The Monday after the Mets did the unpredictable and clinched the National League East crown, I was at Grand Central heading back up to school after a long day at my internship. As I was making my way through a railroad car filled with plugged-in passengers winding down after a typical Monday, the only seat open was next to a middle-aged man with scraggly hair and a face filled with experiences both good and bad. As fate would have it, he was sporting an old Mets cap and we began to talk baseball, exchanging stories of where we were in pivotal moments in Mets history, as well as talking about the challenges the team now faces in the upcoming postseason.
I learned that the scraggly haired middle aged man went by George, and he was a 58-year-old Brooklyn born and raised carpenter/locksmith for the Empire State Building, currently living in Norwalk with “his girl.” For the next hour and 10 minutes, he let me into his world and I let him into mine. He began to tell me about his Brooklyn Dodger-supporting parents and how when the franchise left for Los Angeles, there was no baseball in the house for five years, as they refused to root for the Yankees. He told me about his daughter’s enormous crush on pitcher Ron Darling when she was younger and how even though she now resides in Chicago, she still stays true to the orange and blue.
Like most Mets fans, he stays optimistic even though he’s learned the hard way to never get his hopes too high. Newspaper clippings from ’69 and ’86 are still in his possession and he hopes to add 2015 to that collection. As the MTA worker was punching our tickets, he took a look at George’s cap and with a clenched fist stated “Go Mets.” When we arrived at East Norwalk, one of the best conversations I ever had was put in the books with George disappearing into the crowd of the station, his worn out Mets cap being the last thing visible to my peripheral vision.
For those of you who know me, you know that being a Mets fan is just as much a part of my identity as my blue eyes and my last name. I’ve been blessed (or cursed depending on your perspective) with rooting for the New York Mets from my dad, when he and the rest of my family took me to my first game at Shea Stadium when I was three years old. I came home with a Mr. Met plush toy that still sits on my dresser to this day, a foam finger that’s long been buried at the bottom of my now abandoned toy chest and an initiation into a group of sports fans known for being too loyal for their own good.
In the consistent flow of self-inflicted torture year after year, things began to change. I began to change. I went from receiving foul balls from compassionate strangers to being that compassionate stranger giving up the foul ball to the wide-eyed kid sitting two rows in front of me. I went from falling asleep in the back seat with WFAN’s post-game recap as my personal lullaby to sitting up front ranting with my dad about a tough loss, or talking passionately about a great win. Pepsi turned into Bud Light. Shea turned into Citi Field. Players and managers have come and gone while ownership has sadly stayed put. And yet things have remained the same. I still clap along to “Lazy Mary” at every seventh inning stretch, eventually picking up on the Italian lyrics much to the delight of my grandpa. I still scream at the top of my lungs when the home run apple in centerfield rises from its resting place and I hear Gary Cohen shout “It’s outta here!” And my heart still fills with joy whenever I hear the radio voice of the Mets’ Howie Rose enthusiastically exclaim “Put it in the books!” after every Mets victory. When you go to at least 30 games a year, the team eventually becomes a part of you and moments in Mets history coincides with your own.
My 22-year tenure as a Mets fan has been one mostly filled with misery, disappointment, heartbreak and more misery. I sat up in the nosebleeds in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series and watched Carlos Beltran look at an Adam Wainwright hammer for a called strike three, hearing nothing but the Cardinals celebrating a World Series berth on the field below and the sound of my own sobs. In disbelief one year later, I watched Tom Glavine give up seven runs against the Florida Marlins in the final game of the regular season, capping off one of the worst team collapses in baseball history. Add in crazy injuries, clueless owners and the fact that they share the city with arguably the best franchise in sports history, and I think the point is brought home that to be a Mets fan is to be an embodiment of Murphy’s Law.
But just like Matthew McConaughey states in “Interstellar”: “Murphy’s Law doesn’t mean that something bad will happen. It means that whatever can happen, will happen.” And while the Mets and their fans have spent a majority of their lives on the wrong end of that statement, once in a while, destiny decides to throw us a bone. While I sadly wasn’t alive to witness the 1969 “Amazins” or the ball getting by Buckner in ’86, the Mets came through at times in my life that I needed to know that magic existed in the world.
On Sept. 21, 2001, I was at Shea Stadium in the days following 9/11 and saw Mike Piazza crush a dramatic game-winning home run, lifting an emotional crowd who desperately needed a reason to smile again. While I was still too young to fully comprehend the severity of the situation, I’ll never forget the deafening sound of the crowd as No. 31 ran around the bases.
On June 1, 2012, the night before I was to graduate high school, I sat in my family room with my dad and grandpa, witnessing Johan Santana, who just a few months prior was thought to never be able to pitch again, throw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history. In that moment, three generations of Mets fans witnessed something together that we thought we’d never be able to see in our lifetimes.
But between the tearful trade that never was, “A Cespedes for the Rest of Us,” rally raccoons and parakeets, what I’ve been witnessing over these past two months from the 2015 New York Mets has been nothing short of a fairy tale.
About two months ago, right around the time that the Mets were beginning their Cinderella run, Jerry Seinfeld tweeted: “When the Mets get hot, it’s different from the Knicks, Yanks or Rangers. It feels like something crazy is happening.” Rooting for this team this year has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life not just as a Mets fan, but as a sports fan in general. This is different from 2006. Back in ‘06, we knew how good this team was. We knew the Mets would make the playoffs way back in July and it was smooth sailing until the bitter end. But this year has been an emotional roller coaster filled with incredible highs, soul crushing lows and things that simply haven’t made any sense. No matter what happens in these next couple of weeks, there will be an overwhelming flood of tears when it’s all over, whether they get swept by the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, or they do the unthinkable and win the whole thing and George gets to add a new year of newspaper clippings to his collection. Rooting for this team this year has been the epitome of why I am a Mets fan. As I am one month into my final year before entering the real world and the fear of the unknown that comes along with that, now more than ever, I need to know that miracles can exist. And while they’ve probably taken at least five years off of my life, the New York Mets are my proof of the existence of those miracles. Just like they always have been. And just like they always will be.