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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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The Luxury of Disunity

I resent the Yankees. I’ve always resented the Yankees. I resented them from the first time I became aware of their existence. I understood neither the purpose nor appeal of their existence. It was 1969. New York had the Miracle Mets, the baseball team about to be certified world champions. I met the Mets as they surged into first place and I fell in love. Why wouldn’t everybody around here do the same? For what did New York need this additional, wholly irrelevant baseball team nestled in fifth place a million games behind Baltimore? Why would New York divert as much as a scintilla of its affection from the Mets to any other baseball team?

My resentment has alternately simmered and boiled for more than a half-century. Boiled a lot for a very long while. Simmers now. These days, out of sight, out of mind. I’ve trained myself to pay them as little mind as possible. For 156 to 158 games of a regulation season, it’s not that difficult. Don’t tune into that channel you don’t want to watch. Don’t listen to that station you don’t want to hear. Don’t click on the content you don’t want to consume. Live in New York, and some Pinstriped propaganda inevitably filters in, but I try to let it flow out. I’m not beyond monitoring standings in the interest of a stress-free October. Big picture only, however. I don’t dabble in their details. I don’t care to know.

This was mostly impossible in the years leading up to and out of 2001. The Yankees had won four of the five most recent World Series, including the last three. They won the 2000 World Series as visitors to Shea Stadium. It was an uncomfortably homey visit for them. Those Mets were an outstanding team in those days. The pennant in 2000. The ride of a lifetime in 1999. Those Mets weren’t as outstanding as those Yankees, though. An invigorating evening there, a delightful afternoon here, but never for more than a blip. The receipts don’t lie. We weren’t outstanding enough.

New York’s attention, except for that belonging to those of us bound to be classified as social misfits, was inevitably theirs. 1969 was ancient history. 1986 was slightly less so. Our version of 1999 and 2000, with its 97 wins one year and 94 the next and postseason dramatics both years, was rendered a footnote. I knew this was deep down a National League town, a town whose highs were never higher than when the Mets did the elevating. But that knowledge, like those ever fainter veins of orange and blue, was too deep to matter by 2001. Nobody called New York an American League town. It was an overwhelming success town, populated by millions, yet large enough only for pervasive winning. There was next to no room for the nicest of tries. We who didn’t flock to the ritual parades and dutifully celebrate the overwhelming success in our midst were dismissed as The Other. There were Yankees fans and there were The Other people — buncha weirdoes — who for some strange reason opted not to be Yankees fans. That was the extant dichotomy served up to us dally and nightly c. 2001. It was that framing I resented far more than however many rings were being counted, added and brandished.

You don’t need me or anybody to admonish you to never forget September 2001 in New York from a topline perspective. I think that’s covered. From a baseball perspective, in case you’ve forgotten, it was business as had been usual. The Yankees were cruising toward another division title. The Mets were fighting furiously to catch up to the Braves. I resented the Braves, too, but only situationally. The prevailing situation was the Braves won the National League East annually. I didn’t question the Braves’ existence. I just wished to finish a season ahead of them.

Then September 11. You remember that. The date nobody is going to forget led to six days of no baseball and me personally not caring when baseball came back. But baseball did come back on September 17. For two days I barely cared that it was there and questioned why I should care at all. By the third day, with the Mets completing a sweep in Pittsburgh, I began to care in earnest again. Began to. I wasn’t all the way back yet. The Mets had won 20 of their previous 25 games and had picked up eight-and-a-half games on first place in the process. It was hard not to begin caring again. The Braves — the first-place Braves — were next on the Mets’ rearranged schedule. Home games. At Shea. I was going to the first of them and third of them.

Short version: the Mets won the first of those games, on September 21. Mike Piazza hit the deciding home run in the eighth inning. That’s a very short version. You know about the home run. You’ve likely been reminded of the home run this week along with that game and its significance marking the first time a load of New Yorkers came together to do anything other than be despondent since September 11. I’ve read and heard several Braves from 2001 admit in 2021 it didn’t bother them to have lost to the Mets in New York that night, among them T#m Gl@v!ne, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “It’s probably one of the only games in the big leagues that I was part of the losing team and really didn’t care.” (We can guess one of the others.)

