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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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The Torch Has Been Reluctantly Passed

Congratulations to the ballclub that just broke a 71-year pennant drought. Let us rejoice that its dry spell wasn’t snapped after only 70 years.

The National League has a new champion that is no longer us. It feels as if there should have been some sort of formal ceremony to mark the transfer of grandeur, maybe Terry Collins congenially turning his tiara and sash over to a tearful Joe Maddon. The passing of the torch from the Mets to the Cubs via a defeat of the Dodgers was only figurative, yet it was nevertheless pretty impressive to witness on whichever channel MLB attempts to carefully hide these events. Momentous, too. I hope Nationals fans woke their children to let them watch the last outs so that when they grow up, they’ll be able to say they saw yet another team that isn’t theirs advance.

Alas, we knew the day was coming when a team that isn’t ours would have affixed to their head what so proudly we hailed a year ago. Somebody else has been due to hoist the prestigious Warren C. Giles Trophy once the Mets bowed out of the single-elimination portion of the 2016 Autumnal Invitational on October 5. If it wasn’t going to be the Cubs, it was going to be the Dodgers. If it wasn’t going to be either of them, it was going to be two subjectively worse options.

It definitely wasn’t going to be us, yet there was a slight emeritus feel to the Mets’ 2015 accomplishment lingering in this fall’s air. It helped that we were around (briefly) at the beginning of these proceedings and it helped even more that the two teams battling to succeed ours upon the senior circuit throne were those the Mets cast aside in the previous tourney, as if our imprint was an official wrinkle in the system now. How the Cubs or Dodgers got as far as the 2016 NLCS could not be fully explained without retracing their steps from 2015, and whenever some cable-network announcer went that route, he had to note who tripped them up the last time each attempted to make a World Series.

I doubt the rest of the continent has been watching this postseason through precisely that prism, but we are ever-reluctant to remove our Howie Rose-colored glasses. Everybody else’s obvious angle, that the Chicago Cubs have won a pennant for the first time since 1945, can further be folded into our parochial view that not only do they have the honor of succeeding the 2015 Mets, but they have a chance to do what only one baseball team has ever done: get knocked out by the Mets one postseason, go all the way the next.

Everywhere else you’ll hear about 1908. We know the real feat the Cubs are after is one accomplished solely to date by the 1970 Orioles, the last team to have fully learned its lesson twelve months after the Mets took them to school. If the Cubs do indeed win their first world championship in 108 years, perhaps they can thank the Mets for toughening them up.

They probably won’t, but injecting a tenuous Metsian backstory into Cubfest ’16 guarantees us a proprietary interest in what’s going on. Then again, it shouldn’t take much to suck a (lower-case) catholic baseball fan into the upcoming World Series. If you like glimpsing at something you’ve never seen before, how can you not like the Cubs-Indians matchup that lies ahead? If you like a sure historic thing, how can you not salivate at the prospect of cashing in a winning ticket no matter who comes out on top? If you remember that the Mets compiled a combined 7-3 record over the two World Series teams in 2016, how can you not believe that on some vague level we have already proven our championship timber?

Good luck scheduling a parade based on convenient cherrypicking, but it is fun to stay involved. Sorting out the emotions attached to the Not Since 1908 Cubs and the Not Since 1948 Indians should be fun anyway. Unless antipathy for Cleveland’s unfortunately enduring secondary logo gets the best of you or you hold some other private grudge toward the denizens of America’s North Coast, I don’t detect an obvious beef with the A.L. Champion Tribe. The Cubs, meanwhile, are as close as we have to an ancient if recurring rival, but I’m all out of Sheadenfreude where everything from 1969 to 1984 to 2015 and obscure points in between is concerned. “Ha-ha, you’re without the ultimate prize for 109 years!” doesn’t really carry much more punch than the 108-years version as long as we weren’t directly trampled over in service to the potential erasure of 1908.

