We’re Fans, That’s Why

mr.metI am a Mets fan, in the full sense of the word: I am a fanatic. I like to rail against fanaticism in the real world, but I give myself a pass for baseball. It’s ridiculous, basically. It’s a game and it doesn’t matter. So why does a killer ending to a Mets season cut a fan off at the emotional knees?

Because we’re fanatics, that’s why.

I’ve been a Mets fan since I was ten years old – I’m 49 now – so this is the longest relationship I’ve had  in my life. It’s been mostly a rocky marriage. I could list out all the excruciating New York Mets failures, but why waste good bandwidth. Here’s a Google search with 1,560,000 results. Have it.

Usually the Mets are bad from start to finish, and for a momentary madness here on the day after Game 5 of the World Series, I almost prefer it that way. The creeping certainty that your season’s over around May 15 might be easier to bite down on than a sudden-death, kick-to-the-gut, season-killer in November. Still, it has become an annual ritual, just as the leaves start to fall, to look at the sky and ask an irrational universe why, oh why was I born a Mets fan?

My sister – a Yankees fan – once asked me to describe the feeling you get when your team’s season ends with disappointment. This was back when her team never ended that way. And as all Mets fans know, it’s like having your heart broken. The baseball season runs day after day for months; you live and die with these guys every night. You can’t help but get to know the personality of the team in what can only be described as an intimate way. When your team wins it all, they come back every anniversary. When your team loses, they go away. You never see them again.

I guess that’s what stings the most about this year. I fell in love with this team. So did a lot of people. Where did all those Mets fans come from, and where’ve they been hiding all this time? My father, who hasn’t watched a baseball game since Bobby Thompson, was leaving me voice mails about “that awesome Murphy!” I was proud. My team dominated the NLCS. In four games!

Now I feel a little responsible. These people didn’t know better. Back in July, when they started to catch on, I should have tried to shake some sense into them, “What are you thinking! You have no idea what you’re in for!”

Of course, this could have been so much worse. Think about 2008. A last-day collapse on the last game at Shea. My grandfather took me to Shea Stadium; thirty years later I took my own daughter there. When the car rounded that bend near Willets Point and the blue mass of Shea rose into view, I watched her seven-year-old eyes open in amazement, just like mine on my first trip in ’77, when I asked my grandfather what all that green outside the field was for, and he told me all that green WAS the field. Citi Field is awesome, and it was rockin’ like mad this year, and I’ve got no complaints. But I’ll always miss Shea.

I’ll miss the 2015 Mets too. That had such a nice ring to it. Never has a Mets season held so many twists and turns as this one. We were supposed to win it. This feels like some kind of alternative universe; in the real one, Duda’s throw was true to the plate; Terry Collins sent out Familia to lock it down, Murph hit a homerun in every game of the series. But alas, nothing’s promised. Baseball doesn’t run on a script. Anything can happen. And it usually does.

I woke up this morning and I said that’s it, I’m done. I’ve got better things to do with my life. Who needs a stupid game to make me miserable. I should get out more, read more, spend time with my kids more. Turn off the TV more. Baseball. It’s ridiculous.

But I know what’s going to happen. In a few days I’ll realize that holding emotional water for a baseball team is pretty dumb. And there are all these free agents and trades we could make. So I’ll start reading MetsMerized again, and refreshing Twitter like a crazy person during the winter meetings again, and pretty soon it’s February and I’m counting the calendar to Opening Day.

Let’s face it, 29 teams let their fans down every year. Imagine being a Cubs fan right now. Yes, our team made embarrassing errors. Yes, a few inches here or there, we’d have won most of these games, heading back to KC with a chance. There’d be a baseball game to watch for a few more nights. The 2015 Mets would last forever.

But still – we won the NLCS. We’re the champs of the LEAGUE. We’ve got the best starting pitching staff in memory. KC came back from heartbreak last year to finish the job. The Mets can do the same in ’16.

