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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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Contemptible Familiarity

The last National League East team to advance in a postseason was the Philadelphia Phillies of 2010, who swept the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, the series that opened with Roy Halladay throwing a no-hitter. The Phillies seemed on track to make their third consecutive World Series, but would be stopped cold by the San Francisco Giants.

In 2011, the Phillies lost their first-round set in a dramatic fifth game to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2012, the Atlanta Braves were bounced by the Cardinals in the new Wild Card game, after which St. Louis eliminated the Washington Nationals in a shocking NLDS finale. In 2013, it was the Los Angeles Dodgers who did in the Braves in the opening round. Come 2014, the Nationals went down again in the LDS, this time to the Giants.

Of the last six instances in which an N.L. East team has appeared in the postseason, five were ended by either the Cardinals or the Giants. Thus, for their recurring roles as executioners of our most constant tormentors — recent Phillie, Brave and National regular-season success having been built in large part by stepping on the backs of the New York Mets — I thereby encourage a hearty round of congratulations to the teams from St. Louis and San Francisco for advancing to the 2014 National League Championship Series.

Huzzah!

Well, not so much “huzzah” for the Cardinals as “yeech” (residual thanks for those other years a little, but thanks for nothing vis-à-vis L.A.), but in the scheme of not them again, it’s hard to cleanly pick a side. We spend 162 games with our ire focused most frequently against division rivals. By the time they’ve outlasted us into October, we’ve likely burnished our resentment toward them to a high shine. Once they are ousted, even if it’s through none of our team’s doing, we revel in the Sheadenfreude of it. Eff you, Phillies/Braves/Nationals. You stomped on us all year. How do you like being on the other end of the stomp?

We could look at it differently. We could send our divisional representatives into postseason battle with our best wishes, urging them to do us proud, for now we rally around our flag, all for one, one for all…but we don’t. I tried it once or twice myself. In 1983, when the N.L. East champs were the Phillies, a team that had finished ahead of us for ten consecutive seasons, I consciously went this route. I loathed those Phillies, but was down on the Dodgers and felt no particular affinity for the Orioles, so I got behind “our” champions. The Wheeze Kids, as they were known (featuring Rose, Morgan and Perez in their dotage), lost the World Series in five. I tried to feel bad about it.

The next year I threw my provisional support to the Cubs in the same N.L. East vein even though the 1984 Cubs (and Met inexperience) had torpedoed the latter portion of what had been an Amazin’ summer. The whole country was swept up in “Cubbie Love,” as one newspaper I read called it. Maybe I was trying to hitch a pinky to that bandwagon; maybe I liked the idea that if the Cubs kept going, announcers would have to mention how they had to pass the up-and-coming Mets to win their division.

My attempt to engage in Cubbie Love was short-lived. Once the Cubs began blowing their two-oh lead in their best of five NLCS versus the Padres, I could feel a smile develop. Once the Cubs totally blew it and missed what was supposed to be their first World Series date since 1945, I could hear laughter emanating from deep within my Cub-hating soul. HAW-HAW!

By 1985, I reverted to resentful form and rooted against the then-division rival Cardinals after they nosed out the Mets. That’s more or less the tack I’ve taken ever since. There’ve been exceptions over the years. I generally liked the early-’70s Pirates; badly wanted the 1981 Expos to succeed in their split-season shot; was caught up in the Dykstra Phillies of 1993; got sucked into the absurdity of the Marlins in their two October appearances; and was genuinely curious to see how far this Nationals thing could run two years ago. I reserve the right to season my Metless postseason to taste, usually with little forethought. I don’t choose a team to root for when the Mets aren’t around — a team chooses me.

I’m not sure one has yet. In the American League, how do you choose between two fresh faces like those of the Royals and the Orioles? They are, in terms of the current era, new and novel. It was exciting to see them vanquish the Angels and Tigers, respectively, and I have nothing against the Angels and Tigers. They were just more familiar was all. We’d seen more of them in recent memory than we had K.C. and Baltimore. Naturally, I wanted to see more of K.C. and Baltimore.

On the other hand, who wants to see more of the Cardinals and Giants? Except for Cardinals and Giants fans, I mean? Those of us who are unaligned are entitled to think the TV listings are wrong to post “NEW” alongside the program descriptions for the upcoming NLCS, for surely SFG at STL is a repeat telecast. Plus, the Cardinals and Mets have enough history between them to make St. Louis legitimate anathema. The Giants? The Giants took six of seven from the Mets in 2014. That’s enough to make any Mets fan pause before rushing over to LinkedIn and enthusiastically endorsing San Francisco for its “Postseason Success” skill.

You can have it all ways if you wish — free country — but I’m going to come down on the side of the enemy of my enemy is…well, they’re all our enemies in the National League. Our closer enemies are the ones who play in nearest proximity to us. I don’t love the Giants when we cross paths because I don’t like anybody when we cross paths, but the Giants took out the dad-blasted Washington Nationals in four games. The same dad-blasted Washington Nationals who won approximately 483 of 19 games against the Mets this season, including 6,000 of 6,000 at Citi Field. I appreciate the Giants doing that so much I can’t get on board with the Giant half of the prevailing “not the Giants and Cardinals again” meme. I thank the Giants in 2014 for taking out the Nats as I thanked the Giants in 2010 for removing the Phillies.

What’s that? The Giants have won enough lately? It’s not their fault they’re biennially consistent. We should be plagued by such consistency. Besides, if it isn’t the Giants in the N.L., it’s the Cardinals. We don’t want that. I was going to add, “…do we?” but I doubt that’s necessary.