And we weren’t, although I’m sure there would have been a bounty of eyeteeth given all around Flushing to have had the opportunity to throw ourselves in the Cubs’ path. Like you, I still have my eyeteeth.

Like my NLDS refund, that’s modest consolation.

When the National League Wild Card Game came and went, I needed a couple of days. The Toronto-Texas ALDS transpired without my grabbing more than a gander of its sweeping Canadian activities. Cleveland and Boston drew my attention toward the end, mostly because there was a rainout and thus an extra day that allowed my psyche’s Bumgarnerian bruises to heal. Nonetheless, as with the Jays and Rangers, I was happy the Red Sox and Indians were done in three games. I preferred resolution over drama — just get everything over with already. No Game Four for Big Papi? Boo-bleeping-hoo. Where the hell was our Game Two? (Also, hearing Ron Darling on TBS doing any games that aren’t ours always makes me suspect he’s cheating on us.)

The NLDSes took longer and encompassed stronger biases, so once I was ready to partake, I wasn’t necessarily in the same kind of rush to brush them aside. The team that ended our postseason, naturally, needed to be dispatched after what they did to us. Forming an ad hoc alliance with the Cubs was easy for me despite the three Octobers in this decade when I allowed an affinity for all things Giant to sublet my baseball affections. I nurtured a cache of warm memories from San Francisco’s runs to glory in 2010, 2012 and 2014, codas to seasons when the Mets were nowhere to be found after 162 games. In 2016, all residual vicarious fondnesses from those orange-and-black dalliances were tossed into the nearest Dumpster-brand trash receptacle. Conor Fuck That Guy and Madison Can Go Screw Himself put the kibosh on what had heretofore been a perfectly lovely platonic postseason relationship.

The Cubs and Giants wound up producing a riveting quartet of contests, and I watched as many of their climactic scenes as I could when not nodding off (because a West Coast game is a West Coast game no matter the time of first pitch). Since I didn’t get to use my tickets for NLDS Games Three and Four, seeing the team that phantomized them go down in front of their home crowd was as satisfying as this October figured to get.

Until the Nationals lost their series in five, that is, which was more awesome than I would have guessed. A little piece of me wanted to see a sequel to Daniel in the Cubbies’ Den, and a larger chunk of me wanted to learn Chase Utley had been shoved from the top of the Washington Monument with only a cement trampoline below, but I could live with the Dodgers advancing as long as it was at the Nats’ expense.

Utley is now gone, which is splendid, as is the tableau that remains in the wake of his demise. The Cubs, a team I’m certain I don’t despise anymore, and the Indians, a team a good friend of mine has boosted loyally since the days of Daddy Wags, are on the cusp of meeting in a space they’ve rarely gathered on their own let alone in the company of each other. You could say both sides’ fans have suffered enough to each earn a ring, and you wouldn’t get an argument. Proper appraisal of the magnitude of 108 years and 68 years free of fulfillment will rub your empathy glands raw, but after a while, those figures amount to little more than vicious Fun Facts. For those who are truly Cubbed Up as well as those who were initiated as legitimate members of the Tribe from 1949 forward, the experiential equivalent of “never” is long enough.

Let’s be honest, though. If it’s your team, ten minutes without winning something substantial is too long. The laurels of 1986 were still fresh in memory when the names “Terry Pendleton” and “Mike Scioscia” planted and replenished a bad taste in our mouths that nearly three decades’ worth of Listerine has failed completely washed out. All of our 2015 N.L. Champs merch and “The Pennant Will Rise” apparel is still within easy reach, yet Fuck Conor Gillaspie now and forever. It’s not about suffering. It’s about the incandescent desire to do the opposite. Winning something substantial is a drug of the most addictive sort. Being deprived of winning something substantial after having very recently won something substantial brings on the DTs. The Wild Card provided a nice hit of methadone. It let us feel like we were a part of all this even if our prescription expired mere innings after it was filled. It certainly gave us a healthy jones for the smiting of our enemies, and on that count we were sated, albeit via hands that were not our own.