I wonder if the Braves really felt that way at the time or if they’ve revised their view of events twenty years after the fact out of empathy with the city that had just endured unspeakable horror. I wouldn’t hold it against them if in the course of competition they were legitimately bothered they lost that game. They’re not supposed to want to lose to the Mets in New York any more than in Atlanta. From all I could tell in Mezzanine, they were trying to win. It took Mike Piazza hitting an eighth-inning home run to beat them.

Helluva home run. A lot of people divined a lot of meaning from it, and I’m glad it gave them the boost they needed. I understood what it looked like as it soared out of Shea, but what it meant to me was Mets 3 Braves 2 and the Mets having lopped a little more off the Braves’ divisional lead. Despite my presence in the ballpark, I still wasn’t all the way back. I still wasn’t convinced baseball was of passing let alone paramount importance in New York in September of 2001. Even a Mike Piazza home run that was destined to endure as his signature swing wasn’t enough to more than nudge me.

The Mets won the second game of that series and whittled the Braves’ NL East edge down to 3½. Then, with me in attendance, they blew a three-run ninth-inning lead and lost in eleven in that third game. Brian Jordan, one of the 2001 Braves who says he “didn’t mind losing a game” in New York on Friday, wasn’t going to let it happen again on Sunday. Or the following Saturday, in Atlanta. Brian Jordan killed us and our comeback aspirations twice in a six-day span, each time with a lethal home run in the decisive inning. In September of 2001, I doubt I would have used “killed” and “lethal” for something as silly as a baseball game played in the shadow of unspeakable horror. But after Jordan took his first deadly swing against the Mets, I knew I was back because I was far more devastated by his home run than I had been uplifted by Piazza’s. The Mets mattered to me in full again. The Mets going to Montreal and sweeping three from the Expos in between Jordan’s hatchet jobs mattered to me. The Mets having one last gasp at Turner Field (and that gasp being smothered) mattered to me. I knew it only mattered infinitesimally in the scheme of much graver things, but I let it matter to me. There was no way it wasn’t going to eventually.

I was so proud of the Mets that September. Disgusted by them once Jordan unleashed his grand slam on John Franco to seal the 8-5 loss of September 29, but proud nonetheless. Proud of the late run they’d put on to salvage their season (25-6), and proud that they allowed us to briefly imagine a baseball miracle that might have made 1969’s seem ordinary, but proudest of how they conducted themselves. They came back from Pittsburgh on a bus once their games the week of September 11 were postponed and they put themselves to work as best they could. Perhaps all that blending into the New York background in the late 1990s and earliest 2000s imbued them with an additional layer of humility. Maybe they were just all good guys. They pitched in at the Shea Stadium staging area as if they weren’t big-time big leaguers. They visited the rescue workers who needed desperately, if only for a minute, to see something besides piles of rubble. They exchanged caps with members of one service agency after another and they wore the caps they received to represent them on the field of play. They’d won a slew of games down the stretch. They were winners regardless that the slew wasn’t adequate to the task of taking down the Braves.

And then the Yankees went to the World Series in October and a little of November and were lauded far, wide and singularly for being the focal point of what New Yorkers could at last cheer about.

The fall of 2001, particularly in New York, was a time for unity, for nobody being classified as The Other. I felt it in many ways, but not this one. I felt resentful. I felt like a clod for feeling resentful under the circumstances, and I tried to rein in my resentment, but resentment reigned in my heart. It wasn’t a contest, I kept telling myself. It was the aftermath of unspeakable horror and whoever and whatever could bring a little light into people’s lives should be welcome.