15 comments to Contemptible Familiarity

  • “I don’t choose a team to root for when the Mets aren’t around — a team chooses me.”
    Waiting for divine intervention on AL front. I can’t imagine telling my friends from Baltimore that I didn’t pull for them–their ownership is a different shade of Wilpon, though with more money and venom–but I have a hard time rooting against Kansas City. Even during 1984 when I really wanted that Cubs-Tigers series, I was glad the Royals were easily dispatched (in the last best-of-five ALCS). I can still smile thinking how they swiped that 1985 title from the Cardinals as easily as one of Vince Coleman’s 120-something swipes of second. No need to worry who to root for in the NL this year with the Nats gone: San Francisco all the way. Maybe if they play into November I’ll figure out what those odd Hunter Pence signs are all about.

  • Dave

    Usually if I don’t have a team to root against I have no team to really root for, but this year I’d really like to see the Royals win, because what team had come to epitomize perennial hopelessness more than them? If they can do it, Mets conceivably could too. There were stretches where their fans knew that not only did they have no chance that year, but no hope for the following year or three either. NL? Sick of both the Cards and the Giants, but didn’t want to see the Dodgers or the Nats either. “League pride” is an alien concept to me.

  • I was hoping for Los Angeles to advance, even though it was only because I would have liked to see Justin Turner win a World Series since the current Mets aren’t capable of pulling it off.

    I am thrilled that San Francisco knocked off the Nationals last night, and I’ll be “rooting” for them to win the NLCS since I find the Cardinals more annoying than the Giants, but whoever comes out of the ALCS has my support in the World Series.

  • Matthew

    I’m rooting for the Royals – aside from the obvious underdog appeal, every time they win a World Series the Mets win the very next year.

  • Amdream

    Funny how I can root for some non-New York team in the playoffs one year when they seem deserving. Then root against them a year or so later. The same team with mostly the same players.

    Well maybe root is too strong. Pull might be better.

  • T Cornutt

    What of Bryce Harper’s admiring his two monster shots (albeit both in losing efforts) off Hunter Strickland .. and then staring him down before jawing at him from the Nats’ dugout on Tuesday night in SF? Good baseball or show-boating? Retaliation next year? Or was he just venting frustration built up from being on deck when Jenrry Mejia struck out Ian Desmond and then reeled him in like a fish?

  • Dak442

    It’s kind of nice having no dog in the hunt. I don’t generally root much for teams other than ours, but I’ve certainly had plenty of squads to root against – starting with the two clubs nearest ours. Now I can just casually enjoy the games, switch channels every now and then and not care all that much. I’d like to see one of the AL clubs win because of long-sufferingness, but I don’t care about the Giants either way, and am even having trouble working up the old Cardinals vitriol.

  • Dennis

    KC or Baltimore for me; won’t bother me if the Giants win. Can’t stand the Cardinals…..but I wish to God the Mets could have the run they’ve been on since we beat them in the 2000 LCS.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I’m rooting (somewhat dispassionately) for the Royals, because Ned Yost is a former #1 draft pick of the Mets. Why? Why not?

    The Giants and (especially) the Cardinals have been winning in excess of late, so my Met fan DNA sends me toward the underdog Royals and their starved fan base.

  • chuck

    Derek Jeter is somewhere not watching the postseason. It’s all good. It would be even better if the Royals or Orioles take it all this year, but I’ll not let myself be greedy.

  • Rob

    Regardless of who wins, I’m happy that three of the final four teams subscribe to the same team-building philosophy as the current Mets. The “monkey-see-monkey-do” fans & media think that the shortcut to success is “spending money.” If the SUSTAINED success of the Cardinals & Giants doesn’t validate the importance of player development over free agency, I don’t know what does.

  • dmg

    i have a personal pecking order, though i won’t work up too much sweat if it doesn’t work out.

    i’d prefer giants over cardinals, who still have wainwright and molina and the mets rings from 06;
    and then the giants to lose in the series because, it cannot be forgotten, they did leave new york.

    as far as which american league team should do the deed, i can’t muster animus toward either. neither the royals nor the orioles have won all that much in 30 years or so. because the royals have most of america rooting for them, i’ll go with the o’s — even if it means the coronation of king buck.

  • APV

    Count me also among those who jumped on the Philly bandwagon in 1993. What can I say? They were a good team and reminded me a lot of the 1986 Mets. Yes, Dykstra was the common denominator, I know. As for the NLCS this year, I absolutely want the Giants to win. So sick of the Cardinals. Plus, San Fran has never beaten us in the playoffs; see the 2000 NLDS and the Benny Agbayani homer. :)

    Last year, I did root for the Sox but I think that had to do with the aftermath of the marathon bombing in April. One of my cousins lives up there and I was glad she got to go to one of the WS games. Plus, I took joy in seeing the Cardinals fall.

    This year, I’m not sure about who the World Series but again I know I don’t want the Cardinals. Part of me wants a Royals-Cardinals series again and hopes Don Denkinger can come out of retirement to make one more call against St. Louis. If it’s Royals-Giants, I’ll root for the Royals because underdog and all that stuff. If it’s Cardinals-Orioles, I’ll root for the Orioles with one hand and flip the bird with my other. If it’s Giants-Orioles, I’ll be rooting for the Giants and a Game 7; would the game be on Halloween? Fitting given each team’s colors.

  • […] Francisco version that appeals to me these nights, just as they did in ’12 and ’10. You can get sick of a team that wins every year. I somehow don’t get sick of a team that wins every other […]