It’s been said losing feels worse than winning feels good. I’d contend not winning feels worst of all. You don’t realize there’s a difference between losing and not winning until you are reminded how good winning feels for those who have made it to the World Series and still not lost it one year after you had that feeling for yourself.

I’d prefer the Mets be taking on the Indians Tuesday night at Progressive Field (which is a funny name for a place where Chief Wahoo continues to hold sentimental sway). I’d prefer we had elbowed aside the Cubs in the NLDS and Dodgers in the NLCS, reversing the order in which we vanquished them last year. My preferences, however, were not given special consideration by the baseball gods. No particular fan’s are, which is why sooner or later or — in the case of the Cubs — much later everybody gets the kind of shot the two teams left standing have coming to them.

Though, as of this writing, not the Nationals, which remains awesome.

28 comments to The Torch Has Been Reluctantly Passed

  • kdbart

    Congrats to the Cubs on winning the 2016 NL Pennant. If they couldn’t win it this year, they were never going to win it considering that they were relatively healthy, particularly in the area of starting pitching, all season long while all their pursuers were banged up in someway and/or were significantly flawed, see the Giants’ bullpen, in one way or another.

    One thing to note. Without even winning a World Series yet, Cub fans on Twitter have already matched Red Sox fans in their level of insufferableness. If they win it, they’ll reach a level that won’t be easily matched.

  • Unfortunately, as I noted long ago, the Cubs are built for the long run–mean, these days, maybe three more years, due to free agency–much better than the Mets. That’s due simply to, as we’ve already seen, the far greatest chances for, and impact of, injuries to pitchers vs. position players. The Cubs truly stockpiled everyday talent: Rizzo, Baez, Bryant, Russell, now Contreras and even Schwarber (the one injury) coming back. While the Mets with their five live (but often dead) arms, some of which may not come back whole. Those Cubs prospects were all Grade A. Mets don’t have that, but desperately need the B pluses they do have–Conforto, Nimmo, Ciccilini (sp?)–to break through.

  • Dave

    You and Jason deserved a break, Greg, but nice to have some new FAFIF for the AM commute. You had both done plenty of stressful writing with runners in scoring position down the stretch, all on short rest.

    I have several Cubs fans friends, including one who grew up within walking distance of Wrigley; she and her husband did decide however not to cancel the 2-week European holiday plans in favor of a pair of tickets to one Series game…they were in the same price range and it wouldn’t have been wise financially to do both. I can’t not root for the Cubs, or more accurately, their fans, if we think our 30 year drought is bad…well, I don’t have to finish that sentence.

  • Joenunz

    I had two WS futures tickets at 8-1…one I ripped up and tossed at Conor Whatshisname. The other is on the Indians. Go Team In The World Series That Won Tbe World Series More Recently!

  • Curt

    My post-elimination feelings can be summed up in a single statement: “Any team but the Nationals.”

    Nothing against the Montshington Expotionals, not really – you always get some angst with the division team that beats you but this was fairly low level. For me it was more along the lines of not wanting a continuing reminder that Daniel Murphy became all-world once he left us.

    Do I care between Cubs-Indians? Not really. On the one hand 108 years is a long time to wait but to all but some octogenarians is there much difference between that and 68? For me it’s always been about a title when I could really appreciate it – I can still fall back to the ’86 Mets while for me the last Knicks title might as well have never happened.

    Besides, those two cities have had their share, sort of. The Cavs just this June and the White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks have all gotten theirs fairly recently(and the ’86 Bears isn’t THAT long ago). The historian in me likes the idea of 108 years of futility becoming 109 . . .

  • I still want the first pitch Noah Syndergaard throws to make Conor Gillaspie dizzy…

  • Rochester John

    Call it sour grapes, schadenfreude, whatever, but I, myself, am quite tired of the smugness of all things Cubbie. As for the genius that is Joe Maddon, Sarah Palin would have won between 99 and 101 games with this team. Let’s say the Tribe in 6!

