Why root for the home team?

Posted on September 2, 2010 by

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Hi, my name is Mike and I’m a fan of the New York Mets. Thanks for the sympathy and no, I’m not a masochist.

You don’t hear the words Met and fan together in the same sentence much these days, unless you’re consoling one of these rare creatures or trying to find a less appealing alternative. And that’s not much of a surprise.

The Mets currently sit at 65-68 after another terrible loss to a reeling, division-leading Atlanta Braves team. New York took the league by storm early on, suffered a few lengthy losing streaks but appeared to be serious playoff contender before a post all-star break collapse.

Yes, it’s not surprising to see why a fourth place team isn’t popular. And yet, there are still some of us around. If you’re reading this, you are probably part of the club and don’t need to be told why. Do yourself a favor, send this to your friends, coworkers and anybody else who doesn’t understand what it takes – especially those damned Yankees fans.

It’s easy to back the winning horse these days. Yankees fans, Red Sox fans… there are plenty of them around. From celebrities going for the trendy look to baseball-ignorant people looking to fit in at a social event/ballgame to front-runner fans seeking acceptance, it’s easy to wait for the smoke to clear and jump on the bandwagon.

No, Mets fans are different, different from fans of any other team out there. For example, pitching has often been a trademark of blue and orange baseball since 1962, and yet they’ve set history for being the oldest franchise without a perfect game. The 36 one-hitters are tempting though, including R.A. Dickey’s gem most recently.

The Mets also tend to go through hot and cold streaks over the years, always falling short of their potential. They struggled as the “Loveable Losers” early on, but showed fight though the late 1960s and early 1970s. The team plummeted in the standings again until the mid 1980s, when they appeared to be a young dynasty. Sadly for hometown fans, they instead turned into the “Worst Team Money Could Buy” in 1992. They reached the playoffs in the late 1990s and mid 2000s, but have been disappointments beyond that. But with the failure comes a silver lining – all of those losses sweeten the pot. When the Mets won it all in 1969 and 1986, and almost in 1973, it was magical. Hell, it’s still magical decades later; YouTube clips like this can make any Mets fan smile.

That same suffering also tends to weed out all of the bandwagon and/or fake fans. It’s not 100 percent true, but talk to someone who identifies themselves as a Mets fan and I’d wager they had a solid understanding of the game, how the team is playing and general knowledge about the rest of the league. It’s simple human behavior, why set yourself up for major disappointment if you deep down you don’t care about it?

But they’re not the only team with a colorful history, and there are plenty of teams who haven’t been out of the basement in years. What makes New York’s situation unique are the alternatives. Fans of the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners are the only teams in the region. The Mets compete in New York City against the Yankees, in New Jersey against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Boston Red Sox up north and the Washington Nationals further south. Not happy rooting for the Red Sox in New England? Too bad, there’s no one else. Not happy rooting for the Mets? There are several options. Choosing to stay loyal to a bad team builds character and shows true faith.

It may be closer to a fashion faux pas than the trendiest accessory these days, but I continue to wear my New York Mets ball cap just about every day. Sure it comes in handy blocking the sun and keeping my long hair under control, but there’s something about the interlocking “NY” in full view of everyone. It’s almost like a badge that says “I’ve taken my lumps, and I’ll continue taking them until I finally get what I deserve.”

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Posted in: Perspectives