Column: When that flicker of hope fades out

05/19/2011 12:22 AM |

Something has died inside me. Not only that, I’m pretty sure it’s flushed through my system; I don’t have to worry about what will happen if doctors are forced to remove it.

No, it’s not really anything medical. Nor is it my passion for Riverhead, my home away from home. I’m still rooting hard for this charming, crazy town and its people. What has died in me was blue, orange and white — and sometimes black or gray — all over.

Yep, I’m no longer a Mets fan.

Not that I’m a Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers fan. I’m just not a baseball fan. I haven’t watched a full game — save for a Mets game I attended this year on a cold, wet April night — since the 2009 season, during which the Mets amassed 70 wins and 92 losses. And, believe it or not, 2009 was probably the most bearable of my last three seasons of Mets fandom, which started spectacularly in 1986.

The Mets blew the two long seasons before 2009 in historic fashion. Here’s an abridged history: These squads — made up of what would come to be the most unbearable group of underachievers ever assembled — missed the playoffs twice by losing the last game of each of these two seasons. And both years, the Mets had the third-highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

It got tougher to watch 2 1/2-hour Mets games after those disasters without feeling deep within that I was very much wasting my time. Yet from 1989 to 2009, nary a game went by that I didn’t watch or listen to — or at the very least check a boxscore. And if the Mets couldn’t compete, I cheered for individual statistics. In the mid-1990s, I probably rooted harder for Mets catcher Todd Hundley to beat then-Dodgers great Mike Piazza in certain statistical categories than some fans do for their actual teams. Mets fans learn to do that crap early on.

But I’m no longer one of them. I can’t lose myself in baseball. I think I’m too self-conscious about the whole process, the secretive and bizarre injuries, the team’s inability to mount comebacks, the creative ways the Mets would find to blow important leads, the Yankees and Phillies championships, the owners’ implications in the Madoff scandal, the $24 parking fee at Flushing Meadows Park, the name of a bailed-out bank that’s written all over the stadium. This is the same bank that overnight changed its overdraft line of credit policy on me, essentially stealing $70 from me and my wife and getting away with it.

At family parties and elsewhere, when the Mets are brought up, I can’t even respond. Sometimes I pretend to know who’s who, but I don’t. Or I’ll crack a joke and hope to shift topics. If the Mets or baseball talk gets really involved, I go sit with the ladies. (I’m not being sexist here, readers, the women in my family do not watch baseball.) Then, suddenly, my cousin will come out of the house, telling everyone excitedly that the Mets just “pulled it off.” You really still watch the Mets? Sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom people not feeling exactly as I do.

But I’m not bitter. I don’t even think about baseball anymore other than the few times I’ve thought about writing this column and publicly disavowing it all. I guess that’s what they call losing faith.

I always thought that one day I would experience a joy greater than any Yankees fan could ever know. I felt that somewhere out in the ether was a World Championship trophy bigger and brighter than all 27 the Yankees have won combined. All I needed to do was hang on for the ride to it, no matter how stressful or frustrating.

I guess there’s only so much one person could take.

Michael White is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 298-3200, ext. 152

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