  • Will in Central NJ

    Glad to finally see a post on FAFIF after the events of October 5th…I’m going to be partial towards the Cubs, who, at the root of it all, have strong underdog genes like our beloved Mets. I’ll keep the reasoning for my short-term rooting interests simple like that.

    I’m also glad to see a name-check on Leon ‘Daddy Wags’ Wagner, whose facsimile autograph adorned the first ever baseball glove I ever owned. Bought for me by Mom in 1974 at the Valley Fair discount department store in Irvington, NJ, it was hard for me then to learn who he was…Wagner played almost entirely in the AL, retired in 1969, and many years later died a sad and lonely death. But I digress…thanks for the post, Greg!

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Go Cleveland. But if the National League wins it, hooray for the National League!

  • Pete In Iowa

    Couldn’t give the slightest little rip about the Cubs or Indians.
    The Mets didn’t win this year…. that’s ALL that matters.

    • Dennis

      Don’t you enjoy watching the final games of what was a terrific baseball season regardless if the Mets are in it? If that was the case with me, I would have missed out on some great playoffs and World Series over the years.

      • Pete In Iowa

        Don’t get me wrong Dennis, I will most certainly watch as I have for decades. But, as I said above, I most assuredly couldn’t care in the slightest who wins.

  • DAK442

    Apparently I was the only Met fan rooting for Washington. I did it solely out of love for Murph, though I will admit to liking the cut of Bryce Harper’s jib as well.
    The Giants were out. No love for the Utley-employing Dodgers, either. And like many I am already sick of the long-suffering Cub fan narrative. They are insufferable people, smug as Yankee fans but minus about 25 World Championships.
    I was gonna cheer for Toronto but RA Dickey seemed to have vanished. Sooooo… go Cleveland!

    • Kevin From Flushing

      Same here re: Toronto. They were my AL team until I saw they left Dickey off the postseason roster (and didn’t even call upon him when Liriano got concussed). So nuts to them.

  • mookie4ever

    Not only have I been jonesing for our beloved Mets baseball, postseason or anything else really, I’ve also missed my daily (+/-) FAFIF fix. As usual, Greg, your wise and lyrical prose is right on point. Thank you for always being that. I said all along as the Mets made their eagerly awaited run that I’d be happy with them no matter the end result because they’d shown such great heart in doing the inconceivable. Well, that’s still true but there are all these other feelings too that I couldn’t put my finger on until now. Damn, we should be the celebrating fans! I know it would have been a long shot, but I feel like maybe we could’ve taken the Cubbies. We were absolutely in their heads. It was so glorious to read Maddon’s answer to the what did your team learn from Mets sweep question: We never want to see them (our aces) again! Wow. And it got really fun after they were shutout twice in a row because every story started with our 2015 sweep and here we go again.

    I really don’t have a dog in this fight because I can’t actually bring myself to root for the Cubs, but also can’t root for AL team. So it will be what it will be. I’ll be impatiently waiting for that magical p&c date and praying for good health and roaring comebacks. If only our boys can have a near normal injury year, they could be spectacular. Hopefully this year has paid up their sacrifice quota to the baseball gods for a good long time. LGM! Sign Cespedes!

  • Dennis

    Ever since the Mets were knocked out I was rooting for Cleveland. I really like Francona as a manager and always have had a soft spot for that franchise even in my baseball rooting youth.

    Should be a nice story no matter who wins. Those who whine about insufferable Cubs fans should realize that every fan base is annoying (surprise…..including Mets fans) when they have success and win.

    • argman

      Dennis, couldn’t agree more. Anyone who can’t be happy for Cubs fans after what they’ve gone through must be lacking an empathy gene. The Indians fans also warrant some empathy too. So I’m pulling for the Cubs because of the National League thing, but will be happy for whoever wins it.
      Beats the hell out of 2009.

