Monday, June 28, 2004

Games 67 through 74 - Mets
Not Quite Back in the New York Groove

Mets 4, Tigers 3
Mets 6, Tigers 1
Mets 7, Reds 4
Reds 6, Mets 4
Reds 6, Mets 2
Mets 9, Yankees 3
Yankees 8, Mets 1
Yankees 11, Mets 6
Record: 36-38

And you're still the same
I caught up with you yesterday

There you stood, everybody watched you play
I just turned and walked away
I had nothing left to say

'Cause you're still the same
You're still the same
Moving game to game
Some things never change
You're still the same

No, I wasn't hanging out with Bob Seger last week, though I was forced into consuming a few Silver Bullets -- an unfortunate When In Rome effect. But Seger's lines do apply here, as I caught up yesterday after a week as far removed from all things New York Mets as I will comfortably go. And it was still the same -- seven days away did nothing to change the hideous pattern. Here's how the Metless week went:

On the road for 2 days without baseball -- Mets complete sweep of the Tigers
Out in Aspen with no ESPN -- Mets beat the Reds
Call in to Rob for an update -- Reds beat the Mets
Catch some highlights -- Reds win again
Attend wedding festivities Fri/Sat, oblivious -- rainout and a win vs. Yankees
Read details, catch up on Mets while flying home -- Mets crushed in Game 1
Watch Game 2 of doubleheader -- Mets peppered again

It's such a tired act by now. That it parallels the hot-and-cold Red Sox performances which follow Mr. Russell's rant-or-rave postings has me wondering, though. Is this just the law of averages applying to baseball results, and we're too stupid to realize it? Do all baseball teams go through these ups and downs, and as fans we're just off? It reminds me of Spring Break in Daytona when 14 of us were going through the cycle of party day/hangover day/party day/hangover day and there was just this one ridiculous friend who would be going wild while we recuperated and lying on the floor while we went out. Is that me with the Mets? Pathetic.

If that's true, though, then all I need to do is fake-left-go-right, right? Now that I'm back and it's time to bemoan dropping a winnable series against Cincy and yet another bungled doubleheader, I should just continue to keep a close eye and it'll all work out? Rob just needs to crush the Sox after they took two of three from the Phillies, and the cosmic, anti-magnet force will adjust, no?

No. We've tried this before, and the evidence is mounting. When I follow the Mets' progress closely, they lose. When I hunker down and tune in for the duration, they lose badly. If I were to go to a game, they might fold the franchise. When Rob applauds the Red Sox, they lose. When he trashes them, they win. And the level of vitriol therein is directly proportional to the level of solid play soon thereafter. It's beyond uncanny. It's odder than The Odd Couple, it's weirder than Weird Science, it's stranger than L'√Čtranger. It's not just bizarre, though, it's painful.

Part of understanding how this continuing phenomenon affects me is understanding my idiotically superstitious nature. If there's any correlation between the amount of attention I give the Mets and how well they perform, this cannot be coincidental. This is real. It's probably a punishment for something I've done, but that's irrelevant. I'm a guy who's afraid to flip around at commercial if my team is playing well, and as an ADD case study, that's saying something. Of course, if they start to falter, I'll flip away, then come back, repeating this measure until they do pick it up. Like many fans, I have lucky jerseys and hats, but past history has taught me that all team paraphernalia has hot and cold streaks just like a sports team, and sometime you have to yank that lucky shirt and go with something else. I've worn absolutely hideous clothing just to shake things up. In college, there was an extended period of time when my Washington Redskins would only play well when my friend Cliff and I would leave the gang watching it on the tube and drive around Williamsburg in his Accord with the game on the radio. The difference wasn't marginal, and it wasn't a vague sense of improvement via karmic alteration. It was palpable, it was plain to see, and it was perfectly obvious. It was real.

I have always been willing to make changes in the way I follow my teams in order to improve their chances. Look, I realize that there was nothing a lucky hat or a special seat at the bar could do to avoid that little stroll through the valley of the shadow of death last season, but there is luck woven into the seams of major league baseball, and acknowledging that there might be something you can do to help is the mark of the fan (short for fanatic). With umpiring calls, bounces, sun location, fan interactions, and the occasional surreal in-game happenings all floating up there in that good luck / bad luck mesosphere, if you can decrypt but one temporary key to good fortune, you have to act upon it. If you say you don't believe in such things, you're just being lazy. Step it up, and perhaps the bad things will start happening to other teams.

I'll flaunt the ugliest piece of crap Mets-wear if I must. I'll watch the game from a 1973 9" RCA if it pushes them over the top. I'll cheer for them exclusively in French, take a lap around the house between innings, or eat a hot dog for every run they score if it seems to be working. Hell, I even donned an A's cap last year to aid Rob's Sox in the playoffs when I realized I was a jinx. (That I refused to wear Yankees garb to help a brother out doesn't diminish the level of friendship, it just magnifies the ill will against a certain crosstown club.)

I'm certainly not unique, though; I saw Rob Russell nearly hospitalize himself when he vowed to take a pair of Bacardi shots for every run the Sox scored in the high-scoring Game 3 of the 1988 ALCS. This self-inflicted torture in the name of the home team is something every true die-hard will levy, and it can pay off twice -- you're helping the team win, which makes you happy, and you'll be able to accept some of the credit for the success, which makes you happier. It also makes you a candidate for some R&R at the Golden Brook Sanitarium, where you can get some prescription happiness to boot.

So what is the point of all of this? I've belabored the point that I'll go to just about any extreme to improve the chances of the Mets winning, but I will not do what this season's empirical evidence leads me to conclude is the necessary measure: I will not abandon my participation in this Mets season in order to see them thrive. I won't give up this column, turn off the tube, and shy away from the boxes on D3. I won't closet the caps, delete the links, and redirect conversations away from the Metropolitans. I don't care if it becomes clear that the Mets are one fan's neglect away from the World Series, I refuse to take myself out of the game. Because deep down in places I don't talk about at parties, I'm not sure I actually believe in any of the cosmic bullshit I just spouted about for four paragraphs. And just in case I'm wrong about all of that, I don't want to have missed even one inning of baseball.

Wow, there's some sound and fury for you. Well, I'll cut it here, keeping me from having to figure out why the Mets can't even salvage a split in doubleheaders. They conceded both games of all four double-dippers they played in 2003, and they kicked off their '04 two-fers with a pair of nut-shots yesterday. Even scarier is how badly they've lost those 10 games -- by a combined 81-31, allowing five or more runs every time. Supposedly the next time the skies are ready to open up on the team, Art Howe is going to grab the PA microphone and lead the crowd in a "No rain!" chant a la Neil Young in Live Rust. It's either that or go 70's retro and build the Shea-dome. Whatever it is, until the Mets come to terms with the fact that doubleheaders aren't optional practices, we'll be keeping our fingers crossed for a drought to follow the Mets' plane route. If this drought has peripheral effects that cause damage to communities around the nation, we'll just chalk it up to Things We'll Endure to Help the Mets, as found in Fandom 101.

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