that you’re a Mets fan, but because of it.

And that’s something nobody can take away from you. Bernie Madoff can’t steal it, Irving Picard can’t repossess it and Jeffrey Loria can’t buy it.

There is something beyond the reach of all these troubles, something that’s the Mets’ greatest strength — and it’s you. You, and me, and Greg, and all the rest of us. We’re the ones who define this franchise, who weave the thread of identity and life and hope even as the uniforms get tweaked and the stadiums go up and come down and the players arrive and depart and the win-loss records wax and wane. No matter how long you’ve been here, you’ve seen bright days of the baseball soul alongside dark nights. On the bright days, we add to the glitter and the gleam. In the dark nights, we are the only source of light. Either way, we’re there. And despite these recent trials and amid these current woes, we’re not going anywhere.

We are the silver lining.

33 comments to The Silver Lining, After All

  • Michael Brendan Dougherty

    I’m just not ready to hear this yet. I’m still mourning the loss of the only athlete that made me feel the same joy a young boy feels in the game.

    “We” may be the silver lining, but nobody would take a child’s delight in me ’rounding third.

  • InsidePitcher

    That was beautiful Jace – thank you!

  • Really the silver lining is that baseball will still be awesome regardless of who’s playing it, basically. And being a Mets fan is still fun – slightly less fun, but still fun.

  • I was inspired by the Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” And felt the same exact way Jason!

  • Elanit

    Damn you Jason. You made me cry.

  • sturock

    Great piece. And, by the way, the rebuilding periods are the most fun. And… Jose sorta had to go for Alderson to put his stamp on this team, whatever that stamp will be.

    Now Angel Pagan is outta here and we have three new guys for the bullpen. Crazy changes and more to come.

  • Stephen Irolla

    So very eloquent! I actually feel a bit better now myself, even with what might be a fifth-place 2012 season looming ahead!

  • Steve D

    If the Mets don’t turn this around soon, we “silver linings” may become extinct.

    From 1962-1968, the Mets were building a fanbase of Dodger and Giant fans…from 1969-1975, they added fans by being better and more exciting than the Yankees. From 1976-1983, the Yankess were far better and made a comeback vs. the Mets. From 1984-1993, the Mets pretty much dominated or at least were relevant. From 1994-2012 and beyond, the Yankees have systematically taken over New York and today the chasm is wider than anytime since 1978. It is a pretty good bet that a whole generation is about to become adults during a period of Yankee domination. My 9 year old nephew, whose dad, grandfather and uncle are dyed in the wool Yankee haters now has become a Yankee fan. Are we about to become like St. Louis Browns fans?

    • Dak442

      I’ve been worrying about this (and posting on various blogs and websites) for some time now. For the most part, people pick a team when they’re young and are loyal to it for life. This is the reason advertisers focus on youth, even though 40- and 50-somethings have far more discretionary income: they want to snag people early and establish a brand loyalty. How many years like the last five can the Mets have and realistically hope to attract new fans?

      My daughter is 16, and out of her extended group of acquaintances, classmates and facebook friends, maybe 5 are Mets fans. This is not sustainable, long-term.

      • dmg

        my son is 14, and his loyalties to the mets are weakening every year. he remains loyal more for me than his own fandom. but making him retire his #7 shirt is not the way to build up fan appreciation.

        • Rob D.

          I hear you. My 14 year old got a REYES 7 jersey for his 11th birthday. Unfortunately,it’s a men’s medium. He never has worn it, cause he hasnt grown into it yet. Now it’s retired. I posted on my FB that I released him from Met fandom if he chose. It’s like child abuse what I did to that kid.

      • Will in Central NJ

        Nice job as always, Jason.

        Forgive me if I’ve written this before, but here goes:

        In 2002-04, when my wife and I were looking for a larger home for my family of four, we’d find ourselves visiting homes on the market in Middlesex, Union, Mercer, Somerset and Monmouth Counties of NJ. Numerous times, I’d see kids’ bedrooms in these open houses that were decorated, top to bottom, in MLB memorabilia of that other NY team.

        Jokingly, I’d say to the sellers, “If we were to buy your home, the first thing I’d do is fumigate this room,” pointing to the pinstriped decor. I swear, more than a few times, the reply by the parents was, “Oh, we’re big Met fans. But kids these days, they refuse to be Met fans because they’d be the only one in school.”

