I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: I was very, very disappointed with the way Lost ended this past month. Not necessarily with the finale; I thought the first 2 hours and 20 minutes of the 2 and a half hour finale were wonderful. Well acted, things tying together (a rarity for the show), and overall just pleasant to watch and enjoy. But then came the final revelation, the resolution to half the plot from the entire season, and the overall result of six seasons of emotional and intellectual investment...and frankly, it just made me angry. What does this have to do with the Mets? Analysis and spoilerificness after the jump...
I began and spent most of my "career" as a Mets fan without much care for statistical numbers. Frankly, I had my guys, and I liked my guys. Tsuyoshi Shinjo was a 29 year old rookie who didn't have much room for improvement, you said? Hey, I said: It was his first year with Major League pitching! Blind, joyous optimism kept me from comprehending cold, hard fact. I was very much in line with John Locke's thinking on the show. I was a man of faith.
Only relatively recently did I "convert", so to speak, to Jack's camp. As a man of science, I began to understand and crave more knowledge, searching for greater meaning beneath the numbers. Who was the best pitcher in baseball, really? Was Rey Ordoñez as good defensively as I remembered? What was the real meaning behind the things I saw, or rather, thought I saw.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, it should. DJ Short did a wonderful piece on this very subject a year ago already, stating both the joys of analysis and the inherent value of blind faith. Now that a year has passed and the show has ended its legacy for better or for worse, I think Lost can serve as an even more appropriate metaphor. The Mets organization is Lost. Interpret that statement however you wish. Yes, the Mets are clueless, seemingly without direction. But that's not quite what I mean when I say the two are related.
The thing that always separated "Lost" from other television dramas was the inherent sense of mystery. Even "The Wire", pretty much unchallenged as the greatest drama in the history of television and transcendent of its media, never required the same type of investment in the story. "The Sopranos" never inspired entire online communities to form solely to discuss miniscule details about minor plot threads. Put simply, "Lost" was a phenomenon unlike any we'd really experienced before, and one that would be damn difficult to recreate, despite what "FlashForward" would try to make you believe.
Looking back at this mystery, it's hard not to, frankly, be a little shocked at the audacity of it all. Forget making things up as you go along; Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof (the minds behind the show) even made up their own set of rules as they filmed. Characters who can communicate with the dead? Go for it! Immortal guardians of the island? Sure, why the hell not? The ability for the main characters to create an undefined reality, or "afterlife", where they could all meet up after dying on the island? Screw it, let's do it!
Despite these increasingly difficult to swallow additions to the "rules" of the show, fans held on to the promise of logic and clarity at the other end of the tunnel. Ever more desperately, I heard my friends complain about the state of the show. There was no enjoyment in the act of watching the show anymore. All they wanted was for the show to end, to provide some sort of justification for the time and energy they had sunk into watching.
In this respect, there's an undeniable parallel to my own feelings about the Mets. It's not unheard of for me to look in the paper, see some headline about some horrid start by Oliver Perez, and just feel tired. Tired of the Mets, tired of feeling unsatisfied in my daily dealings with this team. Jenrry Mejia's gonna be staying in the Majors as a low leverage minor league reliever? Sigh. Gary Matthews Jr. is starting tomorrow instead of Angel Pagan? Whatever. Alex Cora is only 50 pinch hitting bunts away from earning $2 million next year? Yawn. Even outrage doesn't appeal to me sometimes.
Yet I keep watching. Why, do you think? From a purely biological standpoint, it makes little sense. Why would I invest this much knowledge, this much attention, in something that essentially means nothing? One could argue that all of the failings and all of the disappointments are made up for by the inevitable joys of success. But...what if success never comes? Ask Chicago Cubs fans if it's really true that every dog has its day. Is there some sort of risk/reward formula I could plug this into? Graph it out somehow?
The answer is, of course, no. "Lost" fans figured that out this past month. The fact is, all of the promises and tantalizing tidbits scattered through previous seasons amounted to nothing. Ben and Charles Widmore couldn't kill each other because of "the rules", right? Ben didn't seem to have much trouble killing Widmore in his house in the penultimate episode. What were these "rules", exactly? Desmond was repeatedly told he was special. We, the audience, were told the same thing. How, then, was Desmond special? How did his consciousnesses exactly move back and forth between life and the afterlife? Did it even amount to anything, besides allowing the castaways to give up their happiness in this new-found quasi-reality? Did he even matter at all? Who was Eloise Hawking? Why did she matter, anyways? The Numbers? The Sickness? Aaron? The dozens of mysteries and intricacies that had significance during "Lost"'s run amounted to jack shit. These plots, these goals of knowledge that we had, didn't really end up being tied up in an appropriate manner.
Of course, many will say, these plots are not the point of "Lost", and that the show was essentially about the characters all along. I might even consider myself one of these people. Regardless of the mysteries, I truly enjoyed seeing characters like Sawyer and Jin grow over the course of their stays on the island. The fact is, though, that the show never made itself about these characters. For the majority of the show's run, the island was considered the most important character of all. The castways were mere pawns and archetypes running amok on a cryptic island. What was the nature of this place? What secrets did it hold? These were the teasers and thoughts that the producers intentionally bombarded the audience with. Not once did the show play out under the pretenses of a great character study. Jack's tattoo episode sucked for a reason, people.
This is, in my opinion, the lesson we can take away from "Lost". There's a very good chance that this team, as currently constructed, will never win a World Series. There's nothing we can do about that. Manuel, Minaya, and the Wilpons are the producers, and all we can do is hope against hope that they right the ship. This may be a vain hope, but it's our hope nonetheless.
What we can do, however, is enjoy the ride. David Wright may never end up hitting 40 homeruns or hit .325, but he's a damn fine player that is a pleasure to watch in every sense of the word. Jose Reyes may never win an MVP award, but the excitement I feel when I see he's on base trumps that of nearly every other player in baseball. Johan Santana may never return to Cy Young form, but does it matter? Every five days, we get to watch a great pitcher pitch. He never fails to attract some interest.
Furthermore, let's enjoy the players who are a little less attractive in the statistical department. Jeff Francoeur is not a starting outfielder, no matter what Delta Airlines or Joe Beningo suggests. But hell, I just like seeing the guy smile sometimes. Sometimes, seeing someone else having fun is enough to truly make me smile. Would any of you bet that Omir Santos would provide one of the highlights of 2009 with his homerun off of Papelbon? I sure as hell didn't. His story, the story of journeymen everywhere, made that moment that much more special. Like I said: it's a character study.
What we sometimes forget in our quest for champtionships is that essentially, there's no REAL difference between sports and other television. It's all entertainment, and all we really want and desire from our entertainment is satisfaction and enjoyment in the spare hours we invest into it. For me (and for many others on this site), statistics are a key component of how I like to view sports. For others? Maybe that's not what they want to put into their experiences.
Mind you, this doesn't excuse stupidity in any form. If someone makes a claim (Ryan Howard is teh MVP! RBIZZZZZZZ!), he or she better be ready to back it up with actual evidence, and needs to be willing to listen to and accept superior reasoning that contradicts the original point. Likewise, sports journalists are excluded from this policy. It's their livelihoods; frankly, there's no excuse. But for the rest of us, I think it's important to remind ourselves that we are an uncommon group. Not everyone wants to put the same amount or type of effort into their entertainment. Frankly, it doesn't really matter, does it?