I’ve been a Mets fan since birth, or so the story goes.
When I was five, and the Mets won the World Series, my dad ran around the house in boisterous celebration, which woke up everyone but me. Years after that, I always knew he kept the Cabbage Patch Mets doll that had been signed by the 1987 Mets stored away safely in his closet. The little league games, hours spent watching baseball on TV, searching the radio dial for AM signals to hear the broadcast in the car, and eventually the pilgrimage to Shea Stadium infused Mets baseball into my blood.
As the 2016 season came to an end and the Mets inexplicably secured home-field advantage in the NL wild-card game, I would show my boys game highlights on my phone over dinner. When they lost in the ninth inning to a stellar Madison Bumgardner and a Connor Gillaspie home run, it reminded me of one of my favorite T-shirts from Mets fan club, The 7 Line, which simply reads “This team makes me drink”.
At five and two, my kids are too young to appreciate that sentiment, but there are still things they can learn from my love of the Mets – a love I hope to infect them with as well.
First off, our attachments are arbitrary, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. I never picked the Mets. But at the same time, I didn’t pick my parents, or my siblings or my cousins. I didn’t pick my hometown. I didn’t pick the schools I went to as a kid. I didn’t pick the name I have and I didn’t pick the church I grew up in. Despite my lack of choice in all of these formational experiences, they all carry a nostalgic warmth and some of them are still important to me today.
As they watch the Mets with me, my boys can learn that their emotional attachments don’t have to make sense to be worthwhile. I have gained so much joy out of watching a group of nine guys I’ve never met standing on grass I’ve never stepped on play a game I last played when I was eight. More and more, following the Mets is a simple joy worth keeping hold of as the complexities of adult life fill in around it. Losses included.
The second thing my boys can learn from following the Mets is how to handle loss. No doubt, some of you thought this should have been the first point. Despite being in a big market, the Mets are by no means a blockbuster franchise with an array of trophies or international recognition, like their Bronx neighbors. This was only the second time the team has made baseball’s post-season playoffs two years in a row.
There is much class to be learned from the likes of Mets manager Terry Collins and others in the organization by how they responded to the loss. Here is Terry Collins on how the loss, his players and the end of the season:
“They’re down, which they should be. It’s human nature. They’re baseball players, they’re here to win, they wanted to win. They’re down, but they shouldn’t be because there’s only a few teams that could’ve come back under the circumstances that we came back on. I’m real proud of them.”
One of the greatest lessons I hope to give my kids is the idea of resilience for its own sake. I want them to follow their path even when it’s tough, and when they do get knocked down, to pick themselves up, with pride in their efforts, to try again.
The third idea they can learn from following the Mets is the camaraderie that comes from a shared passion. I live more than 8,000 miles from Citi Field, where the game was held, but as I watched it over my morning coffee, baseball connected me with friends and family back in the US. I received good luck messages from Dodger fans wishing the Giants a swift demise. My family WhatsApp group started buzzing with game commentary.
Something as arbitrary as baseball, and it doesn’t have to be a sport of any kind, can bring people together and remind them of shared ties. Whatever my sons choose to be passionate about, I hope they learn to share that joy with those that are close to them as well as those they happen to meet. These simple, common, even if arbitrary, joys are the fibers that bind people together.