SPidge Tales

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Hate Baseball...No, I Love It...No, Really Hate It

“You’re killing me Smalls!”—Ham Porter, The Sandlot

Would you rather a girl lead you on, enflame your deepest passions, then rip out your heart, lacerate every last flow of passion, and drop it, broken, into the dustbin of your soul? Or would you rather she give a firm “no” to the first date request, saving you that later pain and anguish? This is what it feels like today to be a Mets fan (or a Red Sox fan. Their perennially broken hearts are facing another George Steinbrenner induced laceration). The Mets have stood in first place virtually the whole season. Their virtually (sportswriters overuse adjectives, and right now I’m too lazy to think of another one) indestructible lead of 7 ½ games over the Phillies just a couple weekends ago shrunk to 1 ½ before climbing to a barely breathable 2 ½ yesterday. If the Mets are gonna blow this thing anyway, I kind of wish they had just started sucking in April, so I wouldn’t have spent six months getting my hopes up. The last time they won the World Series, I was still wetting my pants; I don’t enjoy wetting my pants watching nervously as this year’s team seduces me.

October 19, 2006 will forever stand as the day I popped my baseball fan cherry. Considering I started watching the Mets in 1991, this is a long time. But 2006 marked the first time since 1988 the Mets had a real chance of winning a World Series. True, they went to the playoffs in 1999, valiantly battling back from a 3-0 deficit (with Robin Ventura’s Grand Slam single) to extend the NLCS to 6 games before falling to the hated Braves. And, in 2000, they advanced to the World Series before losing to the Yankees. But those teams had Mike Piazza and smoke and mirrors. The outfield consisted of Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton, and Timo Perez. That’s right: who? They did better than they should have because of a great manager, Bobby Valentine.

The 2006 Mets were loaded. Star centerfielder Carlos Beltran, star up-and-comers Jose Reyes and David Wright. Great veteran pitchers like Pedro, Glavine, and El Duque. They finished with far and away the best record in the National League (and by far and away, I mean Far and Away, like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman leaving 19th century Ireland, sailing to America, and heading to the Western frontier). But Pedro and El Duque got hurt just in time for the playoffs, leaving a staff of Glavine and a bunch of unprovens. They still easily beat the Dodgers in the first round and took the NLCS against the Cardinals to a Game 7, winner-take-all for the right to play in the World Series.


Western civilization is largely the history of Christian culture, and the overarching theme in Christianity is that of the Fall followed by redemption, death redeemed through the Resurrection. All great literature is imbued with this theme. Every English student studies the basic plot elements in a story. The dramatic action opens with the exposition, and then gets things going with a crisis, which crescendos into the climax. The story goes through the falling action, before ending with the conclusion or resolution. It is much more than coincidence that Western literature follows the template of our Salvation story: God creates the world and mankind (exposition), man messes up the perfect creation and brings death into the world through sin (crisis), God becomes Man to redeem a fallen world (climax/turning point), He is crucified and dies (falling action), but through the Ressurrection conquers death and redeems mankind (conclusion/resolution). Some would say Christianity is a man-made myth that follows common dramatic themes. Rather, the reverse is true. Christianity is the truest story possible; all other literature, fiction and non-fiction, cannot help but follow this template. This truest of stories fills our search for meaning in real life events, personal, political, and—yes—sporting.

As a Mets fan, I sat distraught, witnessing the perfect creation (the 2006 regular season) fall victim to injuries before the playoffs began. The first five tension packed innings of Game 7 produced a 1-1 tie. But, in the sixth, the Cardinals’ Scott Rolen laid into the Mets’ Oliver Perez’s fastball, sending it towards the left field bleachers, bringing an almost certain death to the Mets season. But out of death comes life, and Mets leftfielder Endy Chavez redeemed the season and saved the Mets chances of advancing to the World Series with the Greatest Catch Of All Time (see it here on MLB.com: http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/mlb/ps/y2006/archive.jsp?mode=lcs&series=lcs_b&type=video then click on “Endy’s amazing catch” under Oct. 19, 2006). I had absolutely no doubt the Mets were gonna win that game. That catch revitalized the Mets and demoralized the Cardinals. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Cardinals won the game on a homer in the 9th. My sunny optimism disappeared. This was like a kid finding out the truth about Santa. My baseball innocence died. As a fan, I popped my baseball cherry.

What do you call it when a death redeemed by Resurrection is followed by a second death? A tragedy? A farce? It’s like the boy who finally gets the pretty girl after years of rejection only she breaks his heart. Why did get his hopes up for nothing? That boy will be wary every time a new girl comes along. As a Mets fan, I went into the 2007 season still stunned by that loss, but guardedly optimistic. Every key player returned. The season played out according to form, with the Mets not playing great, but playing good enough to stay in first place. Until now. There are seven games left in the regular season. The Phillies have six to play. Any combination of Mets wins and Phillies losses adding up to five will ensure another division title. But I cannot remain confident. I feel like Ham Porter yelling at Smalls. “You’re killing me, Mets!” Like pursuing a pretty girl, being a baseball fan is too much pressure. You always expect disappointment, but its just too much fun to stay away.


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