Monday, April 6, 2009

The Madness Begins Anew

Four years ago, I wrote a short play about a Red Sox fan living in New York City, with a Yankees fan roommate set during the 2004 ALCS. The play, which was performed at an Arts Festival at my place of employment, featured El Guapo as the Red Sox fan and myself as the Yankees fan, which was for me both nauseating and amusing, since you can imagine I took the opportunity to work every possible horrible Yankee fan stereotype into the piece (basically, my part consisted of a series of monologues by the Red Sox fan, interspersed by the Yankees fan running onstage, screaming incoherently about the Yankees, and running offstage.). At one point in the play, with the Yankees leading the Red Sox 3 games to none, the Red Sox fan describes the current state of the Sox as "Another fall in a lifetime of Winters."

Admittedly, this was my paltry attempt at channeling some of that New England literary BS.

Today, I think it's a pretty accurate description of the last 6 months for the Mets fan.

On Opening Day, 2008, I talked about how it wasn't so much beginning anew on Opening Day as much as it was Starting Over. The end result of this was probably the most difficult, taxing season I've ever experienced as a Mets fan. And I've been through some unmitigated disasters of Mets teams. But I said it at the end of the season, and I'll continue to say it now. It was bad enough to go down on the last day of the season for the second year in a row. The ensuing postseason results just made things that much worse. These mitigating circumstances served to make the offseason even more taxing.

It started in December, probably. At least that's when I first noticed that I was doing it. For no apparent reason, I was just putzing around, working in my office or being interrupted from doing such, when I would find that I was singing, in my head, "Jo-se! JoseJoseJose! Jo-se! Jo-se!"

Part of me thought that this was just because I was ready for Baseball season to get going. After all, the 49ers weren't going anywhere, and I couldn't really muster up the energy for the Rangers, etc, etc. Another part of me figured this was the warning sign that the Mets had actually made me completely insane.

I cross paths with a goodly number of Mets fans during my travails, and they tend to range from the fairly knowledgeable, to the somewhat novice, to the defeatist, to the overly argumentative, to El Guapo. My insane co-worker is, probably, the one I discuss Baseball with on a regular basis. He is, for background's sake, significantly older than me, old enough to have been a Brooklyn Dodger fan in that era. His particular thing is to point out the general fallacies of the Media, most Yankee fans, and Phillies players.

Example: When Cole Hamels went off on the Mets on varied occasions, my co-worker was generally very quick to point out that Hamels was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA against the Mets in '08, and how the Mets won 11 of 18 from Philly. I can completely buy the argument that the Phillies are incredibly bothered by the fact that they couldn't beat the Mets most of the time last season, and they use their postseason success and our lack thereof as an avenue to attack us.

Generally, these rants will end with him demanding that I give him some sort of logical answer as to why the Phillies would do this, and, generally, I ask him "When was the last time the Mets won the World Series?" which has become a running gag based on something a Yankee fan said to him after he dared to challenge the Great Derek Jeter.

He has a tendency to focus on the negative. He likes to pick on particular players, which have included (but are not limited to) Eric Valent, Victor Diaz, Marlon Anderson, Lastings Milledge and Chris Woodward. But during this past Spring, he seemed overly complementary, hitting me with comments like, "You know who looks good? Carlos Beltran. He looks really good."

Point is, I think it's easier to be positive, particularly when you're about to hit Opening Day. It's very easy to be down on the Mets. I personally feel somewhat uneasy. But I'm not down on the Mets. The Mets have been good enough to be knocking on the door down to the end of the season, and they've gone to great lengths to try to fix the glaring problems that undercut the last two seasons.

What bothers me, in particular, is how there are a number of publicly-known Mets fans who are complete defeatists. I'll single out WFAN's Joe Benigno for one. I swear, listening to him is like listening to someone who's a closeted Yankee fan. He's convinced the Mets are doomed to failure, he thinks Pelfrey is going to regress to his rookie year, and he makes no effort to hide the praise he heaps on several Yankee pitchers, particularly those who are broken down (Pettitte) or unproven (Joba). Part of the problem we have in Mets nation is that a good number of our most vocal fans just seem too down on the team as it's put together. No doubt, this is a telling season, and no doubt if the Mets don't reach the Postseason this year, wholesale changes will be made. But don't act as though the team is going to struggle to reach .500. By being an alarmist or a defeatist, you only make the fans even more nervous and edgy than we already are.

Last year was Starting Over. This year, it's Starting Anew. It has to feel that way if the Mets are going to get past whatever seems to turn them to mush in the waning games of the season. But it's also new as in a New Era in the form of a New Stadium, Citi Field. Many fans have already had a chance to go out and see the new digs. I made my first trip yesterday afternoon, for the Plan Holder Workout. I have a host of photos that I'll be sharing here, most likely later this week. If you can't wait, however, they're all available here. I got to go up to my seat, sit there and check out the view I'll have for 15 games this season, and I have to say, it's beautiful. This ballpark is simply magnificent. Greg at Faith and Fear states it perfectly when he says the mourning period for Shea is over. I agree. Shea was our home for a long time, 22 seasons for myself, but it took me about 20 minutes to fall in love with Citi Field. Yes, there's plenty of criticism. Yes, people are complaining about nit-picky little things like the color scheme. I don't care. There is something about Citi Field that makes it seem like such a wonderful place to watch a ballgame. Gentle touches, from the open walkways, to the clear sightlines, to the fact that a seat at the top of the stadium, much like my seats are, don't feel like you're sitting way up in the stratosphere. From the top of the stadium, it still feels like you're right on top of the action. You don't lose perspective of fly balls like you did in Shea. I was in the park for about 90 minutes on Sunday morning, and I can't wait to get back on April 13th.

One other thing happened that got me ready for Opening Day. While I was giving Citi Field the full walkthrough, I ended up somewhere around the Center Field food court on the Field level, not quite by Shake Shack, but close enough, when a clump of people seemed to be slowly working their way towards me. I wondered if it wsa someone important. Sure enough, flanked by a battery of security guards, there was Jerry Manuel, walking through the crowds, smiling, shaking hands and welcoming the encouragement. He made his way towards me and I took the opportunity to walk up to him, give him a fist pound, and tell him, "All right, Jerry, Let's get it done!" He grinned and said, "All right, here we go!"

If that doesn't get you ready for Opening Day, I don't know what does.


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