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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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A Most Worthwhile Pennant

The temptation after a night like Wednesday, when the New York Mets defeated the Chicago Cubs, 8-3, at Wrigley Field to sweep the National League Championship Series in four straight games and claim the fifth pennant in franchise history is to say this is what makes being a Mets fan worthwhile.

Nonsense. It’s been worthwhile all along.

It was worthwhile the first time you picked up something resembling a ball or a bat and identified with the man on TV, the one who threw the ball faster or swung the bat harder than you ever could.

It was worthwhile when you decided that it might be fun to play baseball, but that watching baseball with all your heart and all your soul would be more your forte.

It was worthwhile when you discovered you could wear shirts and caps with the same letters the players on your team wore and you could collect pictures of those players and you could read about them and you could keep watching them on TV and once in a while, if you were lucky, you could go and see them play their games in person.

It was really worthwhile to learn it wasn’t just you who enjoyed these things. You were part of a community, a tribe, something bigger than yourself. Those who shared your enthusiasm for this stuff were not necessarily exactly like you, but they were close enough. And you grew close to them.

In winter, you counted the days until the next baseball season with them. Through spring and summer and into fall, you counted the years until the next great baseball season with them. You reassured each other one was coming. Until it did, you enjoyed as best you could the ones you were given.

You enjoyed the year after your team last went to the World Series. The team sort of went into the toilet early and often in 2001, but you never stopped going to games with your friends, never stopped conceiving of ways the team could fight their way back into a race. To your surprise, they scratched and clawed and made an otherwise horrible September briefly beautiful. They didn’t win anything, but it was still worthwhile.

You enjoyed the years that followed: 2002, 2003, 2004. You didn’t enjoy them that much, because your team never came close to returning to the World Series, but there were still the trappings of a baseball season. There were trips to the ballpark and nights you’d tune in and players you started to pick out as your next favorites. You had no illusions, but you never gave up.

You enjoyed your first hint that things might really get better, in 2005. You enjoyed writing about the goings of old heroes and the comings of new hopes. You enjoyed writing about all of it.

You enjoyed coming so close to the World Series you could taste it. In your heart, you know 2006 was the year; it just got misplaced along the time-space continuum. Then again, the time-space continuum has proven to be a little overrated.

You enjoyed, in the perverse way only your kind could, falling tantalizingly short in 2007 and 2008. There’s at least a couple of songs that say something about it feeling so good to hurt so bad. That was those years. You doubt anyone not immersed in what you’ve been immersed in could understand that feeling something — even feeling something awful — was better than feeling nothing at all. Good thing you know others who are immersed the way you are. Anybody else would think you were nuts.

You enjoyed trying to feel something for your team after it stopped coming close. You were more sour than the naked eye could have divined in 2009 and 2010 and 2011…and 2012 and 2013 and deep into 2014. But it never occurred to you your team wasn’t part of your life, and you never for a second didn’t feel at home with the people who weren’t necessarily exactly like you, but they understood what you were going through better than anybody else could. They were going through it, too.

Because they were close enough. They were close to you and you were close to them and together you dreamed of a night when your team would do something that was becoming unfathomable to the lot of you, like making it to a World Series.

All of that was worthwhile. It was worthwhile whenever you started rooting for the New York Mets. It was worthwhile when the Mets couldn’t win a pennant in the 14 seasons that succeeded 2000. It was worthwhile as the Mets went about coalescing into the kind of team that could win a pennant in 2015.

When the Mets did win that pennant, after sweeping the Cubs…yeah, that was worthwhile, too.

Extraordinarily so.

For those of you who endured some or most or all of the pennant drought that left us high and dry for fifteen long years in the autumnal baseball desert, congratulations. For those of you who got a load of the Mets maybe two weeks or two months ago and thought “that sure looks like fun, I wanna be a part of it,” congratulations to you, too. You chose wisely. Hope you’ll stick around.

For those of you who’ve been at this forever, who can remember not just the last National League championship before the current one but the ones that preceded it, congratulations on a lifetime well spent. You and I know this isn’t just about the pennants and it’s not just about the waiting for the pennants. It’s about every bit of faith and community and bucking each other up and laughing to keep from crying and keeping each other going and moaning and griping because we’re human and coming back for more because we’re Mets fans.

For those of you who are Daniel Murphy (.529, a home run every night), thank you.

For those of you who are Daniel Murphy’s teammates, what’s it like knowing Daniel Murphy? It must be an incredible sensation to be near that much greatness every day. If you’ve touched Daniel Murphy, can we touch you? By all means apply some Neosporin first, because if you’ve touched Daniel Murphy, you’re probably going to need to salve those burns. No baseball player has ever been hotter than the 2015 NLCS MVP.

