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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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It Builds Character

One of the many reasons football doesn’t work for me is you actually can dream of a perfect season.

Odds are you won’t get one — witness all the attempts over the years, inevitably accompanied by reporters ringing up wrinkly Miami Dolphins — but as a fan of a very good NFL franchise it’s not insane to think that you might. And even if your chosen team’s not quite that level of good, you’ll have years where you can reasonably expect an undefeated month or so — with a week of sound-sleeping satisfaction between each victory in the chain.

Baseball’s not like that, not at all. Sweep a doubleheader and you’ll feel a bit of a strut coming on. Go a week without watching your team lose and you’ll be giddy. Approach two weeks without an L and the whole nation will be watching over your shoulder.

Which means there will be lots of losses, and days and nights when all baseball gives you is the sight of your favorite team getting its collective behind ferociously kicked. Even the best teams are going to have to endure five to 10 debacles in a given season; ending the year with confetti and champagne won’t exempt you from it. And round and round we go: even terrible teams are going to have several games in which they beat the tar out of some thoroughly superior squad. When the ’62 Mets finally won a game it was a 9-1 blowout; they racked up victories of 8-0, 13-2, 10-3 and 9-1 that year, which means even 1962 had 13 hours or so of giddily invulnerable bliss for newborn Mets fans. The 1899 Cleveland Spiders were even worse than Marvelous Marv and Co., but on July 17 of that year they scored four in the first on the way to whacking John McGraw‘s Baltimore Orioles by five. (You could look it up.) To quote Joaquin Andujar‘s favorite word, youneverknow.

It’s great that this is built into baseball, because it’s humbling in the way life sometimes needs to be. You plan an outing, set aside TV time, rejigger your fantasy team or limber up your tweeting fingers knowing full well that the game may wind up with relievers hiding in laundry bins while the manager tries to figure out what backup infielder is going to stand on the mound and try to look serious. If that happens you don’t get your money back; in fact, if you’re a fan it’s mildly dishonorable not to take your lumps in fannish sympathy with the actual players down there waiting for it to be over. The flip side of figuring out superstitions and high-fiving strangers in October is debating ideal bullpen strategies with the guy next to you in an otherwise empty row when it’s 10-2 and probably going to get worse.

Each debacle is a uniquely distasteful snowflake: tonight at Citi Field we had the Mets either hitting in bad luck or not hitting at all (which has been going on too often of late), coupled with Steven Matz not finishing his pitches and hanging curves at bad times and some random incompetence from both teams. It made for a game that was both painfully bad and painfully slow; I flipped away disgustedly to finally watch the O.J. finale — hey, another embarrassment whose outcome I already knew! — then returned to find the game was somehow not nearing a merciful end. In fact, it wasn’t even official yet.

Really? Had there been an intermission? A sitdown strike by embarrassed Mets? A giant-sized Syndergaarden Gnome escaped into center field? Nope, the terrible baseball had proved contagious, with the Marlins letting the Mets creep to within 8-3. That made me feel guiltier about abandoning my post, and I just nodded grimly when the Mets immediately surrendered two more runs. Yeah, I deserved that. By the end, Gary and Ron were pondering whether Eric Campbell would take the mound (he didn’t) while gamely refusing to notice that the remaining Mets fans had taken to entertaining themselves by yipping and yowling like coyotes. In a game like this, why the hell not?

Anyway, the Mets got beaten and beaten badly. It won’t be the last time this year. It happens. It’s no fun when it’s your turn, but without these duck-and-cover games, baseball would be something less than it is. Wear your fan’s black eye with pride — and hope not to get another one tomorrow night.

17 comments to It Builds Character

  • Steve D

    Let’s not panic…but as a Met fan of a certain age, this perfectly fits my greatest fears…this is faith AND fear. It would be the Cespedes Effect that turned a pathetic lineup into studs wears off…the loss of Murphy adds to the problem. Granderson goes back to slumping and Duda and d’Arnaud plod along. The starters can’t possibly live up to their hype…everyone is gunning for them…and one or two may get hurt.

    I can still put the fears on the back burner…this will turn around pretty quickly and we won’t be the 2015 Nationals. Right?

