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Just Enjoy It

Mike SteffanosFriday, September 15, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

The last time the Mets were this close to clinching a National League east title was September of 1988. I was still a month away from my thirtieth birthday, no longer a kid but not yet ready for a mid-life crisis. The Mets were on the verge of clinching the east for the second time in three years, and after the disappointment of 1987, it seemed that the Mets had a real chance of winning a second title and fulfilling their promise.

What made this all more satisfying was looking back on where that team had come from. Run into the ground for a dreary 7-year stretch which featured such "highlights" as trading away the future Hall of Famer who was the face of the franchise and a succession of teams who would have had difficulty in capturing an International League title, the team had climbed to the pinnacle of the baseball world in 1986 by winning it all. The turnaround was all the more enjoyable because we had come from so far down. Now here we were, two years later, and we were looking good to do it all again.

Well, we didn't win the title that year, and I never suspected at the time that I would be a month away from my forty-eighth birthday before the Mets would be on the threshold of taking the division again. The world has changed a lot, and so have I. Some things are eerily similar, however. The Mets have spent more of the intervening years in the trash heap than at the top of the heap. Yankee fans are still as arrogant as they ever were. And, despite everything, it still feels sweet to be this close to an achievement for which we've waited for so long. I may be a lot older and more cynical than I was in 1986 and 1988, but I think I just might find myself getting a little emotional whenever that magic number digit drops from 1 to 0.

I don't know why, but as I was driving yesterday evening about 6, I tuned my car radio to WFAN. I don't think I've listened to Mike and the Mad Dog for a couple hours altogether this past summer, as they just bore me after 15 years of listening to them. I guess I was curious as to what they might say with the Mets so close to clinching. Sure enough, they were riding Bob Heussler about the Mets, trying to pick which team was going to knock them off in the playoffs. I just smiled and put on some music. That's their tired shtick, and it's never going to change. I'm not going to let them yank my chain to boost their ratings.

They're not the only ones that will be doing that. As a Mets fan, you'll never be allowed to savor one accomplishment before being subjected to dire predictions of failure in the next task ahead. At the beginning of the year, everyone told you that the Braves would win the division again. Some of them told you that you're team might win the wild card -- if their pitching didn't fall apart. Then your team started to win, but every time one of their players got hurt or the Braves and/or Phillies went on a winning streak you were told that it was all falling apart.

Your team overcame every obstacle, but now you were told that the National League was really weak, and your team was just taking advantage of that. Whenever the Dodgers or Padres get hot for a few games they are declared a pitching juggernaut who will overwhelm your overrated team in the playoffs. Doom is always laying in wait just around the corner.

I come to you today with no predictions of either glory or defeat. Anything can happen in the playoffs, and there are no guarantees for any team. All I can say to you, my fellow Mets fan, is to tune out all of the garbage coming your way and just take a moment to savor a rare accomplishment. For me, I've been rooting for this team since 1969, and I've seen them win the eastern division 4 times. I think I'll worry about who we're going to face or who starts a game four another day.

My friend and colleague Greg Prince has put it beautifully:

You'll read a lot and hear a lot in the coming days and weeks about who you are and what you think. Those who have no clue what it's like to be a Mets fan will become authorities. Others who have never spent a single moment in your shoes will be sitting in your seats. People who couldn't possibly match your track record for getting caught up in a team that has been bringing you down for much of your lives will be talking at you in what sounds like a foreign language, so unfamiliar will they be with the Met dialect. As this September becomes this October, many things will feel different. A lot of them will be great. Some of them will get in the way of your good time. Now that the magic number in this unbelievably magical season is down to 1, now that what we've waited 17 years and 145 games for is potentially hours away, now that you and your team will forever be the National Eastern Division Champions of 2006, never forget this 1 thing.

This 1's for us.

If you're a Mets fan, whether you're an grizzled veteran like me or a fresh-faced rook who has never seen what an eastern division title looks like, take the time to savor this accomplishment. Ignore those who seek to diminish this terrific experience for you. When some self-important "expert" seeks to rain on your parade, turn away and face the sun.

There will be attempts to diminish what your team accomplished in this magical season, or to fill you with fear and foreboding of potential failures yet to come. I suggest the best way to combat this is with a variation of the "we're number one" gesture. Hold your right hand in the air with your palm facing towards you and the digit to the left of your index finger raised in triumph.

In other words, don't let the bastards get you down. This one really is special.

NY Sports Day: What it was like in '86
Former assistant trainer Bob Sikes recalls clinching the NL east 20 years ago.

Cool Site
I ran across the Mets Fan Book web site thanks to a post in the MetsMerized forum. Dana Brand is writing a book about being a Mets Fan, and the essays that he has up there right now are excellent. This one's really worth a visit. I've added a permanent link to the site in my sidebar.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets

Continuous Mets Coverage:
Hot Foot

Comments (16)

Agreed, agreed, agreed!

Once in a while you should pause, look around and see where you stand. The Mets are where they are because they have played terrific baseball; they've won everything that they could possibly win up to now. Enjoy the moment, there's few enough of them to be enjoyed in a life.

dd -- You have no future in sports tabloid journalism or talk radio.

