- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

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 [1].

Here in New York, where we haven’t had a major league champion of any kind in now more than four years [2], the Empire State Building was lit up in orange and blue [3] 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 [4]! 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 [5], 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 [6], 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 [6] 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. [7]