By Mike Steffanos
I'm still somewhat numb from last night, working to get my mind around the fact that the Mets have won the eastern division championship. At times like this, I always find myself looking back to all of those times when it wasn't great to be a Mets fan. You don't have to think back too far to come up with something. I remember back to a year ago when a horrible road trip took the Mets from wild card contender to pretender in a little over a week. I go back a year earlier, and remember the pathetic final days of the Art Howe regime, when there was so little to celebrate that the Mets felt the need to make a big deal about Todd Zeile's retirement. Less than a quarter of his career took place in New York.
I go back much further than that, of course. I remember back to the early 70's, when the team had great pitching but couldn't score. I had a childhood friend who was a Yankees fan, and he was busting my chops about John Milner. It was my friend's contention that John Milner stunk because he led the team in home runs with only 17. It's hard to argue with that kind of logic, even at age 13 Yankee fans had already fully developed their razor-sharp understanding of the game.
Then there was the mid- to late-'70s to early-80's, when they couldn't pitch, hit, run or field. Wearing a Mets hat at that time made you something of a laughingstock. Those teams were so bad, and they stayed that way for so long. It was incredible. After a short "golden age" of being a Mets fan in the mid- to late-'80s, it all fell apart again. Then after a brief respite at the turn of the century, it was back to the outhouse for my beloved baseball team.
I've had nice people who weren't even Yankees fans question why I would support such a consistently bad team for so long. It's almost impossible to explain, it's just in your blood. I've seen plenty of people who called themselves Mets fans switch their allegiance to the Yankees over the years. From the outside looking in, that's probably more logical than remaining a Mets fan for more than 3-1/2 decades as I have. I'd by lying to you if I tried to say I've never regretted it -- I've regretted it countless times. I've watched futile games played by pathetic teams in front of "crowds" that numbered less than two thousand. I've seen the simplest plays in baseball botched in almost slapstick fashion that have cost my team chances to contend in decent years or were just another low point of disgusting years.
I know I am not alone, although it seemed that way sometimes -- living as I do in a place that is full of self-important entitled Yankees and Red Sox fans. Even before I started this blog I'd run into other Mets fans and it would make me wonder -- just what is it that keeps us supporting this team? The other team in town is one of the most relentless teams in sports, willing to outspend all others by millions in an effort to field an all-star team that will fulfill the Yankees fans' divine right to make it to the World Series. They spit on division titles like the one we're all going crazy celebrating today. They laugh at our joy and exuberance and mock us for caring. "Wake me up when we get to the playoffs," they tell each other, with fatuous smirks on their smug, arrogant faces.
The local media mostly buys into this attitude. I wish I had a dime for every time I read this year one of their opinions that anything less than a World Series title was a failure. Sorry folks, if I wanted to be a Yankees fan I would be. The level of understanding among these fans and their simpatico media hacks hasn't improved any since my friend tried to tease me about Milner more than 30 years ago. I won't try to explain it to them, since they just won't get it, anyway. They're waiting around for us to apologize for having a different attitude about our team than they do. They're hoping we'll lose our sense of joy in the moment and become as cynical and jaded as they are. Keep waiting.