In terms of radio I listen to online baseball radio from MLB.com
Lemme put it this way, I've listened to Mike and the Mad Dog like twice and never entirely and i can't stand them.
So yo... just go to MLB Radio on MLB.com. They talk about more than just Mets so you get to learn about the whole league but hey atleast its ALL BASEBALL!
And won't have to listen to them talk about horse racing, golg, hockey, and the knicks, ugh...

This is one of the moments in my Met life that just lives on and on, its like a Tom Seaver or a Keith Hernandez or a Mike Piazza. It is born someplace in every day life and becomes a part of you. You remember the day like its yesterday and 10 or 20 years have gone by. Your a fan and one of the special moments is about to be born. My fellow Met fans don't miss the moment. Stop everything and be apart of it,it will never let you down.

Mike - great post, and great add of Greg from Faith & Fear. He was spot on.

To the young fans out there who may not have been around in 1988, enjoy the clincher, whether it be tonite or tomorrow. They are fun.

benny -- I don't listen to them at home, I was in my car and just curious what they might be saying. Same old...
Rev -- eloquently put.
Ed -- and you never know when the next one might be.

I hate the Yankees.As an Ordained Minister, I should not be using the word hate,God forgive me but I hate the Yankees.From my childhood they seem to every year kill my Brooklyn Dodgers in the WS.It was a very hard pill to swallow as a 9 and 10 year old, and they seem to pop up every once and a while to steal some thunder even with our Mets, like the last WS we were in. Watching the Yanks win it at Shea made it worse. Scarnton Pa.( 45 min. from me) Is looking for a new AAA baseball team, the Red Barons, Philly team is moving out and the N.Y.Mets AAA team is talking about moving in. Selma and I are looking at season tickets and seeing how many games we can go to and who can use them when we can't go...well guess what? ... the freakin Yanks are moving into Scarnton as of todays talks..God, I am sorry, but I HATE THE yankees. Thank God for the Mets, I see light at the end of the tunnel and the best is yet to come. LETS GO METS. The tide is turning.

1999 & 2000 were two of my favorite Met seasons. BV's graucho act, the comebacks in 1999 the superb playoff game vs Cincy, and the absurd dismantling of ARZ. Follow that with a repeat WC and phenomenal series wins against Barry and G-men the Edmonds and C-notes. But in both seasons it was EMPHASIZED the Braves were the Division Champs. In fact since the realignment Atlanta has always won the NL east, until now.

My worst moment as a Met Fan was the Scossia HR in 1988.

I stopped listening to mike & dog years ago for the usual reasons, anti-met sentiment on a Yankee based show funded by YES network. But because I have WFAN tuned in for Met games and other hosts, I sometimes catch a tidbit of the show when I get into my car. Today I got a great laugh.

Mike was doing his normal toungue-in-cheek how great the Mets are this year. Then he's asking for Met fans to call in and talk about it.

call 1: Yankee fan
call 2: Yankee fan
call 3: Yankee fan



Rev -- Isn't there something about hating the sin while loving the sinner? Perhaps it's okay to hate the Yankees if you pray for all of the players to be traded to other teams.
Micalpalyn -- I try not to EVER think about that '88 NLCS.
since68 -- I listened to it for 15 years before I stopped. Mike and Chris say something stupid about the Mets, Mets fans get all pissed off and call up, they let us talk for 10 seconds and then hang up on us. It's been the same thing for all those years, and it still works, I guess.

Mike- very nice piece, I can completley identify with you-for me 1986 & 1988 were so emotional-2000 didn't mean alot to me because I felt the mets got to the World Series by default. This one is reminicent of 1986 because they aboslutely earned it and aren't getting into the post season by skirting around playing a team that always beats them mentally and physically. As you I have been predicting 2007 as the year they take it all in the World Series, especially after tonight they starting pitching is very up in the air-they can't give up 4 runs a game and expect to win in the post season. The teams are better, and they are hungry. If they can't clinch against the lowly Pirates and end up having Pedro in tears on the bench I can't see them getting past and AL powerhouse team in the World Series. However 2006 has been fabulous and if they dont' go to the series I still have no regrets about this season whatsoever-this era reminds me of 1984-1986- I enjoyed those three seasons, and I have enjoyed 2005 & 2006 so far as well. I like seeing the progression, from a bit over .500, to NL domination, if they don't win it all this season 2007 will be the ultimate.

Don't give up on this year, Shari. If they can get hot, they can win it.

Mike & shari; This is why we blog. Exorcise the demons of the past, hope for the future.

Shari; While I agree with you, my gut fears a reprise of '88 when we were the best team in baseball with nought to show. AND in 1986, the same fate was there except for the 16 inning win vs Houston in the NLCS, avoiding Mike Scott, then Buckner-gate.

Hi Mike- I haven't given up, but I am realistic, unless the starting pitching shapes up, I don't see them advancing past the second round of the NL play offs.

Micalpalin- I have the same specter of 1988 plaguing my thoughts as well.
The only good things is there is no Mike Scott- and CLiff Floyd looks alot more like Kirk Gibson..........

Hey guys -- I think about all of those things, but then again, it's nice after 6 years just to worry about what might happen in the playoffs.

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