After spending a slice of my Tuesday afternoon listening to Dave Hudgens complain about “negativity” and Sandy Alderson indicate he can’t spend more money on players until it is liberated from True New Yorkers’ pockets, a dispassionate consumer of Mets baseball might have been ready to devote his time and resources to something more satisfying — say, a good bang of the head into the nearest wall.
But we are not dispassionate consumers when it comes to our ballclub…our ballclub that doesn’t understand how much we love them even when we get the feeling they are programmed to repel us…our ballclub that transmits a message whose essence is, “We need more of you to buy tickets and less of you to respond to how we play when you buy tickets.” Yet the Mets can’t stop Mets fans. They can only hope to maintain them.
I was on my way to Citi Field Tuesday night no matter what truths and opinions the deposed batting coach spoke on a pair of radio programs, no matter how much spin the general manager put on his own reply. That Hudgens seemed to resent both us and our beloved proxies in the broadcast booth and that Alderson continued to sing the same budgetary tune (one little doubt penned for him by his real estate mogul employers) was immaterial when it came time to catch the 5:11 to Jamaica, change for the 5:49 to Woodside, dash upstairs for the 7 Express and glide down to ye olde Home Run Apple by 6:15. I was going to the game.
Going to the game. The Mets can’t curb that enthusiasm. I didn’t sit for six months and stare Rogers Hornsby-style out the window waiting wait for spring just so that when the evenings finally grow summery, the Mets frost my horsehide.
True, they don’t win much at home. They don’t hit much at home. They change coaches in that department because, for all the high-minded huffery about poor Hudge the scapegoat, what exactly was he doing to deserve continuing in his role? Under the current front office, they don’t direct what dollars there are effectively at the major league level. Give Alderson all the pass you want for having to operate under the constraining yoke of Wilponnery, and dream all you want about the paradise pitching rotation his cleverest trades thus far are in the process of facilitating (good eventual health willing), but we’re on our fourth substandard major league roster in four seasons. There have been few finds on the open market up to the standards of people we were led to believe are geniuses at mining undervalued assets.
We are keenly aware of all this. We are reminded of it regularly because we pay attention to it. We pay attention to it because we apparently signed on to Rod Stewart’s assessment of more than three decades ago that I need passion; you need passion; we need passion; can’t live without passion; won’t live without passion.
Our passion is stored at 126th and Roosevelt. Regardless of the latest round of oy! the Mets teased from us the last couple of days, I wasn’t going to deny myself access to my passion. I was heading for that Apple at 6:15. Waiting for me was my friend Ben, no lacker of passion he. Ben has a motto about rooting for his team: Real fans cheer real loud.
Ben, you have to understand, is approximately 30 years younger than me and probably 300 times more energetic. He’s pouring himself lately into every home game he can because he’s not going to be in the New York area for very long. Ben’s passionate about the Mets. Ben’s out at Citi Field practically every day. Ben invited me to go to this game, then briefly apologized profusely when he thought he couldn’t make it because of a family obligation, then offered to skip the family obligation before realizing he had his Tuesdays mixed up and all was clear for us to attend (though I wouldn’t be surprised if really he told his brother to show some consideration and graduate high school some night when the Mets are on the West Coast).
Point is Ben was ready to cheer real loud and I decided to keep up with him as best I could. From the wonderful seats he obtained not all that far beyond the Met dugout, we urged everybody in a Mets uniform onward and upward, whether we approved their wearing of the orange and blue or not. This wasn’t about budgets or management or postmortems. This was about real fans of their surreal team determined to do what we could for them.
I think I got a letter on that subject a month or so ago, but I can’t remember.
We cheered our heads off for every Met, 1 through 9 in the batting order and then some. Dave Hudgens couldn’t believe Mets fans booed Curtis Granderson? We didn’t know what he was talking about. We cheered Granderson. We cheered Juan Lagares, whose jersey Ben is thinking about buying and whose LAGARES 12 t-shirt is still overpriced for my taste, but yeah, I’m gonna get it eventually. We cheered Jon Niese, no matter how much he normally makes me yearn for a nap. We cheered the reviled Ruben Tejada and the overused Bobby Abreu and the waste-of-millions Chris Young and the not yet settled in Vic Black and the two-inning ingénue Jenrry Mejia. (Hell, we even clapped for a cameo by Ike Davis and a catch by Andrew McCutchen.)
I don’t mean we tacitly approved of these fellows. I mean we shouted encouragement and applauded continuously and stood and yelled and baffled much of Section 113 and drew the attention of some Pittsburgh camera operator who beamed us aboard the Pirate broadcast for a couple of seconds. Most of the night we were pretty much alone in our demonstrativeness — Ben could sense the ire of a guy behind him who was more interested in making a phone call than urging a third strike — but we didn’t succumb to social graces. This was the Mets game. This was the Mets ballpark. We were the Mets fans.
We would be heard from. And we would win.
Long before sending the Pirates to their watery doom, back on that first train ride I had to take to reach the Apple, I noticed a fellow passenger in a Mets shirt and a Mets cap with headphones on and eyes closed as we pulled into Jamaica. I got his attention, fearful that he was sleeping through his stop.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Are you going to the game?”
“No,” he answered. “I wish I was.”
For everybody who still aspires to be part of the Mets crowd…for everybody who roots as hard as he or she can at whatever volume he or she sees fit to muster…for all the real fans, the True New Yorkers, the genuinely passionate partisans whatever their locales…for those who calibrate so-called negativity with heartfelt positivity…we wished were going to the game, too. It’s just that our wish happened to come true.
Why wouldn’t you make a lot of noise about that?