Atoning for two decades of fan neglect
As I’ve said before (or at least thought many times), I have been a terrible Mets fan. I can blame part of that on my upbringing, which was devoid of any die-hard Mets fan role models. Aside from some Mets merchandise and trips to two Mets games (only one of which was at Shea), we were largely content with watching an afternoon game on television on the weekend or listening to a game on the radio; I listened to more than a few late games on my non-Sony walkman-equivalent in the summer of ’88. We had no Mets t-shirts, jerseys (replica or authentic), jackets, or other such luxuries. The Mets sundae helmet was used to scoop rabbit food. We enjoyed the things we enjoyed without anything outwardly visible to show it and without any big effort to seek out opportunities to engage in fan activities.
Another big chunk of the blame has to go to the timing of the team’s fortunes taking a nosedive as I gained the means and opportunity to better express myself (i.e., have money, will spend). The success of the ’80s left many of us unprepared for what the ’90s held in store. It was hard to get behind those early ’90s teams, especially when they added Bobby Bonilla of the much-hated Pirates. There was no heart to these teams and their record reflected it. Mets fans, who weren’t all that visible to begin with, went underground with their fandom. The low point for me came in 1994, when one of the items on the packing list for my hiking trip at Philmont Scout Ranch was a hat. Such a simple item, but I was at a loss to come up with anything. A Mets hat would be the logical choice, but I no longer had one and didn’t think it would go over so well anyway. I briefly considered getting a hat from some other New York sports team, but I didn’t follow any other sports and knew that only ridicule could follow being found out as an impostor. I went hat-less and bought a hat in the Philmont base camp shop, choosing to be that guy wearing the hat of the place he’s hiking in over representing a Mets team I no longer felt connected to.
With the present Mets filled with nothing but disappointment and shame, the ’90s were a time for looking back at a team that went from laughingstock to World Series champion twice in less than 25 years. Many of the heroes from those championship teams regularly appeared at random events in nearby towns to sign autographs. Back then, I got the chance to meet familiar players like Howard Johnson and Lee Mazzilli as well as ’69 Mets like Ed Kranepool, Tommie Agee, Jerry Grote, and Cleon Jones. It was a great time to be a Mets fan, or it would have been if I had actually known who any of those guys were at the time. Like I said, I was a terrible Mets fan.
When the Mets started winning again, I started paying attention, finally watching Mets games when they made the postseason in 1999 and a young player by the name of Melvin Mora came through in high pressure situations against a fearsome Atlanta Braves team. When Mora was shipped to Baltimore for a disappointing Mike Bordick rental a few months later, it was like the early ’90s were clawing their way back into the picture. Within two years, the transformation was complete and I was no longer watching.
We all know what happened in 2006, 2007, and, 2008. This time though, I held my ground. It was easier than ever to follow the team through commercial sports web sites and fan blogs, so I kept at it through the collapses and the misery that followed. I even got a Mets hat, my first in 20 years. That hat traveled with me around the world, through good times and bad. I wasn’t going to let this slip away again.
By this point, I had a lot of catching up to do. So many washed-up stars and terrible players made their way through the Mets over the previous two decades and I set about collecting autograph and game-used baseball cards of all of them. How did I never notice that Orel Hershiser had been on the Mets? Who the heck was this Yusmeiro Petit guy? The depth of my ignorance was without end. Finally though, I had caught up on everything I had missed by 2011, largely with the help of blogs like Amazin’ Avenue and Mets Today. Now I was ready to set my grand plan in motion. A Mets-themed Twitter account to keep up on all of the news, a new blog to begin the process of documenting the history of Mets in game-used and autograph cards – I was finally building and contributing to the fan community.
One thing was missing though – actual baseball games. Citi Field was out of range for me and Fenway wasn’t hosting the Mets this year, but I could probably make do with some minor league games, no matter who was playing. They’ve had a team up in Manchester for a few years, let’s see who they play… The Binghamton Mets??? All this time, the Mets’ AA team has been playing away games right up in Manchester! How did I not know this? OK, no need to beat yourself up too much, just get some tickets when they go on sale and we can start making up for years of neglect. How about the Lowell Spinners, they play in the same league as the Hudson Valley Renegades, right? It would be nice to see the Renegades again, so… The Brooklyn Cyclones are in the same league??? When did THAT happen? What’s next, the Buffalo Bisons playing nearby? No, only as close as Rhode Island, too far for me. Well, except for when they play at Fenway in August. Hey, I caught that one as it was announced! I just might be digging myself out from being the World’s Worst Mets Fan after all.