        This talk of a lost generation of Met fans is very real. My kids (now 15 and 11), my wife and I are Met fans, but it’s true: Met fans under age 21 are an endangered species. Damn the Wilpons and goddamn that Madoff.

      • Barry

        This thought has occurred to me as well. It’s one thing to be able to experience the ups and downs of fandom, taking the good with the bad. But Mets fans have had to endure an unprecedented amount of pain over the last five years in relation to their archrivals: five years of Phillie domination in the East, the resurgence of the Braves, the Yankees still on top. And with all of that, no dramatic sign that on the farm this run will end anytime soon (if anything, while the Mets have nice prospects, the Yankees somehow always seem to have better ones AND more of them).
        Never since 1979 has the secondary position within the division and city seemed so permanent. That ended with the sale of the team the next winter. But the idea that the Wilpons could own this team for DECADES is too much to bear for any Met fan. A reversal of fortune to any degree must come within two or three years or else Met Nation as we know it will be permanently diminished.

  • Z

    “Bernie Madoff can’t steal it, Irving Picard can’t repossess it and Jeffrey Loria can’t buy it.”

    Could Wilpon, though, perhaps sell it?

  • elwood125

    Nice piece. A mets induced smile is a precious commodity these days.

    Great song choice btw, The Coop.

  • Sad to say, I disagree.

    I cannot imagine giving much money, time or energy to a Wilpon-owned operation anymore. I used to have a full season plan but many friends jumped ship after 2009, then we had 60 games but even more have walked away. This year will now be the first time since 1993 that I have not had even a partial plan. I will go to a few games, for sure, but part of me hopes that falling attendance and declining ratings forces the Wilpons’ hand.

    There were many reasons to let Reyes go (though more to keep him, even if he’s broken down the final two years). But the Mets let him go because the owners turned a blind eye, out of greed or moral laziness, to one of the worst financial crimes in memory, and now all decisions are based on that. And that’s not an acceptable reason, especially from a father-and-son team that have proven to be lousy owners on one occasion after another.

    For what it’s worth, while the bullpen signings yesterday were good, the Pagan deal seemed like another ill-advised move. If Kirk Nieuwenhuis isn’t ready for center field then we have a leadoff hitter–Torres– with a career .318 OBP. And Pagan is poised–based on balls in play, etc– to have a much better year this year (offensively). A defensive upgrade in center would have been fine… if the Mets had kept Reyes as their leadoff hitter. (Torres batting eighth would be perfectly acceptable.)

    • Z

      There will be plenty of sub-face price tickets available on the secondary market (Craig’s List, Stub Hub) for the next several years which will allow fans to attend games without putting a dime in these owners’ pockets.

      • That’s a good way to think about it–I think I’ll take that approach (which will also make up for the money I gave the Wilpons this year and then, in a few cases, found myself unable to go and selling the tickets off for $4 each.)

  • Ken Marston

    Well said. I remain mildly crabby about the current situation, but ever hopeful. Even the current doldrums cannot detract from my love of the game.

  • Jerry Z

    Thanks Jason for this piece… more time needed to see where this franchise is headed.

  • Dak442

    Well-said, Jason, and I’m with you. A lot of my friends are bemoaning the loss of Reyes, the supposed lack of hope for the near future, and are giving up. Me, I’m daydreaming about lineups and second-wildcard possibilities, and looking forward to Opening Day.

  • open the gates

    Very well put, Jason.

    Growing up a Met fan with the awful ’77-’83 editions, as a kid I never thought about championships and World Series. With me, it was game-to-game. Always kinda expected the Mets to lose, so every win was a treat. And the lack of a postseason agenda allowed us to focus on the “small things” – the joy of Mookie Wilson running the bases, the sheer power of a Dave Kingman home run, the excitement of seeing a young Wally Backman and Hubie Brooks and Jesse Orosco cutting their major-league teeth, and the anticipation of Darryl Strawberry’s majestic rise through the minors. It made the glory years to come that much sweeter. It’s the kind of stuff a young Yankee fan will never experience – with them, it’s all a “win-win-win” mentality, where this year’s playoff defeat makes the whole season seem somehow futile. In a way, following a “rebuilding” team is good for a kid. If nothing else, it builds character. And there’s always tomorrow and next year to look forward to.

