I have a confession to make: I voted for John Kerry in 2004. (Me and a few other guys.) At the time, I was pretty sanguine about it - I even signed up to cast my ballot a month early. I thought he presented experience, brains, sound judgment, and sensible policies, all in a telegenic, electable package. I was pretty wild about the guy - you could almost call me a fan.
So when Kerry conceded defeat, I should have been devastated, crushed like an Aaron Heilman change-up in the ninth inning of a certain game I can't quite remember. Sure enough, I did have that stomach punch feeling the day after. But the funny thing was, before long I started to feel relieved, almost giddy. Now that he wasn't in danger of winning anything, I could finally admit that he had a flaw or two thousand. I didn't have to make excuses for the veteran who, in retrospect, acted like he'd never run for office before in his life. I wasn't over the moon about the rival he lost to, but the fact that he butchered a golden opportunity to win - well, that was his lookout, not mine.
I think you know where I'm headed with this. Over the last week, the Mets have been self-destructing in a way that would make Mark Foley and Larry Craig blush. You half-expect to see Willie Randolph cruising around Shea in a tank, à la Michael Dukakis '88, while Omar Minaya calls up the FAN to explain that he actually voted for putting Philip Humber on the postseason roster before he voted against it. New York has seen its seven-game divisional lead dwindle to 2.5 in the wink of an eye, a historic choke job that should have fans like me kicking in television sets, tearing out their hair, losing sleep, and generally behaving like the guy who always takes the seat next to you on the bus.
Well, I don't have a television set, or hair, and I don't get to sleep until four or five at the best of times anyway, but the Mets' collapse just isn't bothering me like it's supposed to. If they were playing their best and losing by inches to the Braves like they did back when Bobby Valentine was in the disguise business, then sure, I'd be anguished. But giving it up to the Phillies and Nats five days in a row? That isn't heart breaking - it's hilarious.
Admit it: This flop is actually liberating. When the Mets are winning, or losing close ones, we have to support them unconditionally. That means we have to suffer the cognitive dissonance of explaining away some of Omar's ill-advised signings while hoping that Guillermo Mota can make it through the seventh inning unscathed. "Hey, c'mon, Schoeneweis has actually been pretty good the last few outings before this one... yeah, that's the ticket."
But when the orange and blue wrecking crew makes a dozen errors in the span of a few days while the bullpen's giving up five runs a night? It's a get-out-of-purgatory-free card, like when the abusive husband gets jailed for his fourth DUI. You no longer have to make excuses for the glaring deficiencies, like Willie's curious lineups or Omar's construction of a bullpen from hell. You're free to admit that the team has some serious warts - and it's okay. It's not your fault, man. You can even laugh about it.
After all, comedy is tragedy plus time.
Back in 1988, the Mets reached the NLCS and the Dodgers, a team they'd beaten 11 times in 12 tries during the season. New York had Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Ron Darling, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter - All-Star talent up and down the roster. Los Angeles had Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson, and Vin Scully. The Mets should have won it in five, but they ended up losing in seven. I've finally gotten over that one - but if New York is intent on blowing a sure thing in 2007, I'm not waiting 20 years to move on.