Thursday, May 01, 2008

I Think We Need Some Pepto in Queens by Steve Reynolds

“Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.” —Bruce Springsteen

The above line from the classic rock staple “Rosalita” caught my ear the other day. I’d been listening to Springsteen’s The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle at my desk as a small tribute to keyboardist Danny Federici, who had died the day before after a long battle with melanoma. And I almost wanted to stop my iTunes because what I was thinking was not a way to remember the man and his organ riffs. I was thinking something much, much worse. And I was thinking it about the New York Mets of the past 18 months, the ones that choked away an NLCS and a division title in that brief time period. My thought?

What if we look back on this and it will all seem NOT funny—only incredibly painful?

It’s a cruel idea to put into one’s own head about your favorite sports team. But as I write this paragraph, the last two days the print media and WFAN have been hashing and rehashing whether or not struggling first baseman Carlos Delgado—a man who has taken only two curtain calls in his entire career, and both were for actual historic events—dissed all of Shea Stadium by not coming out for a one on Sunday April 27th. And the whole hubbub is so idiotic it makes me wonder, what the heck happened? Why do I have this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I turned on 660 on my A.M. dial? And why is my head hurting whenever I watch highlights on SNY at night?

I sit back and realize I’ve had similar feelings before—but they’ve usually preceded by some sort of booze in large quantities.

Then it struck me: I had a Mets hangover.

It made total sense! The gamut of feelings I’ve run through on various Saturday and Sunday (and sometimes Friday) mornings have been replicated by the past 180 or so games on the Amazin’s schedule. Regret? Check. Anger? Yup. Remorse? For sure. Irrational outbursts where I wanted to punch my bedroom wall? Ouch, but yes. A pain that will only go away by laying down for six hours straight while watching a Family Guy marathon? Yes sir.

Now if it was just me that had this hangover, it would be no problem. I’ve already let most of the 2008 season go by without blogging it on the Zisk website. Sure, I’ve had health problems to deal with as the season began. But as I’ve started my exercise program, I have not once taken my little A.M. receiver so I could check in on the Mets. And that would be the perfect chance to catch up with Howie Rose. I’ve even not turned on games on Sunday afternoons when I’ve been home—and tried avoid watching day games at work, where I’d basically be getting paid for rooting for John Maine!

But all my transgressions seem minor compared to the rest of the Flushing faithful. Simple put, Mets fans are pissed. They’re venting on the airwaves, to members of the media and lord, lordy, lordy, they’re writing vicious things on Met fans sites everywhere. Basically the fanbase needs about 100 doses of stadium sized Advil to make this feeling go away. And even then, I fear it might not. Perhaps the one amazing season of 2006 (and the trade for Johan Santana) has set fans expectations so high that nothing less than a championship will do. (I’d call this the Yankee-ization of the Mets fanbase.) And that saddens me. Baseball is supposed to be fun and, at times, healing. And right now it is most certainly not for tens of thousand of people, and that’s is wearing off on me. Heck, I even booed when Scott Schoeneweis was brought into the first game I saw this season. This isn’t like me. And it’s making me worry.

My friend Jason Fry at Faith and Fear in Flushing and I not only share a love of The Figgs, beer, and the Hoodoo Gurus, but we also shared very similar feelings about the Mets last summer long before they collapsed. He wrote a great paragraph about this year’s team that I feel compelled to share with you here:

“By too many indications this is the same badly constructed, poorly led, sadly complacent team I came to thoroughly dislike last year. Last summer I found out something I pretty much knew anyway, and would happily have gone to my grave never having confirmed: It's no fun disliking your favorite team.”

I hate to say it, but this hangover has me thinking the same thing. I think I would feel better if it seemed as though someone else besides David Wright cared. From all appearances, no one else does. To wit here’s some choice clippings from the National League’s highest payroll:

“We as a team play hard and want to win more than [the fans] do. [Umm, usually it doesn’t look like it.] That’s why I don’t understand the mentality. I guess they have a right to express themselves.” —Willie Randolph

“If you’re just booing for ridiculous reasons, you just let them look like idiots and go about your business.” —Billy Wagner

“I don’t really want to care about the fans anymore. If they want to boo, let them boo. I’m not going to take them out to dinner.” —Scott Schoeneweis

That’s right, the feeling has become mutual—and Scott’s not going to treat us to Frostys at Wendys! How did it come to pass that within just a season plus this love affair between the Mets and their fans has turned into a sideshow deserving of its own episode of Jerry Springer?

Oh, wait, I know why. Because this team still seems to be very full of themselves:

“The collapse didn't come because the Phillies beat us, the collapse came because we played bad. The Phillies didn't—I don't know how to say this—it wasn't like they beat us. A lot of times we beat ourselves, defense or just not doing things [we'd] done all year.” —Billy Wagner, the opening weekend of the season

Cripes, the 1986 team was totally full of themselves, but at least they had some gusto to back it up. This bunch, I don’t think they would know what gusto means even if I pointed it out in a dictionary.

I didn’t sit down to write a piece that had any big solutions to the Mets problems. For all I know there are none until next season when some more contracts will be off the books. All I know is that during the darkest days of the Art Howe or Joe Torre eras, it never felt this bad.

As Springsteen once sang, “Glory days, well they’ll pass you by.” I hope this time it isn’t true.

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