Gone now are the old times
Forgotten, time to hold on the railing
The Rubix cube isn’t solving for us
Ya gotta believe, I said to myself as I jumped in my car on Sunday morning, making the spontaneous decision to drive four and a half hours from Ithaca to Queens for Game Three of the National League Wild Card series between the New York Mets and the San Diego Padres. It repeated in my head like a broken record: Ya gotta believe. Ya gotta believe. Ya gotta believe.
It’s a mantra that every Mets fan takes to heart, and its story fit the moment for the Mets at this point in the season: Game Three — an elimination game.
In 1973, the Mets squeezed into the playoffs at just 82-79 — the fewest wins a playoff team has had since the MLB expanded the regular season to 162 games. Notably, pitcher Tug McGraw coined the catchphrase, “Ya gotta believe,” and it became the team’s rally cry as they drove their way to the NL Pennant and the World Series. For the decades that followed, “Ya gotta believe” kept the Mets and their fans alive. Through constant terrible seasons, end-of-season chokes and painful postseason heartbreaks, the only thing we had was belief.
Meanwhile, on my drive, vignettes from the past six months played in my mind like I was already watching the Mets Classics “2022 World Series Season in Review” documentary:
I’m in my room screaming at the radio — WCBS 880 — as Howie Rose calls the Mets second no-hitter in franchise history. Edwin Díaz hits J.T. Realmuto with a 92 mph slider, cut foul. 0-1. Come back to the slider, swing and a miss. 0-2. I hold my breath. One more slider — why not? Swing, miss, ballgame and I jump so high I hit my head on the ceiling. The Mets beat the Phillies 3-0 on April 29.
I’m sitting on the couch with my dad over the summer, like I did every summer night at 7:10 p.m. My dad makes fun of SNY broadcaster Keith Hernandez because he said something stupid. The Mets drop one to the goddamn Marlins, and I listen to my dad tell me how much they stink and how this year is no different from any other year. The Mets lost to the Marlins 5-2 on July 8.
I’m half-drunk, dancing with my friends and all the other fans in section 311 at Citi Field. The trumpets are blaring and it’s Díaz’s music. The whole stadium is jumping like frogs, clapping like seals and singing like canaries. The opposing batters are quaking in the dugout. Why even step to the plate? Everybody in Queens knows what’s about to happen: Díaz jogs out from the bullpen ready to strike out the side and close out Jacob Degrom’s near-perfect start. The trumpets are a death knell. The Mets beat the Braves 5-2 on Aug. 7.
For 162 regular season games, I poured heart and soul into the 2022 New York Mets. I put off sleep for late-night west coast games and I put off work to watch day games. I joined an immensely passionate community of fans and spent hours scrolling through ever-defeatist but ever-hopeful Mets Twitter. Most conversations with my brother were about baseball. Like every other Mets fan, I did my part: I believed.
All season long, I believed. New ownership, new manager, new rotation, new lineup. No more blown leads, no more errors, no more chokejobs, no more heartbreak. For so long, that was the Mets, but this year was different. These Mets were for real. Ya gotta believe! I really did.
Then the calendar turned to October. Believing became more difficult. There was one more vignette from the regular season that wouldn’t escape me, and it happened just a week earlier:
I’m kicking, screaming and cursing in my room, punching pillows and stomping. The steam coming out of my ears fogs up the mirror. My roommate bursts in to ask if I’m okay. “NO!” I fire back. It was a routine inning-ending double play to end the top of the seventh. The Mets lost to the Braves 5-3 on Oct. 2.
That was it. With that game, the Mets had lost the lead of the NL East and were destined for the Wild Card Round, making the path to the World Series incredibly more difficult. The dam of despair had been held for six months and with that loss it finally broke. Rushing through the cracks was nonstop noise about the Mets being doomed in the playoffs. The offense is slumping, the pitching is struggling when it’s most needed, they’ll never have what it takes to finish in October. Same old Mets.
162 games of hope and bona fide belief: all of sudden, crumbling.
Still, I drove to Queens for Game Three of the Wild Card series against the Padres — win or go home. Deep in my heart, even after the division lead slipped away and even after we lost Game One — hell, even after missing the playoffs last year, losing the 2015 World Series and blowing the 2006 NLCS — after decade after decade of the Mets coming so close and losing it all, I believed. At least, I think I did.
The Mets lost that game. The story ends there, just like it always has for the Mets. You get your taste of hope, and then you watch as your heart is torn out of your chest. Believe as much as you want. It won’t get you the pennant.
But wasn’t it beautiful nevertheless?
The ninth innings on the radio, the nights on the couch with my dad, the afternoons dancing with my friends and yes, even the kicking and screaming. Doom-scrolling through Twitter refreshing for Max Scherzer’s injury updates, Brett Baty’s call-up status and any trade rumors at all. Watching the kid at the game wearing a Pete Alonso jersey burst with joy as the Polar Bear hits another home run. Feeling like life-long friends with SNY broadcasters and fans on the street who give me an “LGM” when they see my hat. The romance of a seven-run comeback, the drama of a tenth-inning walk-off home run and the emotion expended on every win and loss. It was glorious, no matter what. No one can take those moments away.
One day, the Rubix cube will solve. The Mets will win the World Series, and a ticker tape parade will drape Broadway’s Canyon of Heroes in orange and blue. We’ll party like it’ll never happen again, ‘cause it just might not. Until then, the only thing to do is believe.
Daniel Bernstein is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Feel the Bern runs alternate Thursdays this semester.