The Stuff Of Legend

No one was sure, in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 World Series, how exactly the season would fade to memory.

We know how Mets memory works: we’ve all seen the videos of ’86 and ’69, even if, like me, we weren’t there in person.  I was there for ’06, if not as fully invested as I would become.  Either way, all of those seasons are memory now.  They’re the past, reviewed and sealed, and we know how and why they played out the way they did.

But 2015…I have a hard time imagining it ever being relegated to fond memory status.  It wasn’t my first season as a die hard, nor my first rooting for a winning team.  But with everything that the 2015 Mets brought to the table, I can’t imagine any future Mets ball club taking over as my base, the team against which all others are measured.

It wasn’t always that way.  For the longest time, my team was the 2004 Mets, the first one I ever saw.  I went to four games in 2004.  At my first game of 2005, I was shocked as the Mets took the field.

“Here they are,” called the P.A. announcer.  “Your 2005 New York Mets.”

To that point, I’d heard only of 2004.  I hadn’t even considered that it could change.  The Mets were the 2004 Mets: I simply didn’t know of anything else they could be.

I adjusted, though, as I assume all fans have: sooner or later, we all come to the inevitable conclusion that as much as we’d like it, one baseball season can’t last forever.  The players change.  The numbers change.  On rare occasions, the colors change, or even the stadium.  But the memories last.

Like the memory, that afternoon in April, of hearing them introduced for the first time.  “Ladies and gentlemen, your 2004 New York Mets.”

I’m no longer taken by surprise when, at my first game of a new season, the year announced sounds different from the last game I went to.  I’m no longer surprised by roster moves: the internet makes me a hell of a lot more aware in 2016 than I was in 2004.  Even Citi Field, which for a long time I thought I would never accept, has taken firm root in my mind as home.

Yes, those surprises have died down.  But some things have, instead, been amplified in their effects.  The sight of Daniel Murphy in a Nationals jersey.  The National League Champions pennant that I’m sure will be on prominent display come April at Citi Field.  And even more, the emotions that the pennant brings with it, both positive, in terms of how far we went, and negative: the one place we failed to go.

The emotions of the World Series still haven’t completely worn off.  Remembering watching Eric Hosmer break down the line as our captain threw across the diamond, then watching helplessly as Duda’s throw sailed wide, I still find myself shaking my head, or closing my eyes in despair.  The 2015 Mets were a genuinely special team, the kind that doesn’t come around too often.  Not the kind of team you forget over a few cold months.  Not the Mets of Willie Harris and Andres Torres.  These Mets, or at least, our memories of them, are there for the long haul.

This week, I finally sat down, cleared my schedule, and watched Fox Sports’ Tears of Joy: 2015 Mets.  I hadn’t, up to this point, for a variety of reasons.  I was too busy.  I didn’t have any time.  I didn’t need to watch the season; I remembered it all.

Or at least, that was what I told myself.  Inside, maybe I just couldn’t take reliving the heartbreak once again.

Nevertheless, I did it: for 43 minutes, I relived the 2015 season.  A lump came to my throat.  I watched sadly, almost unwillingly, as ten years of pent-up hope and energy came to a furious crescendo, before crashing down with one bad throw.

And I came out of it with an important realization: 2015 is indeed becoming the stuff that memories are made of.

I watched the Wilmer Flores home run more times than I could possibly count during the 2015 season.  You could say the same thing about the seven run comeback against the Nationals, or Murph’s two-out, game-tying blast against the Braves, or the ball-off-the-foot play, or Familia striking out Fowler to end it, or any of the dozens of ridiculous moments that the 2015 season produced.  Even after Davis got Flores looking to end it, that didn’t stop.  I watched the 2015 Mets until I couldn’t watch anymore, which is to say that I watched the highlights pretty much continuously.

But I hadn’t relived the season — not until now.  I hadn’t taken a comprehensive look back, reviewing what had happened chronologically and conclusively, resubmitting myself to the highs and lows of the season.  And now that I had, I found that 2015 had, sure enough, taken on the quality that precious few Mets moments can claim.

Some of it no doubt has to do with the production of the film — the Fox Sports crew could undoubtedly make a creative, moving documentary about an insurance company, so it’s no surprise that they were able to do what they did with one of the greater Mets seasons of all time.  But that can’t account for all of it.  Because it’s there, no doubt about it.  And no matter how many video editors you have, you can’t turn ordinary baseball extraordinary.

The 2015 Mets provided the extraordinary themselves.

The film confirmed it, for me: 2015 has, in a few short months, become Mets history, living and breathing, but also remembered for exactly what it was.  You can see it and hear it in the little things: the energy of the fans, the rough, frenzied edge to the voices of the commentators, the emotions of the players as deficit after deficit turns into a lead, often with one swing of the bat.

The 11 game win streak.  Lagares homering against the Braves, to give the Mets a lead that had appeared lost.  Syndergaard’s homer.  Matz’s four RBIs.  Conforto’s beautiful swing producing opposite-field home runs.  Uribe’s walk-off against the Dodgers; Wilmer’s against the Blue Jays; Cuddyer’s against the Giants.  Murphy’s flip to Torres, Cespedes’ double down the line, Wright’s blast into the second deck.

And of course, that’s not even to mention the wild ride of the postseason, which we know will become legend.  Mets World Series runs don’t happen nearly often enough: when they do, they’re not forgotten.  The greatest seasons are the ones we remember not for their end results, but for their moments.  And 2015 had plenty of those.

It ended on a strikeout that was merely a formality.  For all intents and purposes, it ended when Addison Reed couldn’t get Christian Colón.  Either way, it ended in a storm of defeat and heartbreak on a cold November night.

But that’s not all it was: we, who lived through it, know that better than anyone.  And while Duda’s throw will perhaps live on in Mets infamy, held up beside it as shining moments will be all the greatness that 2015 exposed.  2015 is history now, and it’s not coming back.  But quickly, it’s  become the stuff of Mets legend.  We may not repeat.  We may fade out.  2015 may be our lone gasp at stardom.  But we’ll have the season to remember, just as 20 years from now, fans who are 15 then will look back on 2015 and wish they could have seen it.

But even after all of that, I’m a Mets fan, and there’s a cock-eyed, wildly optimistic, ya-gotta-believer inside my head.  And that guy’s saying that as great as 2015 was, 2016 may be even better.


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