The Day I Said Goodbye to the Mets as I Know Them
Don’t get me wrong. The Mets still have a very special place in my heart. I will still follow them, hell I might even spend my entire paycheck to go to a game at the new stadium next year. I am not a bandwagon jumper who is on his way to buy a Rays hat, nor can I pretend that I don’t care. But Mets fans like me have now reached a point of no return. The reason I am at this point is twofold.
First there is Collapse 2.0. Let's just be clear: There was no intangible force that kept the Mets out of the playoffs this year. They were not “mentally soft” or “afraid of the big moment.” Mets fans knew that even if they made the playoffs the bullpen was going to catch up to them eventually.
There is actually a small bit of comfort in knowing that the Mets’ flaw is so easy to identify; theoretically it should be easily fixed. The fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t have come down to this final weekend. If the Mets' bullpen was even average, this would have been wrapped up a long time ago.
There is not a Met fan on this planet who believes that there is something innately “unclutch” about David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran that will prevent them from winning a title. The core players are not the problem.
With that said, last year they fooled us. Shame on the Mets. This year they fooled us again. Shame on us. Of all the teams I root for, the Mets are the ones who have the fan base for whom the team means a little too much. Playing in the Yankees’ shadow, the Mets always the underdog, no matter where the two teams are in the standings.
We Mets fans want nothing more than for them to win so we can shove it in their faces just for the 15 seconds of silence before the Yankee fan replies with, “So what bro, we won 26 titles. Mets still suck!”
That is the moment Mets fans live for. We are tortured enough without the collapse. Factor in both the local and national media labeling the most likeable core of players we have had in some time as “choke artists” and the average Met fan is more depressed than a 15 year-old Goth girl.
I still think the Mets can win it all some day but until that day we are all visibly scarred. That is just not a fun way to have to root for a team.
And then there is the move out of Shea Stadium. The party line for Mets fans has always been, “it’s a dump but it’s our dump.” Well now our dump is soon to be gone, and with it our connection with the team.
Next year the Mets will play in brand new CitiField, which is sure to have amazing sight-lines, comfortable chairs, and five star Zagat rated hot dog stands. The new stadium will also feature about 12,000 fewer seats and mid-level tickets starting at $75, the same ticket that costs about $40 now.
Mets management has promised that there will still be some affordable tickets available, but with 12,000 fewer seats how many of those tickets will there really be? If they still wanted to include the average fan they should have made the ballpark close to the same capacity of Shea. The days of Joe Six-Pack taking his family to a Met game faded along with the Mets' playoff hopes.
The move is not only a change in venue; it’s a changing of the guard. This team used to belong to the fans. Now it belongs to the Wilpons and Citigroup.
My official goodbye to the Mets was the second to last game of the season. I sat in the left field bleachers as part of a fundraiser for garykeithandron.org. I was with a group of 1,000 fans, most of whom, like myself, were far too emotionally attached to this year’s team.
We watched a superhuman effort from Johan Santana, who pitched a complete game shutout on short rest. The bleachers reminded me of my days at Pitt watching basketball games in the Oakland Zoo. We fed off of Johan and Johan fed off of us. We lived and died with every pitch, not only because a playoff berth was in the balance, but because there is no guarantee it will ever be like that for a Met home game again.
It was an unbelievable last memory of Shea. Sure they will play big games in the new ballpark, but will the die-hard fan still be heard or will he be compromised by the investment bankers in the field boxes who are busy with their Blackberries?
We are now in football season and I will turn part of my attention to the Jets—a team I love...from a distance. In my lifetime the Jets have pulled just as many choke jobs as the Mets (‘99 in Denver, ‘05 in Pittsburgh), while providing tickets that are low in quantity (the Jets actually charge fans to be on a season ticket waiting list) and high in price (no tickets available on ticket exchange next week for less than $85).
Oh yeah, they’re also the little brother to a more successful local franchise. I mention this because now I have to root for the Mets in the same slightly disconnected fashion with which I root for the Jets. And that is a bigger heartbreak than anything the Mets could have done to me on the field.
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