True Blue: Mets check fans into Heartbreak Hotel

Like all Mets fans, I hate the Mets. I hate them because they deserve to win more often than the Yankees, but they don’t. I hate them because they deserve to be more loveable than the Cubs, but they’re not. I hate them because they deserve to have all their games broadcast nationally, like the Braves, but the only time I can watch a game is when they play Atlanta. Being a Mets fan sucks.

And any true lover of the game, by which I mean a Mets fan, knows exactly what I’m talking about. Yankees fans are spoiled, Dodgers fans show up for the middle five innings and Fenway Park is merely a convenient place for Red Sox fans to throw their annual pity party. Red Sox fans love to be felt for.

Red Sox fans are the most content group of people in America. Every year, they know that their team’s World Series aspirations will amount to nothing, that they can whine about the Babe Ruth curse and complain that the Red Sox will never win in their lifetime. And they love it.

Mets fans know who the best team in baseball is. Mets fans know they root for the good guys fighting the evil forces of their intra-city rival. The Mets are David to the Yankees’ Goliath.

Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright must not have read their bibles very carefully, however, because, in the perfect game they invented, Goliath wins every time.

The Mets rip the hearts out of their fans time and time again, and each time we get up and ask for another serving. Mets fans suffer from battered fan syndrome.

We laughed off the terrible seasons of the 1960s. We pretended to be content with a World Series in ’69. We indulged the Joe Torre-led jokes of the late ’70s. We even stayed true after the dynasty of the ’80s self-destructed on cocaine.

We didn’t give up when they lost five straight games to end the ’98 season missing the playoff spot Brant Brown had basically handed to them a week earlier. Even Armando Benitez and Kenny Rogers could not break our resolve when they gave away the ’99 NLCS.

We even sucked it up after losing to the Yankees in the Subway Series last year.

It is as if ingrained in baseball law, right alongside not making the first or last out at third base, is that Mets fans will be left at the end of the season shocked, unable to explain how it happened again.

Every year we expect it to happen, but we still come back because deep down you have to love the Mets. But this year might have been too much.

It looked like an uneventful year for the first five months. And I could deal with that. Alfonzo was hurt, Robin and Todd Zeile were having terrible years and the outfield was terrible. It was nothing an off-season couldn’t fix.

And then they did it again. They started winning – the New York tabloids began preaching hope. Visions of 1973 danced through our heads. And then, in one morning, it all became pointless. 6,500 people were dead in the worst terrorist attack ever. The Twin Tours were now a memory of the past. OUR city had been attacked.

But out of the rumble, the city began to pull together. Jaded New Yorkers were helping each other, comforting each other. And when baseball restarted, the Mets continued winning, but this time they were doing it for New York.

They shed their hats in favor of the hats of the NYPD, the Fire Department, EMS workers and every other agency helping in the aftermath of the attacks. They donated their combined daily pay for one game to the families of the lost rescue workers. In their small, at this point insignificant way, they were proof that anything was possible.

And to some degree they were helping the city recover. When some of them went down to the World Trade Center to see the damage, rescue workers came up to them and thanked them for all of their small gestures. Robin Ventura estimated that 90 percent of the workers were rooting for them.

And then, as suddenly as everything got started, they blew it. First, Armando Benitez blew a 4-1 ninth inning lead to the Braves. Then, a week later, in another must-win game against the Braves, he and Franco managed to blow another ninth inning lead, this time 5-1.Not only did they let down Mets fans, they let down an entire battered city. Only the Mets would do it, only Armando Benitez would do it.

The sights of Jay Payton slowly walking in from the outfield, Rey Ordonez bent over on the infield and John Franco walking off the field holding his head in agony will be stuck with every Mets fan for the rest of our lives.

But when April rolls around, no matter how mad we were in September or October, we’ll still be at Shea – enjoying the ride as long as it lasts.

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