Murph, a Met since 2008, didn’t do it alone, but you had the sense he could have had it been necessary. It wasn’t. He won the pennant alongside David Wright, from 2004; and Jon Niese, from 2008; and Lucas Duda (author of five essential Game Four RBIs) from 2010; not to mention a procession of Mets who began to stream into our consciousness in 2012 and 2013 when we were convinced a season like 2015 was still light years away: Nieuwenhuis, Harvey, Familia, Lagares, Flores, d’Arnaud. It wasn’t seamless and it didn’t always register as logical as 2013 became 2014 — Why Granderson? Why Colon? Who’s deGrom? — but something was happening. Even as we alternated in our derision and dismissiveness (defense mechanisms as much as the products of dispassionate analysis), the Metscape was shifting.

Onto it strode Michael Cuddyer, Sean Gilmartin, Kevin Plawecki, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard, Yoenis Cespedes, Addison Reed and — because Juan Uribe and Ruben Tejada were hurting — Matt Reynolds. Half the team was new for 2015. They had never lost with the Mets. They joined a cluster of players who had matured and persevered and survived until they could win as Mets. It wasn’t an obvious championship roster until you watched them play as one under Terry Collins, perhaps the most underestimated manager in modern major league history.

Once they all came together and showed what they could do, there was no doubt. Same as there were no losses to the Cubs. Same as there was no feeling like that we felt when Jeurys Familia struck out Dexter Fowler looking on October 21, 2015 — with the respective exceptions of Nolan Ryan, Tug McGraw, Jesse Orosco and Mike Hampton retiring Tony Gonzalez, Dan Driessen, Kevin Bass and Rick Wilkins under similar circumstances in 1969, 1973, 1986 and 2000.

Those were the first four seasons in which the New York Mets ever won the National League pennant. First four. As of 2015, there’s a fifth. You’ll have to revise the total that’s been ingrained into you for a generation. You’ve been so used to saying the Mets have been to the World Series four times. Now you’ll have to say five. I’m sure you can make the adjustment. The Mets adjusted from perennial losers to dynamic winners in 2015. We Mets fans adjusted from thinking this fifth pennant might never get here to embracing it as it arrived: built by Alderson; shaped by Collins; earned by pitching; secured by Murphness; sprayed by champagne; baptized by tears.

We never had to change our ways, though. We may not have always believed, but we were always capable of Believing. It was in us the whole time. Our capability just had to be tapped.

I Believed sometime in late August. I must have. It was one of those nights when I was visiting my dad in the hospital. He was being difficult, to put it mildly. This was when he was recovering from pneumonia and heading for another round of rehab. He didn’t seem much interested in recovering or rehabilitating. He had undergone brain surgery in May, worked hard to regain his ability to walk in June, submitted himself to radiation and chemotherapy in July and seemed to be doing all right until the middle of August. Then came pneumonia and the hospital and a will to live that was crumbling.

This was also when he decided he liked having his son visit to watch the first-place Mets with him. His son thus played the only motivational card he had at his disposal. Dad, he said, I want to watch the Mets in the World Series with you, but you have to get better so I can watch it with you at home. At the very least, it made him less difficult that night.

It’s two months later. He’s not home. Rehab was too much for him. Instead, he’s in what they call palliative care, where they just try to make a person in his situation “comfortable”. But you know what he’s looking forward to doing with me this coming Tuesday night, and what I’m looking forward to doing with him? Just like we did for Game Five of the NLDS and Game Three of the NLCS, we will be getting together to watch Game One of the World Series — Mets-Royals, Mets-Blue Jays, whichever. I promised it to him as if it was mine to promise in August, and these Mets made it a deliverable reality in October.

That makes this pennant a little extra worthwhile for me, just as this pennant makes being a Mets fan a little extra worthwhile for all of us. We’d still be this and do this without this, but getting to have this?

It really gives you something to Believe in, doesn’t it?

