Coke Corner Dreams

The Mets held an event recently, announcing changes at Citi Field for the 2016 season.  All manner of exciting new innovations was featured: an animated Coke sign, new burgers, and a cornhole game atop the Coke Corner headlined the event.

There was nothing about a new outfielder.  No one said anything about adding bullpen depth.  The issue of injuries didn’t come up even once.

And finally, not a single person complained about it.

Much as I hate to bash my own people, it’s not without reason that some Mets fans – the ones whose voices are heard, at any rate – have a reputation for complaining.  Because we do complain a lot.  About uniforms.  Long lines.  Fashion.  Ice cream.  We nitpick the trifling instances of perceived malfeasance on the part of ownership, forgetting how good we’ve already got it, having a team in New York in a wonderful stadium with players that we’ve all grown to love.

But then Yoenis Cespedes came along, Wilmer cried, Wright brought himself back with thunder, and 2015 happened.  And suddenly, we’re less like angry jewish mothers and more like, you know, baseball fans.  Baseball fans looking forward to a hell of a season.

People complained a year ago, when the Mets announced an expansion of the scoreboard that would cost $8 million.  Completely illogically, of course: the suggestion that the Mets took $8 million from their player budget and moved it to scoreboard costs instead is on par, in terms of absurdity, with Mike Piazza playing first base, or Brad Emaus being our starting second baseman.  It just wasn’t going to happen.

We like to think that we’re cynical, that we expect to fail and will be surprised to succeed.  We’re not fooling ourselves.  Even this week, as Matt Harvey added “Urination, Insufficiently Frequent” to the Mets lexicon of outright absurd injuries, we continued believing.  We told ourselves we didn’t, but let’s be honest: we do.

We believe in this team.  We believe in the coaching staff.  We believe in everyone minus the Wilpons, from Sandy down through to the head groundskeeper with the possible exception of Ray Ramirez.  We’ve seen what they can do, and soon, we’ll see it again.  There’s no need to convince ourselves otherwise, and, likewise, there’s no need to feign offense over a harmless, or, indeed, positively beneficial video highlighting improvements to our ball club’s home.

I drove by Citi Field the other night, returning from Kennedy Airport on the way back from a Florida trip that, regrettably, didn’t include a trip to Spring Training, because my family doesn’t understand the urgency of driving three hours to watch minor leaguers play a game that doesn’t count.  The road goes close by the stadium, almost contiguous with the parking lot.  I looked out the window of the cab and thought about how close we were to the season.

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We’re getting up on Opening Day, and had I not included a picture of Citi Field in its sun-resplendant glory, I wouldn’t have been doing my duty as a beyond-ecstatic fan.

I didn’t think about how bad the team was.  I didn’t crane my neck, looking for a billboard imploring the owners to sell the team.  I didn’t even bother myself with thinking about whether Citi Field looked quite as special as Shea would have, if I’d driven by ten or twelve years before.

Winning cures all ills, up to and apparently including blood clots in the bladder.  Even when we’re bad, I don’t enjoy complaining about it, but sometimes, it’s impossible not to.  When Chris Heston struck out Ruben Tejada to seal his no-hitter that had, in reality, been sealed since the end of the sixth inning, all as I watched from the promenade, I kicked the seat in front of me in disgust.  That was a game worth complaining about: our offense had about as much chance at scoring as George Constanza at the pinstripe ball.  But even then, I couldn’t hang on to the anger for long: within days, I was already, as the older and much wiser man behind me had said upon conclusion of the game, glad that I’d seen it.

That team, the Mets of John Mayberry Jr. and Eric Campbell, was a bad team.  Now we’ve got a good team, a passionate team, a team that’s easy to root for and even easier to feel good about.  We’ve got Duda and Walker, Cabrera and Reynolds and the cap’n.  Cespedes, Grandy, and Conforto, Lagares and even de Aza.  D’Arnaud, deGrom, Harvey, Thor, Matz, big Bart, and Familia.

And we’ve got even more, as of yesterday: we’ve got new food options, a sign that should be exciting if not downright distracting, and a good time to be had by all in the Coke Corner.

In previous years, this, somehow, would have been cause for complaint — as illogical as it would have been, we would have made it so.  But things are different, and now, for the first time in what seems like ages but is really no more than seven or eight years, the primary emotion associated with the Mets is not a grumbling, resigned anger, but controlled, growing excitement.

And as Opening Day approaches and the home opener follows soon after that, excitement, whether it’s over our four aces, four infielders, or four new burger varieties, is all that true fans should feel.

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