Mets Fans: A Balanced Load?

Recently, Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra had a brief post on longtime Met Ed Kranepool, and how Steady Eddie says he doesn't watch the Mets unless they're "a good product." There was nothing too earth-shattering in it, and I agree with the author's assessment that someone who gave so much of his life to a team can watch that team (or not) however much he feels like.

I was more struck by Calcaterra's assertion that this reflected a characteristic of Mets fans in general:

I don’t think there’s a fan base of its size in all of sports that has a more balanced take on things. Mets fans love ‘em when they win. When they don’t, well, they’re not gonna cry about it and make their lives miserable. Don’t get ‘em wrong — they’ll be there for the team through thick and thin — but you rarely find a Mets fans who lets his team’s misfortunes truly upset him any more than a few minutes after the game is over. Life goes on. There’s another game tomorrow.

Of course, Calcaterra is a Braves fan who does enjoy tweaking the Mets at times (particularly in his Twitter feed). But this came across as neither a dig nor a backhanded compliment, but simply an observation, one that gave me pause. Is this really true of Mets fans?

Personally, I would take issue with the "they don't make their lives miserable" assessment. Tune into WFAN sometime after a brutal Mets loss and hear how many fans take things in stride. The same could be said of the Mets blogosphere, which has more than its share of hand wringing after each defeat. And I'm as guilty of this behavior as any one else. Drop by my house while the Mets bullpen is blowing a formidable lead and see how calm I am, even if it's a virtually meaningless game in May.*

* If you do plan to drop by my house, please call first.

Granted, the number of people who call talk radio or write blogs is miniscule compared to the population at large. Still, I feel that whether we like it or not, the Joe Benigno's of the world ("oooooh, da pain!") represent a sizable portion of the Mets' fan base: the fan that elevates each and every game to the same level of tension as defusing a bomb. Whether you want to call this passion or insanity is up to you, but either way, it's not indicative of people who just let losses roll of their backs.

And as much we don't like to admit it, I wonder how much The Other Team in Town is to blame for this mentality. If you live somewhere in the tri-state area and are gainfully employed, you almost assuredly work alongside a Yankee fan who is more than happy to bust your chops whenever the Mets fail. And if not, you probably have a relative who does the same. And if you're really unlucky, you have both. So when we root for the Mets to come back or hold on, we're really rooting for That Guy in Sales with the pinstriped cubicle and our Uncle Ted to keep their big mouths shut for once.

On the other hand, I believe there's at least a kernel of truth to Calcaterra's assessment, at least for this coming season. In stark contrast to the most vocal Yankee fans--who insisted an already loaded team HAD TO get Cliff Lee OR ELSE--I feel like most Mets fans are measured and reasonable in their expectations for 2011.

The angry parishioners who call into WFAN notwithstanding, Mets fans seem to understand that the team is hamstrung financially at the moment, and that the big ticket free agent is not coming through the clubhouse door this year. They'd prefer that Sandy Alderson and co. do no harm this offseason so the rebuilding process won't be any more painful or prolonged than it needs to be. I think any fanbase would react the same to the situation in which the Mets find themselves. The only thing that makes Mets fans a special case in this respect is the existence of a ravenous sports press that hungers for moves.

From Steve Phillips forward, Mets GMs have polished the deck chairs on their respective Titanics with Big Moves, which both helped to mask larger problems within the organization (i.e., no farm system) and fill up precious newspaper column inches. Alderson's refusal to make Big Moves for the sake of doing so seems to baffle and, in some cases, annoy certain sportswriters (see: Jon Heyman). Despite living in such a media environment, I believe Mets fans, for the most part, have resisted the temptation to join this chorus.

There's no real answer to the question Calcaterra's assessment poses, since it's unfair to generalize any group as large and diverse as Mets fans. My own feeling is that he's both wrong and right--wrong about the "living and dying" part, but right about Mets' fans reasonableness and perspective (at least for the moment). What say you?

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