A Mets fan walks into a Manhattan sports bar.
He sees eight TVs. Three are showing the Yankees game. One is showing an NHL pre-game show. One is showing women's soccer. One is showing boxing. One is infomercials. And one is showing the bar specials. The Mets fan asks to have the Mets game put on a TV and the bartender happily obliges. But when the Bulls/Heat game begins later, the Mets game is switched off entirely. The Mets fan asks if we can get that game back on, and the bartender replies, "We kind of want to leave the basketball game on. It is a playoff game."
Despite beginning with someone walking into the bar, this is not a joke, it is a recent experience of mine, on a night in which I went to play bar trivia with some friends, finally getting together for our monthly happy hour that ends up actually happening two to three times a year. I'm fairly obsessed with the Mets, but I let it be. I'm just not the kind of person who is going to raise a ruckus and make someone's job unnecessarily difficult, particularly since I was only going to be glancing at the screen from time to time anyway. But the situation does bring to light the peculiar dynamic of being a Mets fan.
How many other fans are there that have to worry about whether their team's game will be on in a sports bar with eight TVs? Maybe White Sox fans? (Though they can probably content themselves with consistently outperforming the Cubs over the past decade, and that whole World Series championship thing.) But such is the life of a Mets fan, second-class fans in our own city.
In some ways, this is the charm of rooting for the Mets. At one point in life, as Mets fans, we all made a conscious decision to continue rooting for the team in New Yok that is far less likely to win. It's the whole lovable loser thing. On the other hand, much of this charm has worn off over the past decade, and in particular with the hellish ride began with un-clutch Carlos Beltran's Game 7 strikeout and continued right up to Fred Wilpon being a jackass this week.
It's tough to think of your team as lovable losers when it regularly fields teams that cost more than all but a few others (though, perhaps not for long). But, again, such is the weird experience of being a Mets fan. Only by comparison to the Yankees could we truly feel bad for ourselves as a whole. Yes, the Mets were recently mismanaged but a lot of other teams have been too. Yes, the Mets have experienced a ton of bad luck over the past decade or two, but a lot of other teams have too. Yes, the Mets have had a tough ride on the whole since 1989, but fans of the Pirates, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Mariners, Brewers, Cubs and Astros would probably like us to quit our bitching.
But again, this is the peculiar experience of the Mets fan. The Mets are by no means out of contention, the Yankees have not played particularly well this year, and yet it's tough to get the game on in a tiny sports bar that has nearly as many TVs as seats. It doesn't make sense, and leads to the weird dualism in the Mets fan base trapped between the realities of a big market club that will -- eventually, with smart management -- be able to field consistent contenders, and a team that will -- assuming the financial realities of the Yankees and baseball as a whole stay constant -- always be second-class in its own town.
We react to this in weird ways: We're really proud to be Mets fan, but sometimes a little bit embarrassed. I'll admit that sometimes, as I make my way to the 7 train either on foot or via another subway, I sometimes think people are looking at me like I'm a psychopath, decked out in my Mets jersey and hat. I'm likely imagining this, but still.
We think baseball's financial system is unfair, but want the Mets to better take advantage of it (paying over slot in the draft, etc.).
We love that our team isn't the Yankees, but wish our team could win like the Yankees.
I wear the badge of Mets fan proudly, but wish I were guaranteed to see our team in any sports bar, in any part of the New York City area.
Such is the life of a Mets fan, in his or her own city. You have to be a little crazy, a little counter-intuitive to have decided "I'm a Mets fan and I'm sticking with this. Screw the Yankees." That's what makes the fan base so interesting, a group of people who instinctively identify with the underdog, rooting for a team that is only the underdog through its own incompetence.
Anyway, this is mostly unleashed ranting, but I think it also goes a long way toward explaining why we all got so upset about Fred Wilpon's comments, even though we already knew Fred Wilpon was an idiot. We're weird. Our situation is weird. And that's not going to change, new owner or not.