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“To be a Mets fan … is to be a gourmand of loss”

Sep 22, 2012, 11:55 AM EDT

Empty Citi Field

From the New York Times, a pretty stark portrayal of a night at Citi Field during this lost, lamentable September, from the perspective of a Mets fan.  It’s a good article, explaining to the rest of us what Mets fans have long felt and how they approach fandom of a team that disappoints far more than it rewards:

“It’s all about loyalty and knowing what it means to lose,” he says. “We’re not like the Yankees; the expectation to win a championship isn’t always there. If you win 26, you just get greedy” … What’s our choice? To root for the triumphalist Yankees is to describe an impossibility, like walking through Manhattan chanting: “Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!” Instead, we adopt the mien of Scottish highlanders facing the English army — loss is assured, but let’s go out with panache and a touch of humor.

My team has won for a long time, but as I’ve written many times in the past, there is a lot of, well, not enjoyment to be had watching a bad team day-in, day-out, but certainly something satisfying. It helps you come to a more mature relationship with sports. Forces you to assess the entire enterprise of watching a game.

What is it we really want from this team?  Can we still love sports if winning is not an option? I came down firmly on “yes” some 25 years ago, and learning to truly commune with a losing team has, I think, made me enjoy the winning much more.  I think Mets fans, especially Mets fans too young to remember the mid-80s,  get that more than almost anyone.

  1. cur68 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Soooooo….I should hang in there, is what you’re saying? All this Beaver losing is good for me in some way? Will make me a better person, yes? Right. Tell ya what, Craig, you try it. We’ll switch for a while. I’ll barrack for the Braves. You take up the cause for All Beaver Kind, ok? Eh? What’s that you say? “No way in hell, beaver boy?” Hey! Did you just call me a….! Oh, to hell with it. I don’t blame you. Actually, I can’t wait to hear from Stex on this one. If he hasn’t committed Commenters seppuku already.

    • The Rabbit - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:57 PM

      Good Morning Cur,
      I think some of us are just born with the “root for the underdog” gene. Now there’s a doctoral research topic for you.
      As a little kid I was enthralled with the 62 Mets and their teams of the 60’s even though we lived in Phillies fan territory.
      Then, cable was available and we got to watch the Braves on a daily basis. During that era when it also seems that Craig became a fan, the Braves weren’t any better than the Beavers. It was mostly Dale Murphy and a bunch of other guys. The Braves’ success didn’t happen til a decade later when the team assembled a HOF pitching staff, Magic Larry was a regular, and players like David Justice, Andruw Jones, the Crime Dog (Did you know that Fulton County Stadium caught fire as a tribute to his arrival?) were on the roster.
      So, Craig and other Braves fans have been there…done that.
      Hopefully, fans of the Pirates, Astros, Beavers, etc. will get to see the same kind of success that the Nats have had this year.
      Patience, cur. My father, a long time Phillies and Red Sox fan lived just long enough to see the Red Sox win a WS.
      BTW If you are online later today, I’ll watch the Beavers game with you.

      • 18thstreet - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:27 PM

        As a Red Sox fan, I don’t know what to do with a horrible team. The Red Sox were marked by coming close before we finally won. It was torture. And yet, I’d rather have been a Red Sox fan all those years than a fan of a team that never came close.

        Yes, I said “we won.” Whatever there was to win in 2004, I got some of it.

      • approvenothing - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        Sadly, i feel as though my time of rooting for the Astros is coming to an end. I have been their for em the last few years but they are now in the division as my hometown team here in Arlington. Was always so sad watching them though, they just haven’t been able to turn it around…

      • indaburg - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:09 PM

        Title: The underdog concept in sport.
        Authors: Frazier, J. A.; Snyder, E. E.
        Journal: Sociology of Sport Journal 1991 Vol. 8 No. 4 pp. 380-388

        Abstract: “The tension and excitement of competitive sport is created by the indeterminacy of the contest that is based on an approximate equity between the contestants. Yet players and teams vary in competence and prestige, and those with less competence are frequently labelled as the under-dog. While winning is valued, cross-cutting values often create sentiments for the under-dog, that is, the desire for the under-dog to overcome the inferior status and upset the favoured opponent. Social support for the under-dog reflects a utilitarian perspective that helps maintain an emotional interest in a contest; additionally, under-dogs receive support from the social value of equity. At a micro-level, the under-dog status is often used to increase the level of motivation and performance. Data gathered from university students are used to support the positions taken in the paper.”

    • Old Gator - Sep 22, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      Here, Mutts fans: this will help you.

  2. Marty - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Raider fans seem to do well with being losers. Maybe consult their methods as well.

    • ptfu - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:57 PM

      Heh, nice use of sarcasm. Yep, all the spikes, chains, skulls, silver makeup, and general thuggery clearly portray Raiders fans as normal, coping, well-adjusted people who would be great role models for the rest of us.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 22, 2012 at 7:55 PM

        Raiders fans were like that when their team was one of the best.

  3. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    “To root for the triumphalist Yankees is to describe an impossibility, like walking through Manhattan chanting: “Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!””

    This part is perfect.

