The Long Climb Back to Mediocrity: A Life Lived Rooting For the Wrong Team

Jason BurkeCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2008

Getting closer to my 30th birthday has put me in a somewhat introspective mood.  I have not yet achieved enlightenment and I am in no means an old man who chases boys away with a newspaper, but I have acquired some knowledge during this short time.

For instance, I have learned never to microwave anything in metal or tin foil, prank calls may land you in a rehabilitation facility if you are not careful, and rooting for the wrong team could impact your life in disastrous ways.

I usually find myself at dinners and social occasions as a quiet observer.  Some talk of their lives and the great wealth they have acquired and others speak of the need for more and all they wished they’d attained. 

Recently, while helping a friend move into his new home, we had a chance to catch up.  Things are going well for him and his beautiful bride.  He has a child coming his way and money doesn’t seem to be a worry of his lately.

When the subject turns to sports, he automatically has an advantage in that most of the teams he roots for are far better than the ones I do.  This led me to a realization:  the people I knew who rooted for teams steeped in a rich tradition of winning often found success easier, or success would find them.  They seemed genuinely happy as if it attracted them while the others I knew were predisposed to failure and unhealthy relationships.

Looking back, I have rooted for three teams mainly: The Mets, The Jets, and The Knicks.  For the most part, all but the Knicks have taken the leftover scraps that the city has left them and had to claw their way onto the back pages, unable to trump glitzy moves made by their predecessors.  This has left me with only one championship to boast during this time and that one arrived at age seven.

In hindsight, a championship at this early age probably caused great psychological harm as I expected the rest of my life to fall into place just as the New York Mets ’86 season had.  I was wrong.

During the 90s the Mets began dismantling a dysfunctional unit and I had to endure Ken O’Brien’s repeated sacks, Boomer Esiason’s age creep up, and Neil O’Donnel’s repeated failures. 

My school grades began to plummet, I grew my hair long to hide the disgust on my face, and shunned any nice compatible woman for ones taken or who had no interest in me.  The only thing stopping me from dropping out of school and abusing illegal drugs, I believe, was a solid Knicks team that came close in 1994.

Things only began to change in 1998, when Piazza became a Met and I began my first year of college to stellar grades.  The Knicks were still on the cusp and Bill Parcells brought the Jets back to relevancy.  During these years, I met beautiful women and made lifetime friends.  Then came the 2000’s which would bring highs and lows.

Money would come and go like the way the Jets played season to season.  School became unimportant like the Knicks teams that followed.  I do have some fond memories, though, especially 2006 as I would cradle my newborn son on the couch with my beautiful new bride and watch a magical Mets run that pulled up one game shy of the World Series.

As I’ve pointed out, things haven’t always been bad.  In fact my life has experienced more ups than downs.   And obviously any rational person would tell you it’s ridiculous to assume sporting events could play any significant role in the development and course of a life. 

Still, I can’t help but wonder how things would’ve played out had John Starks' three-point shot not been blocked by Hakeem Olajuwon, had Vinny Testaverde simply got up in 1999, or if the Mets could somehow defied odds and triumphed over the mighty Yankees in 2000.

While I was sitting down in my friend’s new house, he began to speak of the Yankees moves during offseason while wearing his Giants cap, I couldn't help but watch in amazement, wondering what it would be like to have it all.