So it stings today. It hurts like hell today. It’ll pass. It always does. We’re fans. It makes no sense, but we keep coming back. And for the first time in a long, long time, I can honestly say, I can’t wait ‘till next year.

(Deep bow and tip of the hat to MetsMerized for posting this one….)

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Funny Customer Service Chat Session

My friend Anne shared this actual customer service chat from her cable company, and it was so unintentionally, authentically funny, it still cracks me up and I’ve read it five times. Try pulling up first your account in my end. And you’re most welcmoe.

Susan > Hello ANNE_, Thank you for contacting Live Chat Support. My name is Susan. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Susan > Thank you for patiently waiting on the queue.Please be assured I will do my best to help you with your concern.
ANNE_ > My Issue: I cancelled TV service but my current bill does not show this change.
Susan > Hi there Anne!
Susan > I hope you are doing fine today.
Susan > I have read your chat reason and I understand that you have a concern about your charges that has not being change after you have made some changes with your current serice.
Susan > Oh, I can compeletely understand where you are coming from
Susan > No worries! I will definitely check this to your account.
Susan > Thanks for bringing your concern with us.
Susan > To further assist you with this, I may need to pull up first your account here in my end.
Susan > I see here that you have logged into your account so there is no need for us to verify security thank you for doing that.
Susan > Please allow me one moment to pull up your account here in my end.
Susan > Thank you for waiting.
Susan > I have now your account fully pulled up here in my end.
ANNE_ > ok thank you
Susan > You are most welcmoe Anne.
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The Moment the Mets Woke Up

If “The ‘15 Mets” takes on that special status we give to those magic teams, like “86” or “69”, I think you can point to a very specific, mostly overlooked moment from an excruciating July game that transformed our frustrating, dead-end year into one of the most exciting regular seasons we’ve had since….well, since a long time.

I’m not talking about Wilmer’s Tears or Cespedes for the Rest of Us or all the other soon-to-be (hopefully) legendary moments from this (hopefully) legendary year.

Let me take you back to that brutal, toss-your-shoe-at the-TV game against the Cardinals. July 19. Eighteen innings. Remember that? Six hours of agony. Our crappy team was 1-26 with RISP that day, and I was about ready to shoot myself.

It was the top of the 13th. The Mets offense was offensive. As it had been for weeks. Yes, there was that winning streak in April, when we had first place by a mile, before we gave it all back by June. Now it was July, and the Mets were on their way to another “Just Wait ‘Till the Year After Next Year” year.

And then, something happened that changed them in a deep and profound way. Curtis Granderson hit a single, an actual hit in extra innings. That was miracle enough, but as he rounded first, he decided to try for an extra base.  I really believe it was his way of saying “enough of this bullshit.” I swear, you could see the idea light up his face as he decided to do it. That’s how I remember it, anyway. Here’s the actual moment:

That’s right, a Hustle Double. I sat right up, and I said, “Whoah! Who are these guys?”

And then Kevin Plawecki did this:

Ok, they also left a bunch of runners on in that inning. And yeah. the Cardinals would go on to tie the game, and it took a few more innings for the Mets to score again and win the damn thing. And they didn’t catch fire right away. That win against the Cardinals just showed they had some pent-up fire in them after all. It took the trades, and the tears, for things to spark.

But I think you can point to Granderson’s Dash as the moment this team woke up. When they became The 2015 Mets, the one we’ve all fallen in love with, the team we’re about to ride into October, and maybe even November. That moment stands out for me as the turning point to all of it.

And the rest, we can hope, is history.

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Read this Gem of a Story: When I’m Gone

Sometimes a story sticks in your throat and hangs around your heart. Do yourself a favor, take nine minutes of your life to read this one, it’ll stick around nicely for  a while.

View story at Medium.com

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Reading at Farley’s Bookshop, May 7 2015

I’ll be coming out of retirement to read with Nancy Scott at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope PA on Thursday, May 7 2015.

