I love the Mets. You know them, that pesky ballclub from Queens? I’m in love with ‘em.
I was thinking this today — well, I’m always thinking this, but it came up today in particular — as I left Metlife Stadium and attempted to remember where we had parked and how to get there, and also to warm my hands. Those are three problems you never have as you leave, enter, or spend time at Citi Field. And hell, this was after a win. It’s a damn good thing the Jets didn’t lose on top of everything else.
Leaving a stadium, like leaving a restaurant or a close friend’s house, should be a content yet vaguely bittersweet experience. Hey, we’ve gotta split…yeah, this was fun, food was great, I’m really satisfied…wish we could stay a little longer, but we really gotta go…yeah, of course, we’ll do this again soon. Leaving a stadium, you’ve seen what you came to see, but wish it hadn’t ended so soon, and that you could just hang around in your seat a few more minutes, finish off a packet of cracker jacks, maybe a souvenir soda. You’re content, in other words — you wish you weren’t leaving, but you’re glad you got to be there as long as you did.
Metlife stadium is almost the opposite. Maybe that’s why I’m not a football fan, or maybe it’s because I’m not a football fan. Either way, Metlife Stadium, despite the uncharacteristically compelling game played on its turf and its superb services, amenities, perks, etc., simply was not the place to be.
It was cold; too cold, in fact, to waste any time talking about the game we’d just watched or where the Jets would go from here. The Jets’ season was over, and it was a far cry from the happy, perked-up, “at least we’re here” ending of seasons like the 2014 Mets’. The Jets have no hope in sight, and everybody knows it. And what’s more, they let on that they know it, and let it show. There’s no hope in Metlife stadium. There’s anger and passion and debate and happiness when the Jets score a touchdown, but no one’s making any bets on the future.
Too often, that’s been true of the Mets as well. We didn’t have much hope as the 2012 season wound down. We had David Wright at the top of his game; Matt Harvey throwing bullets; Ike Davis slugging down the stretch; R.A. Dickey closing out the year with his 20th win and a Cy Young Award a few weeks later. But still, we couldn’t win. It was hopeless. And sure enough, no improvement would present itself; we finished 2013 with the same 74 wins we’d had the previous year.
But honestly, who cared? We had our team, whoever made up the roster, and we had our home building, and we had the fans all around us. We had the familiarity of pulling on a t-shirt, a jersey, and our favorite cap, driving past Flushing Bay and turning into the parking lot, buying a program in the rotunda, and then studying the giant cards to see who was playing that day. Who cared what would happen in 2013? Why not be happy that we’d just won a game? Why not be happy even if we’d lost?
Mets fans — or at least, many of them — seem, in a certain illogical and patently ridiculous way, resigned to happiness. Even the ones you see writing angry comments, demanding we trade this guy or that, yelling about the payroll…what are they really angry about? It’s not players, or wins, or dollar figures — it’s that they’re being forced to be happy about these things.
You’re going to make me sit in the warm summer sun with a bunch of happy people around me, plenty of food, plenty to drink, cheering for my team on the field…you’re going to make me do that and not even put a good team forward? Well dammit, Fred Wilpon, I guess I’ll do it.
A serious question — how unhappy, even angry, is it really possible to be while watching a Mets game? I can answer that question on my own part: the angriest I’ve ever been while watching my guys play was June 9th, 2015, when Chris Heston threw a no hitter. When the final out was recorded, I broke my Hunter Pence sign over my knee.
An older guy, somewhere in the mostly empty row behind me, chuckled. He was wearing Mets gear, but he was smiling.
“One day, you’ll be glad you were here to see this,” he said. Eventually, days or weeks later, I would find that he’d been right. That game remains the angriest I’ve ever been in the aftermath of a loss — and subsequently, I’ve seen some pretty bad losses — and will continue to hold that spot, because win or lose, I just can’t get mad at the Mets.
So as I contemplated my love for the Mets while I walked across one Metlife Stadium parking lot after another, that’s what I was thinking of. I’m always happy leaving Citi Field. Walking down the stairs, coming out behind first base, weaving between people, walking past the fan bricks and the flower beds, slightly thirsty after ballpark food but feeling fine all the same, Mets Extra! (or whatever the postgame show is called now; the name still hasn’t changed for me) playing from the speakers on the rotunda awning, and then clambering up the steps to the subway station, moving quickly past the masses and turning right because everyone else takes the turnstiles on the left, getting on the super-express, and soon afterwards, arriving home, but before all that, always, always, turning back for one last glance at the ballpark. The one last glance that says, ah, to hell with it, I love this team.
That, we’ll always have. After a win or a loss, after a good season or 2007, when the future is bleak and when hope springs eternal. That one last glance, looking back over your shoulder as you make your way into the subway station and knowing that whatever happened, and whatever will happen in the future, they’ll play again tomorrow…that’s what it means to love a ballclub.
We don’t have that right now. The offseason cruelly continues, and shows no sign of abating. But we’ll get through yet. We’ll make it. And after the months of waiting, we’ll find, as we always do, that the time we’re forced to spend apart only makes us love this team even more.