I would never call myself a “casual” Mets fan, because it just isn’t true. The Mets and their ilk annoy and confound and occasionally thrill me as they always have. But, due to the nature of certain other commitments and priorities in my life, neither can I count myself among fans who are fully tuned in on a daily basis.
I used to be a fan in that way, and maybe I will be again someday. For now, though, I find I’m often a beat or two behind the breaking news cycle, almost totally out of sync with “the conversation” on MetsTwitter (which is probably for the best), and, most importantly, unable to sit down and watch all that many baseball games—certainly not in their entirety. In their place, I increasingly rely on box scores, game recaps, and daily summaries to keep me apprised of current events in Metsville, all while nursing a lingering hope that I’ll be able to pay a little more attention, real time, before too long.
Although, from much of what I’ve gathered lately, the Mets really aren’t giving me any overarching reason to do so. Instead, they’re playing out the same frustrating, wannabe “Waiting for Godot” scene we’ve watched them play out ad nauseam for most of the past decade. I’ve written about the phenomenon of trenchant Metsian mediocrity here before. Others have written about it here before. There really aren’t any new insights or explanations or interesting ways to describe it. It just...sucks.
Of course, it’s comfortable in its own way, isn’t it? Grumble though we may, we’re well accustomed to the type of swoon the Mets have been in and will remain maddeningly susceptible to—the one that everyone saw coming through some combination of injury, underperformance, and dubious roster management. Many of the players have changed on the field and off, but we’re still here—say it with me—waiting for Godot.
That’s what makes seasons like 2006 or the last few months of 2015, or even April 2018, so teeteringly divine: We are used to the Mets being bad, and when things are going well in defiance of that inertia it feels like we’re standing atop a mountain under the solitary gaze of a menacing baseball god who is, for some indecipherable reason, allowing us a sip from the Forbidden Chalice of Glory. We understand, in such moments, that we are getting away with something—that a Wilpon-shaped rock is tied tight around our waist, swinging perilously over the precipice of the mountainside and pulling us inexorably downward.
Ok, sure, it’s early May. The Mets can turn it around, and it seems fair to assume they will to some degree or other. It wouldn’t surprise me if they wind up winning 85 games or so. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if they were to win 75. Yawning mediocrity that occasionally lucks its way into success is the Mets’ True North, after all. It is baked into their organizational culture. It is the Wilpon Way.
So I think what’s finally different now, for me at least, even though the story is the same, is that I’m at a point—if I’m honest, it’s a point I’ve been at for several years—where I really have to be thoughtful about how I spend my “free” time, and especially how much attention I need to devote to each of my various interests and creative outlets in order to maintain a happy, healthy life. I’ll always be a Mets fan by identity, but in view of competing interests and claims to my time, will I always care about the Mets, especially if things keep up the way they have for so long?
The Wilpons should probably be worried about fans asking themselves that question. Modern life in the United States is busier, more expensive, and less stable than in bygone years. Technology and consumer expectations and behaviors have been changing such that I daresay most industries and institutions have been—and continue to be—fundamentally altered or upended in a variety of ways. Against the backdrop of such tectonic socioeconomic change, it seems folly to expect immutable brand loyalty to an entertainment outfit whose only consistent offering is frustration and disappointment.
To be a fan of a professional sports team is to willingly enter into a lopsided relationship. You, the fan, affix your emotional life to the arbitrary fortunes of your team. Further, you know who the players are; you can identify them by name and sight, you understand their strengths and weaknesses on the field, and you might even know something about their personal lives.
Your team, on the other hand, doesn’t know you, individually, from a crack in the sidewalk. They care about you insofar as you are willing to give them your money and show up and lend credence to the sensibility of something exciting happening in the ballpark—which, in turn, draws out others who are willing to give over their money. There is a profound, willful delusion at the center of it—a sort of gentleman’s grift whereby you pay the organ grinder for the privilege of having the monkey pick your pocket. It’s charming and fun, and it can be legitimately thrilling.
But I wonder if the Mets’ version of the con is getting old.
For me, probably not. As of last June, I live back east again, so I’ll probably make my way to Citi once or twice a year for the foreseeable future (though I haven’t yet), and more so as my son gets older and can accompany me on the long train or car rides up from where we live.
But for those others on the fringe, I have to wonder if they’re getting tired of waiting. Who could really blame them?