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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Of Runners-Up and Run-Ups

For about five minutes late Sunday night I identified with the plight of the Carolina Panthers fan, remembering what it was like to climb to within a few feet of the top of the mountain only to slide irrevocably downhill. Now that the 50th Super Bowl is a rapidly fading gold-plated memory, I’m no longer feeling any kind of Met-Panther brotherhood in the realm of so close/so far. Instead, I’m anxious to peer toward the other sideline and for the Mets to go do in baseball what the Denver Broncos just did in football.

Here in New York, where we haven’t had a major league champion of any kind in now more than four years, the Empire State Building was lit up in orange and blue to reflect Bronco glory. Nice color scheme. I’ll take it as practice for how it should glow within nine months.

You can never start preparing too soon. The final gun on football annually signals to we who congregate in the Church of Baseball the run-up to Spring Training. That’s probably a little presumptuous and short-sighted as rehearsed reactions go. There’s still snow on the ground (and more to come ASAP) and, besides, who cares when football begins or ends? Baseball is always going on in the head, heart and soul. Soon, activity related to it will take place in Port St. Lucie.

Pitchers & Catchers represents one small step for Mets. Opening Night in irony-riddled Kansas City is what will bring about the giant leap for Metkind. But it is said you’ve gotta walk before you can run, and we went to the trouble of trading for a literal Walker, thus it must be true. So yeah, let’s rustle up some pitchers, some catchers, a De Aza, a Cabrera, a Bastardo and the rest of the cast, familiar and otherwise.

Metropolitan Team Baseball Force assemble! Even if it’s only initially for stretching and soft-tossing.

Carolina won’t be in my mind much longer, but since it’s still slightly lingering, I sort of wonder how Panther people will look back on their 2015. They had a very good year, but on the biggest stage, they stumbled. Does anybody raise a Conference Championship flag in football? A pity if they don’t. Enjoy the part about getting there all you can. Try to compartmentalize the part that didn’t go right, even if it was the biggest part of all.

We on the wrong side of the baseball finals still have our pennant to raise, of course, and we still have “the World Series” in our psychological portfolio. Why the quote marks? Because it occurred to me in the weeks and months that followed the last set of games the 2015 Mets played how much I enjoyed the way “the World Series” kept rolling off my tongue. Even when I wasn’t specifically engaged in baseball chatter, I found “the World Series” became a marker of time. Things happened “during the World Series”; other things happened “right after the World Series”. I wasn’t forcing it into conversation — it was just the prism through which I viewed my autumn.

I liked the view (the way we made it there, not what happened to curtail our stay). But now it’s receding. I simply don’t find as many naturally occurring reasons to invoke “the World Series” in February as I did even in January. Makes sense. That World Series ended just over 14 weeks ago. Uncharacteristically, it doesn’t make me sad to realize how vast the chasm between what is “now” and what will always be then will eventually become. Despite my reflexive simpatico for whoever was going to not win the Super Bowl — the first professional sports championship to be not won since the Mets neglected to win theirs — I’m not looking back wistfully. I’m looking ahead excitedly. I mean legitimately, not just for the crack of the generic bat and the perennial platitudes regarding the Florida sun.

We had a World Series team. We are positioned to have another one. There’s much to be done to return to that elevated state of existence, where “the World Series” is a place we call our own and a time we know to be ours, but it’s February, we have Cespedes and Harvey and deGrom and Syndergaard and enough reasons to believe in advance. The snow is old hat in late winter, but the tangible optimism this late winter is as fresh as new-fallen hope.

Just under eight weeks to Opening Night. Now that will be a Super Sunday.

The official publication date for Amazin’ Again, the definitive story of the 2015 Mets, written by yours truly, with a foreword by none other than the great Howie Rose has been set for March 15. Pre-order your copy here so you don’t have to wait one day longer to relive the greatest 21st-century season our favorite team has ever known.

And listen to me expressing organically occurring enthusiasm for the 2016 Mets here on the Rising Apple Report.

14 comments to Of Runners-Up and Run-Ups

  • Matthew Braswell

    However fleeting, I appreciate your Met-Panther brotherhood, for I am a Mets fan in baseball and a Panthers fan in football. (Odd combination, I know, but I grew up in North Carolina with no MLB team, and ultimately embraced the Mets out of my appreciation of New York City – combined with a reluctance to let that appreciation lead me to conclude that I should be a Yankee fan – and the fact that I was born in 1986.) Twice now in the last few months, I have seen my teams get close to the top of the mountain only to fall short. Hopefully next time they’ll both finish the journey. Until then, I’m left to compare my pain. The Super Bowl hurts because the Panthers were favored to a greater degree than the Mets were, but the World Series hurt for all the late-game heartbreak. If the Mets had lost in the World Series the way the Panthers lost the Super Bowl, it would have involved something along the lines of – Mets allow four runs to score in the first on an error, fight back to pull within one, then load the bases with no outs and fail to push the tying run across. There would also have to have been some balks by Met pitchers involved somehow, since that’s what I see as the closest baseball approximation to a false start penalty.