    Ah, well – Now let’s just hope Sandy can do his thing without his hands being tied by the Wilpons…

  • Chris

    Jason,

    I enjoy your well thought out articles. The thing is that words are of no comfort to me and many fans right now. Don’t take this the wrong way but I think that is because you have the benefit of age of your side. I was born in 78, have a decent recollection of 86′ but have no emotional tie to that season. My feelings towards that year are those that you have to watching old films of your family when everyone is younger and happier. Old home movies where you are too young to remember everything yet care enough about your family to feel like those are really your memories. Well they are not. They don’t really belong to me the same way the 86′ Mets do not belong to me. In fact, when I see the Mets show another “classic” on SNY or have a 20th/25th anniversary celebration I get physically sick. I can no longer enjoy seeing Keith, Lenny and Darryl run out on to the field and wave. It’s a constant reminder of how long it’s been since our team has made it to the top. Truth is Keith, Darryl and the rest of the 86 team has made their post-playing day careers on the continued failure of the Mets organization.

    I probably just been a drink but I don’t think any Mets fan should find consolation in reminding themselves that better times are a few years away. This fan base deserves better.

    • Being older is definitely a part of it. Makes you more philosophical and patient, and arguably more willing to put up with stuff you shouldn’t put up with.

  • Flip

    Thanks, Jason. I actually do feel a little better after reading that. How many days ’til pitchers and catchers? LGM.

  • 9th string catcher

    I felt kinda bad about this until I saw Puljos leave St. Louis. Reyes is an all-star, but Puljos? How do you replace a hall of famer? That’s gotta hurt. Back to the Mets – seriously, what have the Mets done with the great Jose Reyes? How many World Series appearances? How many playoff games? How many 1st place finishes? I am sick to death of watching him sitting on the bench nursing injuries and hoping he’ll get better to jump start the team. He is a great player when healthy, but really, how much difference does he actually make? The Mets will probably lose a lot in 2012 without him, just like they would have done with him. The Mets are rebuilding, and this may not be the worst way to go. It’s very likely that much of Jose’s offense will be replaced by Daniel Murphy (who would otherwise probably be a bench player if Jose returned) and most of his defense will be adequately replaced by Tejada, who has a great glove. His excitement will not be replaced, that’s for sure, but with 106M to spend over the next few years, perhaps we’ll get some pitching instead, which we definitely need.

    • I actually think the Mets could win a few more games next year than last.

      If we get a good year from Tejada, a full year from Ike, better years (thanks to closer walls) from Wright and Bay, Santana proving slightly better than Capuano was, a bit of continued improvement from Niese, and the bullpen indeed being improved … well, total it up and I bet you’ve made up for Jose’s lost WAR and more.

      Doubt it’s enough to bring a playoff spot, but .500 or a bit better is far from impossible. And you build from there….

      Ah, eternal optimism.

      • Andee

        Yeah, I’m not down with all the “we’ll be in last place forever without Reyes WE’RE DOOOOOOMED” stuff I’m seeing all over the place. I mean, does it ever occur to anyone that Reyes might never be a 6 WAR player again, or that he might do it only once more and that’s it? Like you said, Jason, his second half of this year and all of the previous year were just okay, nothing Tejada (or Valdespin?) couldn’t at least come close to replicating.

        And yes yes YES about the pitching being key. We might have been better off + Reyes than – Reyes, but we know for sure that the pitching has to get a lot better, especially with the fences moved in. And that bullpen was just unspeakable. The only worse bullpens were Houston’s and Minnesota’s, teams that didn’t even finish .400. That bad. Just ask the Brewers and Diamondbacks what a difference that makes.

        • Andee

          Oh yeah, and 9th string catcher, that’s a good point about Murphy. He probably wouldn’t be the starting 2B with Reyes still there. (As it is, he’s looking over his shoulder at Havens, who might finally be ready to break out this year. Too bad Havens can’t play SS.)

          So it was either going to be Reyes-Tejada or Tejada-Murphy, and the latter probably is not that much of an offensive dropoff. They’ll still score plenty of runs; they led the division in runs scored even with most of the big bangers being badly hurt or half asleep all year. I’m honestly not that concerned about the offense.