Let's destroy a sporting myth: It's not tough to be a fan.
Really, it's not. Being a fan of any team is a choice. Even if your family has rooted for Team X since humankind first climbed from the primordial ooze, at some point in your adult life you make a decision--conscious or not--to be a fan of a team.
You might think you'd suffered along with your favorite team, or struggled to support them. You haven't. No matter how you want to phrase what a team puts you through, it's not real suffering. If it was, no one would be a sports fan.
And yet, fans of every team in every sport feel the need to compare their scars with one another, like it's a contest to see who can endure the most. "My fandom is more righteous than yours because I've been through the wars!" In a perverted way, it's almost better if your team never wins anything, because then the preciousness and purity of your allegiances won't be tainted by winning.
This, more than anything, is why I get so angry at articles like the one in Tuesday's Bergen Record, which "reported" on how few Mets fans showed up to Citi Field when tickets went on sale. Of course, this article totally overlooked a few very basic facts about how tickets are purchased in 2011. But it also promoted and reveled in modern self-flagellating language of fandom.
The story here is that regular season tickets went on sale on Tuesday, and very few fans showed up in person to buy them at CitiField. By Jeff Roberts' count, only 52 showed up all day, "including at least five Yankee fans."
Of course, there are many reasons for this, the biggest one being that online ticket sales--which began a day earlier--now dwarf walkups. Also, presales for ticket plan holders have diminished available seats for the most sought after games, like Opening Day and the Subway Series. I have a ticket plan and attempted to get more seats for Opening Day, but was denied in all but the most prohibitively expensive sections. (Jerry Seinfeld's suite is a little too rich for my blood.)
There's also the fact that this sale began on a Tuesday at 9 am. If you have enough disposable income to spend on Mets games, presumably you're employed, and therefore unable to trek out to CitiField to buy tickets outside in the cold that you could have purchased from your warm, dry computer at work a day earlier.
And then there's the whole "the Mets probably won't be good this year" angle.
But providing facts or perspective is not the point of articles like this. The point is to throw a big ol' Pity Party where Mets fans can show off their bruises.
The piece opens with the "painful" life of a Mets fan from Long Island, who feels "guilty" about passing along his fandom to his five-year-old son. As if being a Mets fan were some sort of genetic predisposition. (And also, who says this kid even likes baseball? He's five. He's got a lot of living to do.)
The question none of the ticket buyers — ranging in age from 20 to 75 — was able to answer is why: Why they came, why they paid hundreds to watch the karma-scorned Mets, why they’ve maintained their loyalty.
Why, oh why do we keep coming back to the fount of our pain? How long must we wander in the wilderness? How long must we abide this vale of tears?
I don't know, because sometimes it's nice to watch a baseball game in person on a nice summer day? Maybe because, despite a lack of overall success, the Mets still have a few players who are really fun to watch?
But this masochistic angle is not just on the writer. The interviewees--including a reverend from the Bronx--oblige by using words like suffering and pain to describe their fan experience. A few make CitiField seem less like a ballfield and more like a dominatrix's lair.
"So you see I like punishment, right?" joked Ozzie Brinskelle, 66, a retired Queens resident, as he walked up to the ticket window. "I like to get whipped and beat up."
Unless you're really into getting whipped, Ozzie, don't go. Seriously. Do other things with your free time. Build a picnic table for your back porch. Catch up on some reading. You still have time left on this earth, Ozzie. Make the most of it.
If you follow any of the Mets' beat writers on Twitter, you will see a similar attitude. The slightest shred of not-great news is greeted with an unvoiced sigh and words along the lines of here we go again. Mixed signals about the team's choice for second base are treated like a Kafkaesque nightmare.
Now, these men have to spend enormous amounts of time around a team that has only recently stopped shooting itself in the foot at every opportunity (in the front office, anyway; ownership is another story). I don't begrudge these writers feeling a little shell-shocked at times. It's a tough job made tougher by the team's recent dysfunction, and if they feel the need to express that frustration 140 characters at a time, so be it.
But, at the same time, I don't care how Mets make them feel. The Mets may be their job, but to me they're still entertainment. I enjoy watching baseball. I enjoy watching the Mets. I enjoyed the hell out of them in 1999 and 2000 and 2006. I enjoyed them less in the Art Howe years, and the last few, but I still enjoyed them.
Why? Because it's baseball. It's fun. If you don't find it fun, if you find it the sports equivalent of passing a stone, don't watch it. Life's too short to stand outside CitiField and count how many people show up just so you can feel sorry for all your fellow sufferers.
To anyone who believes they are about to suffer through another Mets season, I advise watching this video at least once a day before Opening Day, and repeat to yourself: IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER.