On September 3, 2001, a sea of children lay in the navy-carpeted den of my house to watch baseball at my father’s 40th birthday party. A baseball game flickered on the TV, and in the lower right corner of the screen was a red and blue scoreboard bubble. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies played a wild game at Veterans’ Stadium. As I, a five-year-old boy with a mess of curly blond hair, sat in the back of the boy’s clog, I wondered which team I should support. After a long debate with myself, I decided I should support the team that is winning (duh). But when the ninth inning turned and the Phils held onto a 7-5 lead, something magical happened. The Mets scored five runs in one frame, stunned the Phillie fans in the room and won the game 10-7.
That was my first experience with the Mets. For my five-year-old self, it was as thrilling as a roller coaster ride. That day I was introduced to my favorite baseball team. Little did I know this was just the beginning of the wild ride that is Mets fandom. From 2001 to 2006, the daily routine at home in Blue Bell, PA always involved checking the sports section of The New York Times, searching baseball scores for a Mets win. It was just a regular part of my day and didn’t seem like anything big, but right after my 10th birthday things started to change.
In May 2006 I was diagnosed with Chron’s disease. I spent seven miserable days in the hospital, with only PlayStation games and Sportscenter to keep me sane. On Day 5 or 6, I was watching baseball highlights when it came up: a clip of Carlos Beltran thrashing a 16th inning walk off home run on the night of New York against the Phillies. All the tummy aches and blood draws from the past week faded, if only for a moment, as I watched Beltran drive that ball into the air. At that point, the Metsies made me happy, and their dominance and division championships in 2006 made me more excited than I had ever been in my life.
Exercise tends to do that for me. They drive my brain like a truck in splashes of excitement and mountains of pain. About 5 months after my first hospital stay, the first mountain of pain came from my sports world. The Mets had reached the National League Championship Series and in Game 7, Carlos Beltran stepped back into the same batter’s box where he hit that homerun by May with a chance to send the Metsies to the World Series.
But the magic didn’t happen then. And history refused to repeat itself, as Beltran watched Strike 3 dive through himending the Mets championship odds.
It was a ball. It had to be a ball. Even if it was a strike, how did Carlos not wave at it? It’s impossible that that just happened.
Tears streamed down my cheeks and angry curses flew from my mouth. I could not believe it. I was devastated, and I didn’t even know it was going to get much worse.
In 2007, the Mets lost a seven-game lead over the Phillies in the final two weeks of the season. Living in suburban Philadelphia, school the next day was hell. Every two years, my Jewish high school celebrated Sukkot by going to Hershey Park. This year every student had to wear red, and every kid with a Phillies shirt came up to me and smiled a little. After that, even roller coasters and chocolate couldn’t cheer me up and knock over that mountain of pain.
Starting the following year, the Mets drove me crazy. After collapsing again in ’08, the Mets had to consistently lose seasons over the next decade. It actually makes sense. Going through high school and parts of high school was tough, and that with my bumpy chronic illness didn’t help.
But somehow 2015 looks very different.
The Mets are in first place in NL East and they are finally fun again! While I was at camp this summer, the Mets finally decided to make some big baseball moves, just as they called out touted prospects in 2015 and traded for Yoenis Cespedes, a monster hitter.
I think it actually makes sense that this is the year. After a challenging first year academically and socially, the second year has been wonderful and I love being a sophomore at Muhlenberg College. After a lonely single last year, I now have a great roommate. I take classes that I really like and I think I may have discovered what my major is. My Chron’s disease is under control, I have a great group of friends. and for once I have a good idea where I’m going.
It was fun, and when the baseball season is over, I might be a little less happy with just watching basketball.
But hopefully I’ll still win, just like the Mets.