But I did not welcome the Yankees into this framing, certainly not at the expense of the Mets and what they did and how they represented themselves and their city. All the never forgetting, and the 2001 Mets were forgotten in a matter of a month. I would have been thrilled had anybody beaten the Yankees in the ninth inning of a seventh game of any World Series and stuck a spoke in the dynastic wheel that had run roughshod over New York’s baseball narrative for a half-decade. This stick, stuck as it was by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 2001 World Series was a stick whose existence I exulted in without shame. The way I rationalized it, everybody got what they came for. Those who liked the Yankees and needed something to take their minds off of everything else got to keep watching their team for the extent of an entire postseason. The rest of us who resented the Yankees and needed something to take our minds off of everything else (if not the bleeping Yankees being in another bleeping World Series) got the pleasure of watching their arrogant ass vault forward from the haughty seat of their self-satisfied ten-speed.

Something for everybody.

If scheduling the two New York teams to play one another on the twentieth anniversary of September 11, 2001, was meant as a throwback gesture of unity, it hasn’t performed its magic on me. Not on September 10, 2021, at any rate. I always resent the Yankees coming into Citi Field just as I always resented the Yankees coming into Shea Stadium. I resent their fans and their caps and their sense of entitlement occupying any space inside our physical environs. I continue to resent the existence of the Yankees in any context, including that of Interleague opponent on a symbolic weekend. I’ll craft my own symbolism, thank you very much.

Nonetheless, on Friday night the stumbling Mets walloped the slumping Yankees, 10-3. It was beautiful, despite my misgivings that this opponent and this matchup existed. The Yankees, who I grant you are still a better bet to make their playoffs than the Mets are to make theirs, made too many egregious errors in execution and judgment to accurately aggregate. Jeff McNeil laid down the most gorgeous drag bunt with the bases loaded. James McCann delivered his first clutch hit since Queen Elizabeth let her subscription to Tiger Beat lapse. Francisco Lindor homered. Javy Baez made all kinds of defense-flummoxing contact. Tylor Megill was sharp for seven winning innings. Jonathan Villar, about to be out by the proverbial twenty feet, was safe at home on the most hilarious non-tag from Gary Sanchez you’ve ever witnessed. The play so defied credulity that you couldn’t scoff that it took the injection of replay review to overturn the initial incorrect call by Ted Barrett. Unless Sanchez was inhabited by the 2001 Bravelike spirit of believing it wrong that the Mets lose on this Friday night in Flushing, it was unfathomable to infer what was going through his mind as Villar almost accidentally slid under and past him.

We can differ on particulars as we go along, but we should all be united in kindness to one another; in acceptance of one another; in wishing well-being to one another; in acting in ways that don’t harm one another; in not unnecessarily and obnoxiously obstructing one another from living our best, healthiest and freest lives.

And we should all be able to resent the Yankees as much as we want and feel fine about it.

16 comments to The Luxury of Disunity

  • Rob D

    In the 2001 WS I got into arguments with people as I continued to root against the Yankees. “Aren’t you from NY? How can you root against the Yankees. Especially this year?” My response “if I root for the Yankees, the terrorists win.”

  • eric1973

    I too, was at that first game back in 2001, Section 15 in the Upper Deck, my favorite digs ever! Got there in the 3rd inning, due to security, and so missed Diana Ross. I remembered Karsay going nuts and getting kicked out.

    As for the Yankees, I hate them a lot, no matter what year, and do not feel a whit of guilt about it. When they won it all in 1977 and 1978, it broke my Met-loving heart, because all I knew from the early to mid 70’s was that the Mets were ALWAYS better than the Yankees.

    Funny, but I didn’t hate those 70’s Yankees players as much as I did those in the 90’s and today. I mean, how can you hate guys like Roy White or Chris Chambliss? I did hate Nettles and Gossage, though.

  • dmg

    I do feel fine about it.
    (I remember your AP-style recount of Game 7 with its interview of God. Epic and among your best ever, as this post is.)

  • Greg Mitchell

    I will always appreciate the Mets’ leaders class and effort in one episode on that last 2001 homestand. One of my friends–who was coaching under me in Little League at the time and in previous years–had perished in one of the towers. He was a giant Mets fan. His oldest son, then 12, had played on my teams since forever. (They were featured in my book, “Joy in Mudville,” now dedicated to the Dad.) I called the Mets and asked if they would welcome the two boys to a game and give them some kind of special treatment. Jay Horwitz got involved and someone else.

