My father has a Mets Christmas ornament he likes to position on the tree according to how well the team did during the season. This means, of course, that he usually has to hang it on the back. Every year he peels away the tissue paper gingerly, sighs, then says, "The Mets stink!" I have never witnessed an upbraiding so tender as those declarations my father has, over the years, leveled at his team.
He was born in 1962, the year the Mets were established, the year they set the record for worst season in modern MLB history (40 wins, 120 losses). His mother brags that she'd watched their very first games while she was pregnant with him. He is a lifelong fan in the truest sense of the word, and made sure his younger brother and my sister and I were, too.
As an asthmatic kid I often struggled to sleep, especially during spring and summer—allergy season. I’d sit in bed and read, hoping to doze off upright because it was easier to breathe. Sometimes, though, I’d give up and tiptoe downstairs to find my father on the couch watching the Mets. Occasionally he’d explain parts of the game to me, but usually we didn’t talk at all. Baseball—its precision, consistency, rhythm—calmed me, slowed my breath. After a little while, I could lie down and sleep. For me it didn’t matter whether the Mets played well or not; it only mattered that they were there.
Born in 1987, I am one of the oldest fans able to say that I was not alive the last time the Mets won the World Series. Apart from 2000, 2006, and a few other good but unspectacular seasons, the Mets have been uniformly terrible my whole life. Now, sitting at my desk in my cap and the jersey I refuse to wash because it still smells a bit like Citi Field, the possibility that this nearly three-decade span will end is exhilarating and a little disorienting.
On its face, rooting for the Mets has been a lesson in fortitude—in loving people who constantly let you down, and who so often find a last-minute, heart-wrenching way to do it. But in reality I didn’t learn to love the Mets independently of their performance; I love them because of their uphill battles, their ridiculous flubs, and the unexpected joy that results when they do something right. The Mets’ imperfections, their humanness, is part of what makes them fun to root for. Even this postseason team, the closest thing we’ve ever seen to an all-star powerhouse, has often called upon the overweight, profusely sweaty, and terribly charming 42-year-old Bartolo Colon to bail it out mid-inning.
These days I breathe easier, but I still seek solace in the Mets. I often go to Citifield to write. Inbuilt in the rhythm of baseball is some space for daydreaming, and inherent in Mets’ baseball is evidence of how much failure it takes to succeed. Bearing witness to this triumph-over-sometimes-self-inflicted-adversity narrative is no small comfort to a fiction writer just feeling around in the darkness of a new novel draft.
Of course there’s still plenty of time for the Mets to pull a signature choke in the upcoming series. Last night's Game 1 was tough--the Royals proved themselves fearsome opponents. But it's a long series, and with deGrom on the mound tonight I'm keeping the faith. After all, this 2015 crew has already achieved more than I’ve ever expected.
After they swept the Cubs to clinch the National League Championship Series, I got a text from my dad announcing that the Mets ball would be replacing the Christmas angel on this year’s tree. Win or lose this week, when it comes down to it we’re just happy they're here. But if all goes well, I just might be the last of a generation.