73 comments to A Most Worthwhile Pennant

  • metsfaninparadise

    Hi, Greg,
    Earlier in the season, when you told us of your dad, I shared the story of my own father, who was in Rehab after an auto accident. He successfully completed his rehabilitation, walked out under his own power, and soon returned to Michigan with his girlfriend, where they spend the warmer months in her home before returning to Florida for the winter (“snowbirds,” in the local parlance). Unfortunately, soon after he arrived there he was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor, which hasn’t responded to treatment. Just today I finally succeeded in flying him down here, where he’s in a local hospice unit for palliative care, and will have his family around him for whatever weeks or months he has left. This has been a bittersweet season, with the transcendent joy of the team’s success admixed with the grief and frustration of his decline. In my mind the Mets are doing it for both our fathers, and for anyone else for whom this opportunity to enjoy a championship might be their last.
    –Gregg

  • Matt in Woodside

    Fantastic post as always Greg. For the past 10 years you and Jason have made the Mets the best team to follow regardless of the standings. All the best to your dad. LGM

  • Kevin from Flushing

    I’m so happy for you and your Dad that you get to have this truly special experience. I’m so happy for you & Jason who haven’t stopped working, rooting, writing, and entertaining the entire FAFIF community for 10 years. I’m so happy for the entire crowd at QBC 14 & 15. I’m so happy for Dave, Murph, and Niese, who’ve been with us since Shea and witnessed all of the bad. I’m so happy the TBS cameras caught those three having a special moment on the infield during the celebration. I’m so happy to have experienced both a total nail biter of a series and a total blowout of a series, because now I know that as a fan experiencing both ends of the spectrum in quick succession, the grass is indeed always greener on the other side (though if you’re winning, who cares). I’m so happy that this season isn’t even over yet. I’m so happy for all of us.

  • Thank you for articulating my feelings exactly! I remember all 5/ 1969 was the most community intense/1986 the most dynamic/1973 my personal favorite! /2015 the one I most particiapted in at CitiField and 3 road games and the great stylings of Faith & Fear in Flushing!

  • Dave P

    It was worthwhile in 1979 when, a couple of months before my family moved from Connecticut to Arizona, well outside the range of any Mets broadcast, they won their last 6 straight to avoid losing 100. And in 1997 (as you well remember Greg) when, despite Carl Everett’s grand slam in an unbelievable late September comeback against the Expos, they fell just a little short.

    There was this quote from Wright in the Times yesterday: “This is a long time coming,” said David Wright, the team captain, who signed with the Mets at age 17, in 2001. “I’m glad that I got a chance to kind of experience some of the misery with them along this road, because that champagne tastes a lot sweeter having gone through that, let me tell you.” He’s right, the champagne does taste sweeter. But after reading your post I realized that there was no misery along this road. Look, winning is better than losing. But I’ve been a fan since they won game 5 on my 7th birthday in 1969, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. The bad times (the Seaver trade; the final weekends of 98, 07, 08; the last pitch of 06; Armando Benitez) aren’t what makes that champagne taste sweeter–it’s all of it. Maybe it’s just a function of getting older. As I watched the crowd run onto the field on my 7th birthday, I’m fairly certain I felt that it would always be like this. I’m loathe make the tired baseball is like life comparison, but being a fan of this team (and perhaps of almost any team, though I find it hard to imagine what it’s like to be the fan of any other team) does teach you that tough times will come, they are unavoidable and must be endured. One way to do that is, as you do so well in this blog, and which I think accurately reflects the method most Met fans employ, is to laugh. Maybe that’s just in the team’s DNA going back to 1962. Even when complaining, griping, and whining, for the majority of Met fans there’s almost always a joke in there (Think about it–can you imagine a Yankee fan making a good-natured joke about their team in the middle of a 6-year drought?)

    Being a fan of this team also teaches you that even though they feel like they’ll go on forever, the great moments are precious and few. Reading about you and your dad, Greg, I thought about Dana Brand. Especially his pieces about watching games with his daughter in Last Days of Shea. I’ve taken my two young daughters to a few games now (including the nightmarish July 30 rain delay game–which, I will forever thank them for making me leave early) and hope this team is something we can share for a long time. I never met Dana, but I sure do wish he was around for this. I’m glad your dad is around for it and that you’ll get to enjoy the next week or two watching the World Series with him—and many more wonderful days after that.

  • Vjsviking

    Greg,
    What a beautiful piece you’ve written at a most appropriate time and across multiple dimensions. Ironically, your article was shared with me by my adult son who at a very early age adopted my teams as his teams, and is a loyal Mets follower. We are enjoying the 2015 ride together, as we have every single season since 1994 or so. Reading your piece accentuates the importance of never taking any of this for granted, the team you loyally root for, or the people you root with. Enjoy the games with your father and God Bless you both!

  • Eric

    Lest we forget now because of the Mets’ dominant sweep in the CS, the Cubs were also a karma-filled team of destiny.

    The 2015 Mets are a gift.

    On the field, they’ve paid off the festering traumatic debts from the 2006 CS loss, the 2007 collapse, the 2008 echo-collapse, and the LOLMets period that followed.

    This week while we wait for the World Series to begin is a gift opportunity for Mets fans, fathers and sons, to spend hours together reflecting on every special character and exhilarating or dismaying turning point in the Mets’ extraordinarily improbable climb to the rarefied height where the team is resting now as the league champion preparing for the final push to the peak.

    Where to even begin to grasp the story of this season? Only people like Greg are equipped to tell the whole story of the 2015 Mets. In order to appreciate the experience fully, I suggest he shares the story with his dad this week (and eventually us) to set the stage for the 2015 Mets in the World Series.

  • dmg

    my dad took me to game 5, 1969, imprinting me for life.

    as a result, for years, my own son has had to suffer the indignities of mets fanhood — i joked that making him a fan was tantamount to child abuse.

    no more. the mets have finally shed their recent role as a punch line, and with a roster that looks solid for years to come. and we will be at game 4 of the 2015 world series.

    let’s go mets!

  • eric1973

    Lots of rumors floating around, but rotation needs to be, with nobody starting 3 games:

    Harvey – G1 and G5 – ’nuff said – best in the business — do not want him taking any extra time off before his first start

    deGrom – G2 and G6 – 2nd best in the business — he’s pitched a lot lately, and the extra day off is perfect in between G2 and G6 —– best to have him in there either up 3-2 or down 3-2

    Thor – G3 and G7 — gets the start at home, even though that really does not matter to him anymore —- fine candidate for G7, with everyone else as backup —- and extra incentive should it be against Toronto

    Matz – G4 — could be the best of the bunch, if he doesn’t suddenly develop an ingrown toenail or something —-the spitting image of Jon Matlack on the mound — same long, lanky, high leg kick — same number, and similar name — wished he’d gotten the win in G4 — BTW, Colon got it

    Familia — Games 1 through 7, wherever needed — with uniform number 27, to represent the 27th out

    LGM!

    • Eric

      The practical reason a staff ace starts game 1 is the option for him to pitch games 4 and 7 on short rest. But the Mets aren’t going to pitch any of the starters on short rest and don’t need to do that. The Mets are in good shape for an elimination game starting deGrom, Syndergaard, or Harvey.

      While deGrom has been the best of the rotation in the play-offs, his performances in DS game 5 and CS game 3 have indicated fatigue, so I also like rotating Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, then Matz for the WS.

      That has Harvey on regular 4-day rest between games 1 and 5, which seems to make a difference for him, and gives deGrom an extra day between games 2 and 6, which seems to make a difference for him.

      The only downside is whoever pitches game 6 is unavailable for the bullpen for game 7. That means no all-star deGrom overpowering Royals in game 7. Harvey said he was available for DS game 5, which would have been on 2 days rest, so I assume he will be available for WS game 7 if he pitches game 5.

      I doubt the Mets are sweeping the Royals. That team is the AL version of the Pirates but arguably better and with WS experience. They’re tailor-made to attack the Mets’ vulnerabilities.

  • Tom

    Truly touching post. Thank you so much.

  • Rob E.

    KC is a good, balanced team (your Pittsburgh comparison is a good one), but they have not faced anything near the pitching they are going to see here, and they are not going to throw back any of the pitching we’ve already seen (also no lefty starters…which is pretty significant considering our lineup). They’re going to get the bat on the ball, they’re going to run, and they won’t make the defensive mistakes LA & the Cubs made, but man-for-man, the Mets are the more dangerous team.

    The perceived vulnerability is our middle relief, but that looks worse than it really is because we’ve seen the late-season chinks with Reed & Clippard and we fear the worst ALWAYS. But if you look at the stats for the whole season, the Mets relievers match up evenly with the Royals relievers, and if you look at the postseason, KC’s staff has posted a 4.41 ERA to the Mets 2.81. The Royals have also never faced any of our starters, while every Royals starter except Ventura has spent most of their career in the NL (also significant).

    The Royals are easily a good enough team to capitalize if the Mets don’t show up all the way, but if the Mets are on top of their game as they have been so far, they should control this series. The pitchers have cleared the path the whole season, that’s going to be the key here, and I suspect they have one more good series in ’em.

    • Eric

      The relative vulnerabilities are middle relief, defense at 2B, SS, LF (when Cuddyer or Conforto starts), Wright’s range at 3B, and controlling the running game.

  • […] I can’t say “thank you” enough for the heartfelt wishes and generous sentiments expressed over the past couple of days regarding my dad. The stories you saw fit to share about your families and what the Mets have meant to you in that […]