    So the two kids went to an afternoon game with their grandpop. They got on the field and watched batting practice from behind the screen. Then they got to chat with Bobby V in the dugout, who gave them a good ten minutes. Then into the clubhouse to meet with players. On leaving they got a swag bag with all kinds of goodies. No publicity, and I’ve got to believe they did this with others in that stretch. That oldest kid played for me two more years (including on a team I took to Little League state finals) and went on to be a star high school pitcher. Ever more a Mets fan.

  • 9th string catcher

    “if I root for the Yankees, the terrorists win.”

    That is such a hilarious comment, but also fairly profound when you think about it. Rooting against the Yankees felt normal in 2001. One of the few things Giuliani ever did well in my opinion was handling the unrest that everybody was going through in 2001. Rooting against the yanks heeded his advice to go back to work, go back to your lives and don’t let the terrorists change how you live your life.

  • Tom Clark

    I’ve been reading after every game, win or lose, for the last 5 years. Your takes are the most comforting combination of fact and faith of any who cover the team. The breathtaking historical scope of this post is worthy of a Pulitzer— honestly.

    Oh, and I resent the Yankees too! Don’t ever stop writing about the Mets. Sometimes it is the only thing that causes me to check the score an hour after the first pitch on the day after a humiliating loss.

    Tom Clark – DieHard Mets fan since 1962!

  • I dissent. I don’t root for the Yankees except when their win would benefit the Mets, meaning they’re playing another NLE team or an NL wildcard rival. But I don’t root against the Yankees either unless they’re playing the Mets. They’re like any other non-rival to me except the Yankees happen to be local so I see and hear about them more than other non-rivals.

    The only Yankees championship that bothered me was the one they took away from the Mets. But then, that one didn’t bother me more than the one the Royals took away from the Mets.

    In 2001 in the wake of 9/11, I did want the Yankees to win as the only team in the World Series wearing an interlocking NY.

    Right now I’m rooting for the Yankees to stay behind the Red Sox and fall behind the Blue Rays, Athletics, and Mariners because that would mean the Mets are winning. After this series is over, I won’t care if the Yankees flip a switch and somehow overtake the Rays unless and until the Mets face them in the World Series.

  • ljcmets

    I am no Yankee-lover, and I live in Albany, where the Mets have been off over-the-air radio for several years, and where most sporting goods stores don’t carry so much as a Mets t-shirt. That should give a good idea of how the Mets are viewed – or more accurately, how invisible they are. Come on, the RED SOX are on AM radio here, although to be fair, Queens is farther from my home – and much harder to travel to – than Boston. Thank goodness for MLB At Bat!

    I resent the lack of free nightly Howie Rose much more than I resented the attention the Yankees were getting in the fall of 2001. But oh, I did notice it, and how the Mets faded from national consciousness almost as soon as Piazza’s home run cleared the Shea fence. It will always be ever thus – the Yankees are the YANKEES – and a worldwide brand that says “New York” in every language across the globe. I’ve always ignored them because the Mets speak to my heart and always have. I’ve never wanted to waste time hating the Yankees; after all, hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is.

    And it’s funny, but karma always arrives, even if delayed. Here we are 20 years later, and what is the symbol of the renewal of baseball, and the renewal of hope, after 9/11/2001? Not the Yankees powering through to another pennant. Not the exploits of Jeter and Mariano and ( ugh!) Roger Clemens. No, it’s our Mets, the Seaver-described Little Engine that Could, our Hall-of-Famer’s iconic Home Run, our team’s selfless service during that awful September, and our lost Shea Stadium (a forlorn paradise, but ours) that is the focus of memory right now.

    That’s always been the Mets’ role, to soothe the melancholy left by the Dodgers and Giants, to astound and amaze ( in both good and bad ways, the Mets have always been over-the-top) and 20 years ago, to step up and for a few hours, fill the aching hole in the city’s heart. Watching on TV, I wept when Mike rounded the bases, when I had not been able to for over a week. I exhaled. And then I Believed. That moment is ours, and will be forever. I’ll take it, with gratitude.