  • Dave

    Yeah, it builds character. But, like Steve D, a Mets fan of a certain age, in this my 48th season as a Mets fan, I’m well stocked enough on character that I’m thinking of having a garage sale to get rid of some books, household items, maybe some stereo equipment, and over here, boxes full of excess character that I’ll never get a chance to use.

    Yes, long season, small sample size, but it would be kind of nice to imagine TC setting a tone of high expectations and making it very clear behind closed doors that this team is better than this and this needs to change now. To my eye, they’ve had a playing down to their opponent’s level look to them the past few days.

  • Mikey

    I hate the Cardinals and Nats, but but I think I hate the Marlins at least as much. their hitters all turn into Wade Boggs against us and their pitchers may as well be Kershaws and Arrietas.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a Marlins rally, the length of some at-bats, and the length of the whole game, were all a byproduct of a strike zone the size of my fist.

  • “Each debacle is a uniquely distasteful snowflake.”

    Perfect. You, sir, can lay down some serious words.

  • Harvey

    I guess spring training was no fluke.

  • Mikey

    oh and meanwhile Murph is batting .471 with 2 HRs and 7 RBIs. I wanna be happy for him but it’s impossible when he’s helping those f–ing Nats. on the flip side, I guess it’ll be interesting when Murph’s base running and/or defense costs Papelbon a save and what Papelbon’s reaction might be.

    • Eric

      Agreed. If Murphy was gunning for the MVP anywhere in the AL, including the Yankees, I’d be actively cheering for him. If he was doing the same anywhere outside the NL East, I’d be more subdued but I’d still be happy for him.

      But that Murphy is lighting it up in the Mets’ division for their chief rival – their 1st place chief rival – is bad karma.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    There are a few times every season when I know a home run is coming (hardly ever when a Met is up except for a few precious moments last year). Stanton’s 2nd inning at bat was one of them. And I had the “pleasure” of enduring it twice.

    I had gone down to the basement for something for about a minute. No TV down there, only a radio, so I was just in time to hear Howie call it. And of course, with the TV delay, I was back at my couch seat in time to see Giancarlo do it again.

    After that, I switched to Friday’s Blue Bloods. Pretty good episode, better than the latest Mets episode anyway.

  • Brian K

    I know it’s early, but watching spring training I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to flip the switch. And it seems that my fears were justified.

  • Rob E.

    I’m willing to give Matz a mulligan, and they’re not the first team to come out of spring training flat. The talent is there, I’m not worried. Teams like the Marlins and Phillies (and the Nats) are going to be coming after them this year. The Mets have to learn how to play when the target is on THEIR backs. It will come.

    Also, for the guys who like to bring the shovels for David Wright, he’s hitting .316/.458/.474. I don’t think his final numbers will look quite like that, but he’s far from washed up and he’s not hurting them.

  • Daniel Hall

    In the category of “Some things never change”, I saw Jon Niese pitch for the Pirates yesterday. Got spotted seven runs that the Pirates effortlessly shook out of Justin Verlander’s dead body, then almost completely unraveled in a single inning.

    Sounds like I got the better entertainment value still…

  • Eric

    Clearly curse of the Murph. Hope it wears off soon.

  • Jacobs27

    Shame. Matz came out throwing bullets and did get squeezed a bit in the second. But then he unraveled à la Niese.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Deep breath time lads. As Gary and company mentioned, we were 2-3 last year, and in ’86 and those years turned out pretty well. Granderson had a horrid April last year, and turned in a phenomenal season. The bullpen actually looks pretty good so far, which is a huge positive sign. The weather will warm up, and so will the bats. Our line drive luck will improve and our opponents won’t continue to find holes with every ground ball. Better days are just around the corner.

  • Gil

    Was in attendance last night through Eric Campbell’s AB in the 8th, which sent me packing. Sat in 112 row 25. One thing I’ve noticed which is an annoyance of modern baseball – the constant up and down of the vendors. I’m not talking about the guys selling beers and dogs from the cart, but the salespeople/waiters who quite literally roam up and down the isles the whole game with ipads and menus. Last night was lightly attended. Anyone who wanted anything could have walked up the stairs, ordered, and have been back at their seat for the start of the inning. This, or order from the wait staff, wait 25 minutes, and then be disappointed that’s the order is cold, wrong, incomplete.
    Also, the baseball team performed badly.
    Still, its much better than football.

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