  • Paul Schwartz

    2016 mets vs. cubs: 5-2
    2016:mets vs. indians (all away): 2-1
    sigh!

  • Inside Pitcher

    I am so neutral about this matchup it’s not funny.

  • Tim H.

    On This Day, October 25…

    In 1986, the Mets won the most amazing game in their history — Game Six of the World Series! I was fortunate enough to have been there that night in Field Box seats which I won in a (free) raffle at work! Simply Amazin’!

  • 9th string catcher

    I like the idea of seeing history, so I’ve been all in for the Cubs since we got knocked out. That said, the Cleveland story is one we can relate to in terms of devastating injuries to the starting staff and pulling out all the stops to get the wins they needed. Francona and Epstein back in the World Series, just for different teams…

  • dmg

    I have found myself being anti- these playoffs. (By the way, weren’t the National League Division and Championship Series terrific?)

    Anti-Nats, and three words I never thought I’d type: Thank you, Dodgers!

    Anti-Cubs — I still think the Mets would have given them fits. Set aside that 5-2 record, here’s a little known fact: The Cubs only played 56 games against teams with .500+ records this season, and 31-25 at that. That is, their record is soft, and they hadn’t truly been tested. They were ripe for the taking.
    I was in the weird position of rooting for the Giants — whose bullpen flamed out in the ugliest way at the worst time (much worse than one meatball to a no. 8 batter). Weirder still, I rooted for the Dodgers, who couldn’t get the job done even though they were up 2-1 with two home games to go. Two friends of mine are dodger fans, and their diffidence about the outcome lent credibility to all those tropes about L.A.
    The most grating element to me about this Cubs bandwagon is how boosterish the coverage has been. Leading into the series with the Dodgers, Fox ran a documentary that covered in granular detail the fall and rise of the Cubbies from 1908 on. There was special attention to 1969 (black cat included). That’s why, after the piece gets to the new ownership, the new g.m. and the new manager, you’d think it would talk about the 2015 season. Yet, except for a brief mention of how it “ended disappointingly,” nothing. No mention of making it to the league championship, and certainly nothing said about being swept by the Mets.
    If it needed a refresher, my animus got a boost from this erasure of history. Sorry if the Mets don’t fit your storyline, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the record. Or maybe it’s just one more bit of evidence we live in a post-factual age.

    So yeah, it’s gotten personal. Go Tribe!

  • eric1973

    NOT the Nationals. That IS awesome!

  • Steve K

    Nostalgia Alert (7:42 PM, 10/27/16):

    W-OR Radio is airing Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, with Bob Murphy and Gary Thorne at the microphones, until 10:00 pm, I think.

    Meanwhile, ESPN CLASSIC is showing the same game, a more condensed version until 9:00 pm).

    For now, I have the game on the radio and also on TV w/o sound. How cool is it to listen to Murph’s wonderful play-by-play?

    #LGM

  • open the gates

    …Howie Rose-colored glasses…Bumgarnerian bruises…Daniel in the Cubbies’ Den…Utley’s cement trampoline…Chief Wahoo at “Progressive” Field…you’re in rare form today, Mr. Prince. We’ve missed you guys. Your post nails the bittersweetness (accent on the bitter) of watching two other teams in the Fall Classic. I realize that in retrospect, the odds of us getting that far with our ragtag crew of survivors and replacements and walking woundeds was astronomical – amazing we made it as far as we did – but even so. As for the current Classic, I’m rooting for the Cubs – if only to get their fans to stop talking about 1908 and black cats and Greek bar owners and their billy goats. Seeing them actually win a World Series would be the ultimate example of the dog finally catching its tail. Would be fun to watch, although I’m not sure the universe is ready for that yet. Guess we’ll find out.

  • eric1973

    Anyone know what Mejia’s doing these days?