    • raysfan1 - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      Yep. That pretty much has always been how I’ve felt about the Yankees. I can acknowledge their history, admire individual players, but never root for them.

  4. dondada10 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    I’m a 27 year old, die-hard Mets fan. I was born in 1985, and became a fan in ’94 (the strike year).

    It hurts. The Yankees have won 5 World Championships during that span, one of which was against the Mets (with the clinching game at Shea).

    Rooting for the Knicks and Jets hasn’t exactly been a picnic, either.

    With that being said, and I think several fan bases can attest to this (I’m looking at you: Indians, A’s, Royals, Pirates, Padres, ect.) that if my team ever does win a World Series, I can die right then and there a happy man.

    • indaburg - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      I’m older than you. Old enough to remember what Shea Stadium was like in the early ’80s, a veritable ghost town. I remember being there as a kid with literally 5,000 people in the stands. Dave Kingman, George Foster, John Stearns, man, I remember them. All that losing made the winning that much sweeter. I cried tears of joy in 1986 when the Mets finally won. I can’t imagine a Yankee fan understanding that feeling. Winning is a given for them. Hang in there, don. When you least expect it, it’ll get better. At least now you have a beautiful stadium with what I hear is delicious food.

      Good article.

  5. mazblast - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    I am a fan of the Pirates, have been for 50 seasons now. That is the cross I bear.

    Being a Pirate fan is a test. A test of character, a test of strength, perhaps a test of foolishness. It is God’s way of balancing the books for most of us being Steelers fans.

    Frankly, though, I’d prefer the “unbalanced” books of the Seventies. Thank goodness for being old enough to remember those halcyon days.

  6. randygnyc - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    The only thing better than the mets losing is an entire red sox organizational collapse. That it’s happening to both, simultaneously, is baseball ecstasy. The Yankees pursuit of the AL East crown is ALMOST secondary, lol.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:34 PM

      Wow. You’re really an ass, aren’t you?

      In other news, the Red Sox still have Ellsbury, Buchholz, Pedroia, a handful of nice-if-not-great players (Lester, Saltalamacchia, Ross), major league ready youngsters (Middlebrooks, Lavarnway, Kalish, Iglesias, Tazawa), young talent that gives reason for hope by 2014 (Bogaerts and Bradley), and a zillionaire owner who has shown a willingness to spend. I would hardly call that an organization in collapse even if they’re clearly having a miserable, miserable year.

      Mets fans, sorry to highjack your thread

      • aceshigh11 - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:52 PM

        You’re just now realizing Randy’s a festering sack of bovine excrement?

        At any rate, as a Red Sox fan AND a Mets fan (from my youth anyway…I don’t follow them religiously since I moved out of NY), the “panache and a touch of humor” quote from the article really resonated with me.

        I don’t let sports affect me in a negative way…really, all I can do is look back on the Sox season, shake my head and laugh, and hope that the more cancerous elements of the team are gradually shoved aside to make room for younger, exciting players who have some guts and pride.

      • The Rabbit - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:58 PM

        @18th Street
        I haven’t decided yet whether Randy is a complete ass, a troll of first class magnitude, or someone who only occasionally takes his prescribed meds.
        Every so often he posts something that is balanced and thoughtful….and then there is the total d*ck comment like the one above.
        Whichever it is, just be grateful you don’t have to live with him.

        BTW-I love baseball…period…Don’t have any strong team loyalty so I am amused by the incredible overreaction by fans to trolls. I thought your response was an accurate assessment of the current state of the Red Sox. Wondering what they will do regarding Ortiz. Anyway, good luck next season.

      • yankeesjetsknicksrangers - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:16 PM

        Then please for the love of God can you somehow get those stars and all that burgeoning talent to take the next couple of game from the O’s.

  7. fissels - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    I was a fan for 46 years. I withstood all the losing of those years and remained faithful. I reveled in the glory of the few winning seasons the Met’s had. The thing that killed me as a fan is that the Wilpons are so desperate for money they took on a scumbag like Bill Maher as a minority owner. I can’t root for any team that has a bum like that associated with it. It’s kind of a relief to be free from the pain of rooting for them. Deep down in my heart though I’m still blue and orange.

  8. papalurchdxb - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    There are examples of this across all sports around the world – Man City fans watching Man Utd win seemingly everything for 20 years before finally winning the title last season for the first time in about 60 years – the spirit amongst fans for this period of drought became as famous as the team itself, a bond forged in abject failure over many repeated seasons. Those days are gone now, swept away by the wealth of an Arab Sheikh owner, hope replaced by demand and expectation – to be a City fan now is to be part of the machine, a corporate pleb, there is no place for sentiment anymore and that is much to the detriment of the club and those who truly care for it.

    We all follow teams for a reason, I follow the Braves because we got TBS broadcasts in Jamaica and they introduced me to the sport, I follow Birmingham in English football because of my dad, who wanted someone to share in his misery no doubt (we are even more unsuccessful than Man City (and couldn’t beat their goal keeper in a cup final even when he had a broken neck)) – and we should follow them because we care for them through thin and thinner.

