Out of Left Field: The Poor Man’s New Yorker

Every March, August and October, I am invigorated with optimism. Why, you ask? Because it’s the time of year when my Mets, Jets and Islanders are about to kick off their respective seasons. And let me point out that this is not your average Red Sox fan’s delusional dream that “This is the gonna be the year!” No no no. On paper, year after year, I should have good reason to believe that there will be ticker-tape parades through the streets of New York that aren’t for the Yankees. Of course, all I’m really doing is setting myself up for more disappointment and frustration.

I like to call myself a Poor Man’s New York Fan. No Yankees, Giants or Rangers. Not the teams that don the blue, white and red. I’m talking the blue and orange and the gang green. These are the forgotten teams of the Big Apple and they’re my teams.

It’s fun, it’s entertaining and it’s exciting, but man, is it tough. It’s tougher than finding a square inch at the Slippery B that isn’t caked with mud. It’s tougher than trying to run your hands through Jaypo’s hair after a gelling session. Hell, it’s even tougher than trying to get Sica out of bed on a Sunday morning, or any morning for that matter. Just look at what we have to deal with:

You know you’re in trouble when the name of your team is not a real word, even if Mets is short for Metropolitans. And nothing can compare to Yankee Stadium, but aside from the Vet (which is being torn down, hint hint), there is no outdoor park that is worse than Shea. The orange seats are downright embarrassing, the planes flying overhead are constant and annoying and the food is less edible than the dinner Indiana Jones had in “The Temple of Doom.” Just about the only thing saving Shea is the apple that goes up every time a Met hits a dinger. Unfortunately, the apple gets to show its face about once a month.

But aside from petty details like their name, their stadium and the stupid black uniforms, the thing that sucks most about being a Mets fan is that no matter who plays for them, they won’t be as good as they were before. If Babe Ruth had been a Met, he would have been merely a fat baseball player who drank too much beer and ate too many hot dogs. Great players instantly become underachievers. Remember Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen? Why does it seem as if Roberto Alomar, who was on pace to become possibly the greatest second baseman ever, has forgotten how to hit? Mike Piazza kept up his All-Star caliber of play for a handful of years, but last year he hit 50 points below his career average and currently is batting south of the Mendoza line with 0 RBI’s. They are the definition of underachievers, and it just makes you scratch your head.

On to the J-E-T-S, who may be the most entertaining team in the NFL. Of course, no other team leaves its fans with more agony and despair. The thing about the Jets is that they make every game close, but usually do something so disastrous to lose it that the absurdity of the error leaves people laughing.

Here are some of my personal favorites from the past few years: The Dan Marino fake-spike play; Vinny throwing a dump pass over the middle to Martin with 13 seconds left and no timeouts as they lose to the Bills; John Hall missing a 35-yard field goal as they lose to the Lions; Bill Parcells calls for a halfback pass on the goal line in the waning moments as the Jets try to get into the playoffs by winning at Detroit – it was intercepted; Bubby Brister throwing a pick on a shovel pass as the Jets lose to the expansion Panthers; Wayne Chrebet fumbling as he tries to hurdle the entire Bears team on a last-minute drive.

I have more faith in the Jets than I do in the Mets, though. They have a great coach that gets the most out of his players in Herm Edwards. They have a smart, accurate and young quarterback in Chad Pennington. They have the ballsiest running back in the NFL in Curtis Martin. But at the same time, the history gods are telling me that the Jets will find some way to blow it every year. And you know what, they’re probably right.

Being an Islanders fan is a bit different because you aren’t strapped with the same expectations. Save the last two seasons, you knew that they were going to be putrid. Die-hard fans couldn’t name half the team. For a short time they didn’t even have a local TV contract. But given the way hockey is set up, where it seems like every team makes the playoffs, there was always a small glimmer of hope that they might squeak in. Now, we know they’ll make the playoffs, but we’re equally as confident that they won’t win a series. What a tease.

But I still love my teams, and wouldn’t for a second think of rooting for those other guys. Sure, I don’t mind seeing the Yanks or Giants do well, but never will I swear my allegiance. The Yankees make things look too easy. The Giants are boring, even when they won their two Super Bowls. The Rangers have always been a bunch of thugs, and I’m still pissed that the “1940!” chant is now irrelevant. I see it as good vs. evil. My teams are the good guys, the underdogs and the ones you almost feel sorry for. They can be in first place and still struggle to steal the headlines in the Post or the Daily News.

Sports is entertainment, and that’s what the Mets, Jets and Islanders provide me. No matter how good they’re supposed to be, I know that they’ll all eventually blow it somehow, and that’s okay. I’ve grown to accept the losing and choking to the extent that I expect it. Believe me, it makes the inevitable outcome all the more comical. So while the Isles battle the Senators, the Mets continue to lose with capable players and the Jets prepare to fall just short yet again, I still hold out hope. Somehow, I tell myself, they’re gonna pull it out.

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