Purely Fandom

I attended more Sunday games than I can remember over the course of the 2015 season, but I had not believed that the Mets had been keeping track.  So when the Mets sent out a tweet that seemed positively tailored for me, I was more than taken aback.

“Day games on a sun-filled Sunday,” read the caption, followed by a series of sunny hands, which has surely been focus-grouped and found to have some positive association.

With the tweet was a photo of, well, Citi Field on a sun-filled Sunday.  I assume it was a Sunday, at least.  The Mets haven’t always been truthful, but I don’t see any reason they would lie about this.

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It wasn’t a ticket sales pitch.  It’s taken from the Pepsi porch, where the fans who won’t, or more likely, can’t, pay the $200 that a seat behind home plate requires on a Sunday.  These are the real fans, the die hards – the ones who didn’t leave the park in the late innings of 2009-2014, when the field level emptied almost habitually as the innings wore on and the Mets inevitably fell behind.

No, rather than a sales pitch, it was simply an expression of nostalgia.  The Mets, who are so lacking in nostalgia that they seemingly built an entire stadium to avoid evoking it, can’t wait for baseball season.

Just like us.

And in addition, they got another thing right, which they seem to be doing much more often since Cespedes came back.  On any day of the week, a ballgame is the place to be, but the Sunday afternoon game holds a special place in my heart.

I went to my first game ever on April 18th, 2004, an 8-1 loss to the Pirates.  Jae Seo pitched.  The Mets were down 7-0 before Todd Zeile singled home Shane Spencer in the fifth for the Mets only run.  It was a Sunday afternoon game.

I went to closing day 2009, a season we were all sure had been a fluke.  It hadn’t.  What was a fluke was Nelson Figueroa, pitching a complete game four-hitter and to shut out the Astros.  Besides David Wright, the Mets had RBIs from Josh Thole and Luis Castillo, plus a run when Anderson Hernandez reached on an error.  It was a veritable who’s-who of Mets who would look much better in World Series-tinted lenses.  It was a Sunday afternoon game.

The first game I ever bought my own ticket for was April 7th, 2013.  Aaron Laffey pitched…you know the pun.  All kind of memorable 2013-type Mets appeared: Collin Cowgill, Jordany Valdespin, Greg Burke, Scott Rice, LaTroy Hawkins…players that we look back upon fondly when we’re playing well and have forgotten how painful it is to watch an Aaron Laffey inning dissolve faster than you can return to your seat with a bag of cracker jacks.  In the bottom of the ninth, Marlon Byrd singled home Tejada and Nieuwenhuis, and I had my first win as an autonomous Mets fan.  It was a Sunday afternoon game.

Early this year, as the Mets embarked on an 11-game winning streak that shocked the city and electrified the fanbase, I saw them beat the Marlins to bring the streak to eight.  Harvey pitched.  The stadium was full, and the excitement that would come to a crescendo as our World Series run slowly came into existence was at least somewhat present in the park.  In the 8th, Alex Torres struck out Christian Yelich to end the inning, and Familia nailed down the ninth to save it.  The Mets were 10-3, they’d won eight in a row, and they led the division – although, as we’d find out after the game, we’d lost both Blevins and d’Arnaud for extended periods.  It was a Sunday afternoon game.

But of course, it’s not just memories of various individual Sunday games that make the day special.  It’s the whole experience: you wake up, and you’re off to the park; grab an early burger for lunch; watch the Mets all afternoon; get home in time for dinner, and then a relaxing, easy night before the week begins.  The whole day comes together to create an experience centered around baseball, that is everything that baseball is supposed to be.  It’s fun.  It’s competitive yet relaxing.  And when it’s all over, you’ve got a satisfying day behind you.

Of course, there’s only one way to beat a Sunday afternoon game: a Saturday/Sunday doubleheader.  You get home from Saturday’s game at 11:00 and get to bed.  Wake up the next morning, you’re off to the ballpark again.

It’s crazy.  It’s too much baseball.  You’re obsessed.  You need more sleep.  You need to expand your interests.  You don’t care about anything besides the Mets.

That’s what they say – all of them.  You know them: the concerned mother, the aloof friend, the angry siblings.  And I respond.

“You’re wrong.”

Does it look like craziness?  Mental illness?  Borderline insanity?  Who am I to judge?  I’m a Mets fan!  But I don’t think so.

No, the Sunday afternoon game – or, even better, the Saturday/Sunday doubleheader – is, to give a somewhat vague yet at the same time extremely clear definition, the simplest, most pure form of die-hard Mets fandom.

It’s baseball until there’s no more to be seen or played.  Baseball until they have to drag you from the park.  In short, it’s Baseball Like It Oughta Be.

Of course, the Mets weren’t thinking of this when they sent out a photo that had probably tested quite well in terms of ticket sales generated.  It certainly would have generated multiple sales to me, had I any idea what my late spring/early summer schedule would look like.  But the sales, although the Mets business office would beg to differ, are not the point.

The point is that baseball is coming back, and with it come all those things we don’t even remember.  The experiences that are so great that we convince ourselves we’re romanticizing, or at least exaggerating the satisfaction they impart.  The experiences that make Mets fans the greatest fans in the world, and baseball fans the greatest of the four.  The experiences that, as the Mets know, are marketable only because people love them.  They’re on their way back, and though it seems an eternity, it won’t be long.

And among them, the day game on a sun-filled Sunday is one of many.

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