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

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 [1]‘s Baltimore Orioles by five. (You could look it up [2].) To quote Joaquin Andujar [3]‘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 [4] 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 [5] 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 [6]. 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.