    • Sorry for your second loss in too few months. I attended the Giants-Panthers game in December and figured Carolina was unstoppable. (Where was the missed FG when it could have done me some good?)

  • BlackCountryMet

    I can’t wait for the baseball season to arrive now, a combination of my “soccer” team serving up absolutely mind numbing performances and, more importantly, how POSITIVE I am about our team. I’m so positive about how we’ll fare this season, I have purchased a 40 game plan. Look forward to catching up over Opening Weekend v the Phils

  • Dave

    Matthew, my condolences, that game couldn’t have been easy to watch, with your expectations presumably pretty high going in. I heard something about a 5.5 point spread and wondered why it wasn’t higher. And that, of course, is where the Mets/Panthers partnership parts ways…the Panthers spent the whole year as what looked like the NFL’s premier team. The Mets were, as much as I loathe the phrase, playing with house money, and one may argue that they were over-achievers. 2016 will tell us if that’s true, or if we’re entitled to high expectations…I’m going with the latter.

    Of course, some would say we still have hockey and basketball in the meantime…or maybe not.

  • Daniel Hall

    No hockey, no hoopball, and what is this other thing that’s played with an egg? No-no, winter is the time of crying, longing for April, or at least the first spring training game, and occasionally browsing the library for random weekday night games (which I’m mostly guaranteed not not having seen back then), just to have something to watch and feel better.

    Just today I absolutely direly needed to see a Mets game and hear the warming voices of Gary, Keith, and Ron and randomly picked one from July of 2014. GKR soothed the soul, but Chase “Brick to the Face” Utley hit a slam off Josh Edgin and the Mets were washed away by the Phillies, 6-0. Brrrr.

  • APV

    That Super Bowl sucked. Seventeen combined penalties, seven combined turnovers, and Denver wins with 194 yards of total offense?! Ok, Denver’s D was awesome but really, that game looked like it should have been played in early August. Hope Goodell was pleased with the ratings and money it brought in.

    On another subject, Greg, I can’t believe you even know who the Aqua Teens are! And I think that is awesome! Even though that show is in reruns now on Adult Swim, it is must-see TV for me before I go to bed. It makes no sense, and is probably not for everyone, but its absurdist humor is hilarious for those who get it. You’d love their next-door neighbor Carl too. Big Mets fan who once threw a battery at John Kruk and hit him in the head — and went to jail for three days. And yes, the real Kruk voiced himself in that episode; bet he got some grief from the Baseball Tonight gang at the time. :)

    • That Super Bowl did indeed suck. I just had a feeling it would, so, perhaps presciently, I eschewed watching the first half and instead caught the PBS documentary series The African Americans hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Much more compelling and informative. Not sure if it was synchronously aired nationally, but out here our Los Angeles PBS channel provided a better alternative to the Stupor Bowl, and I was glad I ended up serendipitously watching it. Afterward, though, I must admit I switched back over and witnessed the last part of the game, which was worth seeing.

  • APV

    Meant to say in my post I hope the Mets wind up like Schooly D described the Aqua Teens at the end of their theme song (and a place the team hasn’t been in 30 years): Number One in the Hood G!

  • Jon

    I knew there must have been some reason I found myself randomly thinking about the Aqua Teens in the office this afternoon without any provocation.

  • Stan

    As a Met fan who grew up on Long Island and moved to Charlotte 20 years ago, I can give you some context. What if the ’86 Mets got blown out in four straight in Boston? And not just lose a few one-run games, but the starting pitching doesn’t last more than four innings in any game and the only runs that the Mets score are on errors.

    There’s also the difference in that New York has at least two teams in every major league. New York doesn’t know what it’s like to be all in on one team. I had to run a few errands Sunday afternoon and between the supermarket and Sam’s Club and a few other places, an easy 80% of people that I saw were wearing some kind of Panthers gear. That’s not an exaggeration and the number is probably higher. That would never happen in New York, no matter the team or the league.

    Monday it seemed like the entire region had a hangover. People missed work. I imagine if the Panthers had won that there would have been news reports of heads exploding. That’s how worked up everyone was around here.

    • Hey, you’re the guy who pointed out that “appetizing” instead of “deli” is a New York thing! I think of our exchange almost every time I go to a supermarket.

      • Stan

        I’m happy to see that I have caused another person permanent brain injury :)

        I’ve since come to find out the origin of the terms. “Appetizing” refers to the fish and dairy products that you’d find at restaurants like Russ & Daughters or after a Saturday morning service where the Bar/Bat Mitzvah boy/girl hosts brunch in the all purpose room.

        We grew up in the New York area where stores like Waldbaum’s (R.I.P.) slapped the “Appetizing” sign above the deli counter, where they actually sold both. Kosher “style”.

        This is also the area where there’s something called a German Deli that in every other area of the country would be called “Deli”.

  • open the gates

    “…it’s February and we have Cespedes…”

    …once more, with feeling…