Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Don't Worry Mets Fans--Life Goes On. [Addison Quale]

I feel for the Mets. I feel for their fans. I really do. They are my second team and I just hate to see these collosal collapses look possible as the season wears on, then more and more probable, and then watch them become the cold hard reality. That's why in May when everyone was writing off the Yanks who were out 14.5 games, I didn't join the bandwagon. Because this is one area where the STATS masters haven't mastered--the arena of high pressure situations and the human-emotional factor. Yes, the chances are slim to nil that a 7.5 game lead will not hold up with 17 games left. But when the entire confidence of a team is utterly shaken to its core, anything is possible. And the threat of loss becomes too big to ward off. But, as they say, that's why they play out the games--and not just figure out who will win on paper. Because life doesn't happen on paper. It happens out there. On a field. Stats can't really portray that much reality.

But I digress--something struck me though as I read Bill Simmons' article on losing yesterday. It's about all the myriad possible ways a team can lose. He categorized the Mets' loss as a Level II - Goose/Maverick Tailspin. (The other big example was the '78 Red Sox.) But the thing that struck me was an email from a Mets friend of his. He wrote the following:

"Honestly, it's such a betrayal by the team. They have ruined us fans this season and last October. I hate this sport now. They've violated and befouled every [expletive] nuance of the game, playoffs or no playoffs."

You know I've been doing some thinking about this kind of stuff. And I certainly did a lot of it after the Red Sox lost in 2003 to the Yanks--with Pedro blowing the 3 run lead in the 8th inning. That really scarred me. I really was depressed for a bit. As a kid, I loved the Red Sox. As a teen, I loved them even more. 1995 was brightened because of their AL East run. But then it was shattered when they were swept by Cleveland in the ALDS. I was sad for much of 1996 as the Bumble-Sox stumbled off to a 3-15 start. They finished just short of the playoffs with an 85-77 record. Life was better it seemed when the Red Sox were good. Somehow, somewhere along the way baseball became less about a game, than pinning my hopes to the prospects of one particular team. There is clearly something good about baseball. It is a good thing. It's really fun. And following a team can be a good thing. But what can happen though is that the fandom leads to obsession. And one feels that one's hopes and dreams are all wrapped up in that team's success. And when that team gains championship glory, you too gain that glory. And when they collapse in shambles in utter humiliation, you as well are broken to pieces.

Bill Simmons' friend here I believe is completely wrong. What the Mets did this September was not betray their fans. They did not ruin the sport. Far from it. The culprit of that is us fans--when we against all wisdom start to exalt the importance of our home team winning the championship. It becomes a religion to us and the pressure we then begin to put on their backs becomes unbearable. No wonder they end up collapsing--we're asking them to be our gods!

I'm not saying it should be "easy". And I know it's easy for me to say all this since MY team attained glory in 2004. But seriously, people, it is JUST A GAME. It is a PASTIME. Something to pass the time, not something for which time was created. It's my belief that Major League Baseball was never meant to be viewed and followed this way--with such obsession. And to do so is the true betrayal of the sport. It sucks all the fun out of it because it ends up "making or breaking" us. So let's just enjoy the game for what it is--a game that provides diversion and entertainment. The great diversion and entertainment of baseball, its drama, is the fact that anything can--and frequently does happen--and that in the end is why we always hold out hope that our teams will come back. But the ironic thing is that the dream of our team coming back is always someone else's nightmare.

Don't worry Mets fans. Life will go on. There will be a next year. And someday soon, you guys will see the other end of the stick. Until then, enjoy the game of baseball for what it is.