March 30, 2005

The Anatomy of A Diehard Fan

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It is tough being a loser.

It usually induces weeping. And being dumped multiple times. And sleepless nights. And those times when you do pass out and dream about Michael Jordan dunking on Patrick Ewing over and over again, or Chipper Jones smacking a grand slam to left center, or Eli Manning playing catch with the Philadelphia Eagles secondary.

It pertains to doing something worse than kissing your best friend’s sister. Something worse than selling your soul to the devil.

It involves selling your soul to a normally terrible sports team.

With the baseball season less than a week away, I am talking up the New York Mets like they are better than any Killers song, spring break vacation in Cancun, or “The Kiss” on The OC. It’s any truly devoted fan’s bad habit. Smoking kills your lungs, but a losing baseball team hurts all over.

I’ve talked my Mets up in March ever since I could say the words “hit-and-run,” “suicide squeeze” and “pennant” without drooling all over myself. Ever since I decided when I was three to be a Mets fan over being a Yankees fan because I liked the Amazin’s ocean blue uniforms rather than the Bombers’ evil empire navy. Ever since I thought HoJo (Howard Johnson, for all you Neanderthals out there) was the second coming of Jesus and I wanted to grow a beard just like his when I hit puberty. But I’ve learned since that Chinese men can’t grow facial hair.

And what do I say to everyone else who bears my constant butt-kissing of a team that is coming off a 91-loss season? What do I say to those skeptics who don’t think Jose Reyes is going to steal 80 bases, David Wright will be the next Mike Schmidt, or Carlos Beltran is Barry Bonds without the cream or clear?

What do I say to myself to convince my fragile ego?

“This is our year baby! We are going all the way!”

This type of talk continues well into June, when the Mets are 10 games out of first place in the East and seven out of the wild card slot after a nine game losing streak. Usually finding solace in looking at statistics that my team does relatively well in such as, “number of walks in the second inning” or “team ERA in the week of May 12,” I’m a little bit like one of those adolescent boys calling his crush every week to ask for a date and always being rejected. New York Mets baseball is like that — I keep on coming back for the bitter taste of being hung up on.

By July, your team (like the Mets last year) makes a little run. We win a few games here and there and suddenly, “we’re back in the hunt.”

“Now we’re a little bit closer, we can definitely stir things up.”

Your team makes moves at the trade deadline. The players talk about making it in the playoffs. Your team beats the Yankees. You need diapers because you almost wet your pants. But, you’re a loser in the end. For the foreseeable future, you’re always going to be a loser. Your team falls apart in the coming weeks heading into the fall. You’re hanging on every hit, steal, run, walk, hit batter, Braves’ injury, whatever. Your team sucks. You don’t have Mike Piazza’s cell phone number, but you want to tell him that he sucks too.

I remember meeting Anthony Young once when I was nine years old in 1993. Do you know who Young is? He’s the one who set a National League record that year by losing his first 13 decisions. He’s the one who set the Major League record for consecutive losses in a row with 27. He’s probably the worst Met in Mets history. And that’s pretty bad.

Yet, when I shook Young’s hand, I was shaking. He’s Anthony Young. He’s a New York Met. He’s going to be a winner. He’s got that look in his eye and the firm grip in his handshake to prove it.

For the rest of the day and the next few weeks, I stayed glued to channel 11 as Young lost game after game and the Mets might as well have been a Triple AAA club. I had PMS as a nine year old as the Mets proceeded to lose 103 games that year.

In some respect, you feel worse for today’s perennial losers with teams seemingly having no light in sight. Like those in Detroit who pray at Sunday mass for the Tigers as much as they do for their families. Or those kids in Kansas City who blow out their birthday candles, silently wishing the Royals will have a winning record. Or those beer-bellied fans in Milwaukee who would drink themselves to heaven and back just to have a taste of a World Series. It is from all of us where the quote, “There’s always next year,” comes from.

But you know what? Those fans and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those fans and I would savor every drop of any sort of triumph. Like the time when the Mets made it all the way to the 2000 World Series, where I hoped and prayed on every Mike Hampton pitch or Piazza at-bat. Or any time when we beat down on the Braves. Or even the time when we penned Beltran — our new superstar — over the offseason.

Yankee fans might laugh, but I would rather bleed Mets blue than be some bandwagonner who’d lick Derek Jeter. I would rather stand by guys like Dwight Gooden, John Franco and Lenny Dykstra rather than BALCO-bloated Jason Giambi. I would rather stand by my Mets, even with the memories of Mo Vaughn, Bobby Bonilla, Robby Alomar and 100-loss seasons stuck in my head, than become a fan who doesn’t even truly appreciate winning anymore.

And I would rather be a loser — a diehard Mets fan who lives and dies by the Amazin’s ups and downs and almost always falls for the same, dumb joke every year — more than anything else.

Brian Tsao is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. Life of Brain will appear every other Wednesday this semester.

Archived article by Brian Tsao