    We should let the media be the fashion followers, go after the flavour of the month as it suits their corporate egos to do so, but the real fans will follow their team to the bitter ends, will revel in the misery of defeat and very rarely, but enjoyably, taste the sweetness of success and be able to savour it for what it is – a success beyond expectation – not an almost obligatory requirement to achieve beyond the wildest dreams of most where the alternative is to see a missed title is a sign of the ends of the earth and miss the purpose of the game entirely.

    You must be able to see something at its very worst to be able to appreciate it at its best. There is no true fun in the burden of expectation.

  9. thebadguyswon - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    It was a good article. I’ve been a Mets fan since 84 and I’m convinced I will never see them win another Series. But I always think of Cubs fans when I think I have it bad. At least I remember watching them take it in all in 86.

  10. phillyphannn83 - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    I love my “F*ck NY” T-shirt! I got at a Phiilies-Mets game during that EPIC September collapse! I have fond memories of those days.

  11. tashkalucy - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    No one knows losing like fans of Cleveland’s professional sports teams.

    If the Indians can hold on and finish in last place, then that means that all 3 Cleveland teams will finish in last place for the season. And the Indians have a shot at 100 losses as well.

    The Indians have finished above .500 once in the Dolan’s 12 years of ownership. I believe the Browns have finished above .500 twice since they came back in 1999. And the Cavs have sucked since Lebron left – he grew up in the area and knew better then to stay….and he won a championship in his 2nd year away.

    Want some more? The Browns have won 3 playoff games since the late 1960’s – forty-plus years. The Indians were not even in a pennant race in August between 1960 and 1993.

    One would have to view the Cleveland teams to realize how totally UNWATCHABLE they are.

    Put another way – the 3 teams have 93 players on their rosters. Not a one can be considered any form of a star.

    • tashkalucy - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      And of course, Cleveland hasn’t won a championship in anything since 1964 – 48 years.

  12. sometimesimisscandlestick - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    I’m an almost 49 year old Giant fan, born the year after their lone ’60s World Series appearance. I grew up watching the team that was barely OK sometimes bordering on horrible; I have a vague remembrance of the ’72 NL West title. There was nothing from then until ’87 and I was at the game when they clinched the NL West in San Diego. I was at Dodger Stadium two years later when the Giants clinched the west even though they lost 1-0 to the Dodgers that night, and even made it to the rescheduled game four of the ’89 World Series (sniff, sniff). The 90s were a bit better and I was still upset for years about the ’02 World Series loss. The joy I felt when the team won it all in 2010 is still indescribable. The Mets have at least won two series in the last 43 years which is more than many teams can say.

    • thebadguyswon - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:18 PM

      Yeah…..the perennial losers bit with the Mets is overstated for sure. There are several fan bases much worse off.

  13. natstowngreg - Sep 22, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    Another case of something getting blown out of proportion by New York media. When the Mets get to the bottom and stay there a couple of years, let me know.

    Having some eperience rooting for a horrible team, in a place where few inhabitants remember winning, I can say that it’s about

    1. Having Major League Baseball at all. Even if it’s being played by the other teams.
    2. The ballpark experience. Even if the food is overpriced and mediocre, and the efforts to make us root cheesy, as though we were Pavlov’s dogs.
    3. Hope. While the Nats were stinking on the field, a contending team was being assembled. For those of us who endured the bad teams, 2012’s team is payback.

    • thebadguyswon - Sep 22, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      2002 and 2003 would like a word. As would 1982 and 1995. The Mets have plenty of experience being the bottom of their division, just like the Nats. They have, however, won the whole thing twice. That’s something the Nats haven’t done. When you get THERE, let me know.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 23, 2012 at 9:22 AM

        The Mets were 75-86 in 2002, 66-95 in 2003.The Nats were 59-102 in 2008, 59-103 in 2009. And this is not about being last in the NL East; the Nats finished last in 2005 with a .500 record. I’m talking about being worst in MLB in back-to-back seasons.The Mets have not lost 100 games in a season since 1993. Before that, in 1967.

        Your comment on the Mets winning World Series, aside from being irrelevant, just reinforces that this is nothing but New York whining, Mets-style. Poor us, we haven’t won the World Series in 16 years. We’ve had a losing record 4 seasons in a row. We’re still not as good as the Yankees. Of course, the Yankees have their own variety. Poor us, we haven’t won the World Series since 2009. Pitiful.

  14. jayscarpa - Sep 23, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    I grew up a Yankees fan during the CBS years with some really godawful teams. It taught me early on to never take for granted their success and to never apologize for it.

  15. owenpoin - Sep 23, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    There’s a breezy satisfaction to being the alpha dog, but real poetry more often comes from failure.

  16. hisgirlgotburrelled - Sep 23, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    “… and learning to truly commune with a losing team has, I think, made me enjoy the winning much more.”

    Definitely does. I was born months after the Sixers won in ’83. 25 years and 0 championships from the Phillies/Flyers/Sixers/Eagles. After that many seasons of losing, 2008 was incredible. Mets/Jets/Islanders/Knicks fans are in that 4-team losing drought. It’s more than just the Mets for the non-Giants/Rangers fans.

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