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A Special Night with No Apologies

Mike SteffanosTuesday, September 19, 2006
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.

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Comments (20)

Growing up in the midwest with WWOR on my cable system in the early 80s was the only way I got to see the Mets. Maybe I was tired of hearing about the Cubs and Reds, but something really pulled me towards those teams. Even the crap teams in the early 90s and beyond didn't bend my resolve. I did watch less baseball after the strike, and my cable co pulled my NY connection when they were bought out by another provider. It was hard to see their games, and when I did they were always on TBS getting whipped by the Braves.

The late 90s was great, and I watched as the team began to fight again. When they played the Yankees in 2000, I didn't think they would win, but I was glad that they were there and seemed to enjoy it, though the team was flawed. This year is icing on the cake after watching the last five.

You've gotten to experience the highest of highs AND the lowest of lows with the Mets. Along the way you learn to appreciate both, which in life and sports is important and necessary. Because for every 2006, there's many like 2002.

T.W. - Chosing to be a Mets fan in the early '80s when you're not even from the area? No one can accuse you of being a front runner! And you're right, the lows are as big of a part of it as the highs. Here's to a few more highs, though.

As a long-standing/suffering Mets fan, I am absolutely overjoyed with this team's year. Prior to the season I was worried about making the playoffs, as Philly and Atlanta had good teams and knowing the bad luck of my beloved Mets. Although I would love for them to win the whole thing, anything they do now is gravy - Omar, Willie and the Boys gave me a very enjoyable and memorable year.

me and my wife were just talking about "why is it that i am a mets fan" my mom didnt fallow baseball, and my dad was a tigers fan. Plus I grew up in CT with all redsox and yankees fan.i was born in 82 so i dont remember the 86 team. but i do remember the 88 team and thats what got me. I think in the back of my mind i was picking a winner. I knew we won the series 2 years ago and must have figured more were on the way....what a dumb ass i was!!

But In all honesty its great being a mets fan. Especialy in CT..when you happen to pass another mets fan we always stop and talk about our team. I just dont see that among other redsox/yankee fans. Im sure you know what Im talking about Mike as you are from the same state. Even my wife see's the difference in how mets fans are with one another. There are no bandwagon fans because we have sucked so bad so you always know your meating a true fan.

well.......the bandwaggon bums will be out soon...so forget that last line.

last night brought a tear to my eye... mostly for Delgado and also when Willie said something to Traschel after the game... I dont know what he said but it seemed like he got the boost to pitch post season... GO METS!! When you get this far you gotta take it all !!!

It was 20 years ago today....srgt pepper taught the band to play.... let me indroduce to you............ what a night !!!!

It's easy to be a fan when your team wins as often as the Yankees do (and Lakers and Celtics and so many other franchises used to).

The true mark of a true fan is the nut who's there with the other 1,999 fans watching this year's shortstop butcher a simple ground ball and send his team from 28 games back to 29 games back. It makes times like these sweeter. Ask any Red Sox fan what 2004 meant, or any White Sox fan what 2005 meant to them.

Our current drought hasn't been as long as either of theirs was. But man, we're thirsty, and the water's looking good right now.

As someone who grew up with the Mets ( I was 10 when they were born), the exhilirating highs with this team have been far outnumbered by the kick-to-the-stomach lows! Even this year, as we all realized that this season was turning into something special, the anxiety of each loss often surpassed the joys of the wins, because deep down, you really feared (and expected) that this team would punch you in the gut, just one more time, for good measure! But, last night was an event, and a feeling, to savor; I'm going to enjoy the ride, for as long as it lasts! Hopefully, that will be for 11 post-season wins. But, if it doesn't work out that way, so be it! It's been a great year already; the rest is just icing on the cake!

I guess the team is hung over from last night... check out tonights lineup.... talk about clearing the bench... I cant wait to see franco at 3rd... shouls be a fun game tonight... Glavin is the only regular !!

Joe - I don't know if I would call anything else gravy, but I sure won't let anything that happens ruin this year for me.
cool breez - it will take a while to pick up the bandwagon fans, since the Yankees are winning, too. You're right, there is a comradeship among Mets fans that Sux and Yankme fans don't have here.
Bean - I doubt if any real long-time Mets fan had dry eyes last night.
NostraDennis - It's not even the drought so much as watching so many bad teams.
tampa tommy - You're right about the lows outnumbering the highs. If there is one thing I do ask of this team in the future it's simply not to suck quite so often.
Anonymous - Julio Franco at 3B and Michael Tucker at 1B. What more needs to be said?