  • Dave

    Was Tug McGraw’s famous battle cry “You gotta compartmentalize?” Maybe it was, maybe not, I’m not sure. But during the 2001 World Series I was very able to separate my longing for healing and a feeling of hope in NYC and the nation from my lifelong hatred of the team in the Bronx. I was attending a conference taking place at one of the hotel/casinos in Atlantic City, watching game 7 in the bar with a bunch of friends. All my friends, and seemingly every single other person in the bar, was obviously a Yankee fan, or those who weren’t Yankee fans by nature were at that time out of I guess that same longing for healing (some people can compartmentalize better than others). The fact that I wasn’t rooting for them was greeted by disbelief from friends and strangers alike, as if I was rooting for the terrorists to win. Imagine the incredulous looks I got when I burst out with glee at the game winning hit (moments after a friend said to me “Dave, I have two words for you…Mariano…Rivera”).

    For me, that Yankee loss was part of the healing. Good things could happen again.

  • UpstateNYMfan

    I am late to this blog and reading it early Sunday morning. Even though this write up followed a Mets 10-3 “wallop” of the Yankees from the previous night, it was still tailor-made to assuage the feelings I have right now about the game, it’s coverage, and the results. Admittedly, I haven’t been watching much of the Mets this year. There’s just been a lot about this 2021 team that I find so unpalatable. But I happened to tune in Friday and rediscovered some joy in watching the Mets (not to mention listening to Gary, Keith, and Ron-Keith’s correlation of the Yankees and Pepe La Pew was a quintessential “Keith classic”). I wasn’t going to watch Saturday, but couldn’t help but tune in on this day too: 9-11-21. I couldn’t not, you know? Well, I got sucked into this game too. I saw who was due up in the Yankees 8th, and just had a bad feeling. I tuned to another station showing a documentary on 9-11. When I turned back, my TV screen was showing a replayed image of Citi’s lights and the outfield, fans (dark-blue hued) jumping and cheering, and then cut to the slow-motion hugging and smiling between Judge and Stanton. ‘Nuff “said.” I didn’t need Joe Buck, ‘Smoltzy,’ or anyone else to explain anything else. I walked away from the TV. I knew how this was going to go. NOT according to script-well, at least MY script. Regrettably (in moments like this, I like nothing more than to be wrong) I was right. But, it seems that it went according to A script-the “as long as it’s a New York team” script. Sort of the way I felt in 2001. Look; the Mets don’t “own” 9-11 and don’t have “exclusive rights” to holding events and tributes honoring what that day means to New York, the nation, and especially, to those most directly touched by its events. But, doesn’t it just SEEM like it should be a Mets team that ought to win this kind of game, and any other result, just feels “wrong?” Perhaps its just my peevish Met fan resentment towards the Yankees spilling over, but last night’s game, and how it’s portrayed as a great win for a New York team, ANY New York team, just feels a bit trite and mealymouthed by the media. Yes, a nation and its people striving to recover from a horrific event by uniting on a field of play to compete in a game (particularly in the city where such a tragedy took place) is comforting and worthy of celebration; that’s a good story. But that game, like any story, comes with an ending, in this case, one in which one team will win and another must lose. The players on the field (regrettably, for the Mets) determined that ending. But the way in which the story is told, and how the ending is portrayed, is in the hands of the storyteller. I just feel that our national media “storytellers” sort of ‘whiffed’ on the ending of this one.

  • Richard Porricelli

    I was at last nights game..Many Yankee fans there and we all pretty much co excisted and had a back and forth good natured time of it..
    Young men and woman supporting both teams no ” types or typicals ” just fans..
    We are fortunate in New York to have two teams.Especially in a time in which Baseball doesn’t mean what it once did in our country.
    I experienced the events of 9/11 first hand.I didnt support the Yankees in that series- which was an exciting one.I don’t resent ballclubs I resent blind hatred and stupidity.

  • Seth

    I was raised in an NL family, but we never resented the Yankees — we didn’t care enough about them to resent them. They were just “that other team in NY” that we could never get very excited about; not much different from the Detroit Tigers or Cleveland Indians, for example.