I'm sitting here watching the Mets. I want to explain what that is like because I have been doing it for a while and it is a feeling that I feel needs sharing.
It isn't quite pain, but pain is a good place to start. I guess it has something to do with pain because it certainly does hurt to be a Mets fan. Watching any strange combination of events conspire to keep the team you love from any consistent success can inspire a wince or two. There is nausea involved, and a fair amount of it. But the real feeling of being a Mets fan has to do with the emotional toll it takes on people.
The Mets drag you down. They are always a scrappy bunch of kids with the can-do spirit who clearly can't do a damned thing. Injuries, chronic underperformance and just plain stinkiness hound them each year. They field a minor league line up and are constantly relying on a set of pitchers who seem to be a shade beyond their historical success. Somehow they always seem to be on the cusp of coming out of a slump, but stay mired in that slump until the one day that they explode for 15 runs and make you believe.
That's the great crime. They make you believe. In fact, in 1973 the claim was "Ya Gotta Believe" and you do, as a prime imperative HAVE to believe in this team. Then they go and win the series in 1969 and 1986. That's great. They make it to the series a couple of other times. Maybe we're on to something. And you invest yourself. You put your heart right back there on the line and learn the player names. You start paying attention to the standings and hoping -- hoping against hope, itself, that this band of mutts will step up and be great. They will stop being the mediocre, middling bunch of has beens and never will bes and coalesce into an actual team. And they implode. Then, in March, it starts again: a strong spring season with a bunch of players of promise, and sometimes, an early season which gives them a great position. Then the collapse. It could be in May, in Late July or September, but it happens, and they time it each year to create maximum sadness among those who still flock to Flushing with visions of miracles in their eyes.
And if that isn't enough, players who were barely pulling their weight get traded away and suddenly become superstars on other teams, and prove it especially when they come back to play the Mets. And the big name guys who are brought in to anchor the group suddenly forget how to play the game, get hurt or just prove that you really can wish for "lukewarm" when confronted with "ice cold." New dimensions in which to disappoint are explored. Time passes. People go to the games late just to see the events afterwards or say 'no' to the promotional offerings. Sportscasters make jokes and the Mets' play-by-play guys struggle to find something to talk about. It is just sad.
And the fans. The poor, tortured fans. We come back every time. We defend our team. We curse them and insult them, second guessing them and being proven right. We yell about how much we hate them and still, we come back. We give up hope before the season is a month old, but we still harbor, in the darkest corner of our hearts, that this is the year in which the Mets will prove us wrong and pull one out of the fire and actually win something. Not a singular game, but a consistent streak in dominant fashion. And while it gives us a thrill, we don't really want the team to scrape by in extra innings or get runs with two outs, against all odds. We want to see a team which lives up to the salary wasted on it, being what we have been led to believe they can be. We are afraid to watch the reruns of games they won for fear that they will find a way to lose this time. We breathe when they are up because at least then they can't lose a lead.
We go to games when no one else goes (I recall promotional games from the late 70's which were sparsely attended) and we stay well beyond when we should. We watch the airplanes, make comments about the shape of the stadium and do whatever we can to keep us from watching the team. We don't have a closer. We don't have a bang-bang lead off or clean up hitter. We don't have a slam dunk ace pitcher. We don't have a miracle fielder. We have a set of no-namers playing in the top market, providing a punching bag for any other team that decides to show up.
We bleed blue and orange and that isn't because of some weird disease. Unless you call being a Mets fan a disease, which often it feels like it is. We wish we didn't believe, but we gotta.