the time is coming....being a Met Fan since childhood I too have withstood the agony...was it a curious strain of sports masochism?...something i picked up at Shea while innocently six years old...was it subliminal...could I resolve my strange fascination with things Mets?..why suffer I asked countless times..I told myself I had no stake in the outcome, no reward to widen my wallet...only indirect visceral thrills .."It wasnt me playing after all" I convinced myself halfheartedly...even now I sit here with more important things to do, like finish writing a book, or cure Cancer even, thru my work, but nooooooo, here I sit, exultantly savoring every last infintesimal byte of anything so as to vicariously live out My professional baseball fantasies through celebratingh my Hometesm, My Mistress, my other love, and do I dare utter the words....It does get better than this, my exuberance knows no boundaries now...visions of World Series games hardfought and won in classic unforgettable stupendous ways by our surrogate warriors, our Boys in Blue, let the games begin,,,there'll be dancin' in the streets....~wiping sweet sweat form my brow, I slowly get up off the couch....phew...I feel much better now!~

Screw the Yankees. When your team no longer feels like a living, breathing thing, I feel bad for you. Nobody on their team excites me, they seem to lack team chemistry, and they appear to be a pack of mercenaries and hired guns assmebled to form some kind of military task force to capture the World Series crown. How much loyalty can you have to your team and your fans when you've essentially been bought? Derek Jeter, the only homegrown player on the squad, is the one guy who seems to have any heart on the team, and it shows because he's been their only clutch player since their last championship (other than the immortal Mo Rivera). Bernie Williams (gasp! Another homer) is the only other guy I'd give that label to, but his career is essentially over and he doesn't contribute anymore.

The Mets, however, have a colorful cast of characters and pretty electric personalities to match their array of skilled athletes. From Pedro to Reyes to Delgado to D-Wright, from the clowning around to the secret handshakes to the wild celebrations, I love this team like I love my kid brother. I honestly hope that if we face the recently crowned All-Time Chokers in the World Series, that the heart and chemistry of this team shines through and conquers them in riveting, heart-wrenching fashion, like a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback in the sixth game. It would only be appropriate.

n8genius - You could always write that book or cure cancer during the off-season...

Matt - sounds good to me.

Like I told my 8 year old son Monday night..just enjoy this, you could be in college the next time the Mets win the division. never take it for granted like those blankety blank Yankee fans. This is really special. That's why I am letting you stay up late.

What a great dad you are.

Awesome post Mike- Being a Met fan is much like how a dog has unconditional love for their masters. No matter what goes on - at the end of the day the dogs love us. Its the same with the Mets-bad years, good years, very few and far between great years, no matter what we just love this team. It's inexplicable, I was exposed to both the Mets and Yankees as a kid-my father was a Yankees fan and tried to get me into them it just never took in my case. My grandparents were huge Brooklyn Dodgers fans and life time National Leaguers, so naturally in 1962 they embraced the mets as their team.
They always had so much passion when they would watch the Mets on TV-especially during those horrendous late 70s years.
My grandperents were 2 characters and I think I appreciated their enthusiam for the team-yelling at the TV, carrying on when they did bad, cheering wildly when they did well-that coupled with their turning on the Yankees back then on channel 11 only to trash them and make fun of them made me the rabid Mets fan I am today. Being a Yankees fan and a bandwagoner is way too easy in my opinion.
it takes guts to be a Mets fan and the reward is wonderful when they do manage to put together a season like this one.

Shari - Great story. It reminds me of watching games with my grandmother.

It sure does take guts being a Mets fan. By the way, I'm 41 now and have loved the Mets since I was a small child. In fact, the first two major league games I went to were Mets games...one in which Seaver pitched. A few years later, my father, who's a diehard Yankees fan, got a lot of free tickets to many Yankee games, including the '78 World Series, but I was still very young and didn't yet understand that Steinbrenner was really Satan. All the while, up until now, I've rooted for the Mets... a team of true character. Whether they won, lost, made us proud or embarrassed themselves, the point cannot be argued that they've always been a cast of characters, and they've definitely never been the programmed automatons that Satanbrenner's fascist warriors were and still are.

By the way, I know a lot of you are younger than me and perhaps you haven't followed the team as long, but I'm looking for a favor, if anyone can help. Do any of you have OLD Met games on video that you can transfer to DVD? Specifically, I'm looking for ANY games from the mid '70s through just before their mid-'80s renaissance. Back in those days I went to quite a few games at Shea and also watched the teams from this ragtag era play on channel 9, with the great Nelson/Kiner/Murphy broadcast team. Just seeing those guys on video after all these years - Stearns, Mazzilli, Kingman, Flynn, etc., would bring back wonderful memories. Again, if anyone can help please get in touch. I'll gladly reimburse for blank DVD/postage/etc.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for tomorrow in LA!


Chuck, not too many people read the older stuff on these pages, so I put your request on today's entry.

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