The reading starts at 7 PM. Farley’s is located at 44 South Main Street, New Hope, 18938. Phone: 215-862-2452. 


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Alan Greenspan, Free Marketers, and Fanatics

So there was Alan Greenspan on The Daily Show, promoting his new book, “The Map and the Territory.” I hadn’t thought about Alan Greenspan for a long time, not since he came out with that shocker a few years ago in the NY Times (“Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation“) where he admitted, right after the crash:

“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

Now, I’m not an economist. But I’ve lived enough to know that, where money’s involved, “lending institutions” are not always guided by enlightened self interest and protecting shareholder value. So it sounded – at the time – that the guy most closely associated with the Chicago School of Economics was having a religious conversion. If you don’t know the Chicago School, Wikipedia sums it up as a theory whereby “regulation and other government intervention is always inefficient compared to a free market.” So there you have it, the foundation for Movement Conservatives, Libertarians, the Tea Party, and others who find joy in scapegoating “big government,” deregulating the economy and undoing the better parts of the twentieth century.

It’s also what you’d expect to hear from someone who’d grown up with the Objectivists, and Greenspan was one of Ayn Rand’s very own personal favorites. Objectivists are back in vogue these days, because they believe that only the free market, when allowed to prosper in pure, unregulated capitalism, delivers the ideal form of human society. That’s because when individuals are free to act according to their own self interest (the theory goes), you have a society of right-thinking, right-acting folks. According to the Objectivists, such freedom can only be realized under complete separation of state and economics, similar to the separation of church and state.

In other words: Regulations, bad, and you can see why Mr. Greenspan was so puzzled to find out that banks – surprise – sometimes act irrationally. (How a man who ideologically rejects regulation was allowed to run the Federal Reserve – the most powerful economic regulatory organization in the world – is a head-scratcher.)

You should check out the Objectivists some time. They make a lot of sense when you read them, especially when you’re 18 or 20 and have yet to live in the world – and by “live” I mean work, struggle, earn, experience, and interact with people beyond your own family. That’s when you realize that few things ever neatly line up in your day-to-day existence the way they appear to line up when you’re reading about them in books.

What Objectivists fail to recognize – just like libertarians or Communists, for that matter – is that no single ideology will satisfy every problem, every time. If you ever find a political group that takes that approach, then my advice to you is to run, for you will have found yourself among zealots.

Sure, humans are often motivated by self interest. And just as often they are motivated by compassion and empathy and selflessness, and sometimes they make no logical sense whatsoever. You can’t build an entire social order around one or another, since all are true. We humans are flexitarians at heart. It’s that flexibility that’s gotten us – skinny, fur-less and loping along – all the way to the top of the food chain. I wish more people would remember this, instead of battening down their thinking hatches and sticking to a fanatical view of the world, where everything would be perfect if only we’d follow one particular approach to the exclusion of anything that smells like “the other side.”

What we need are fewer zealots running the instruments of power. We need people with open minds and intellectual curiosity, with flexibility to apply a variety of approaches to solve a dilemma, rather than handcuffed to a single view. Like trying to manage the US economy by eliminating regulations as part of an unquestioned trust in free market-based solutions, every single time. It’s bound to fail, and it seems to, every ten years or so (don’t these people read history books?) These bubbles and crashes aren’t caused by “greed” on Wall Street (as if that’s something new) but by an absence of appropriate rules and boundaries to keep things in good working order. Regulations, by any other name.

I was a fanatic myself, two different times: Once of the Right (God Bless Ronald Reagan) and once of the left.  But as I’ve gotten older and – maybe wiser – I don’t know what my personal political bucket should be labeled anymore.  When you tie yourself down to a unbending viewpoint, you spend your energy rejecting any idea that doesn’t neatly fit with your preconception. And you’ll miss an awful lot of good ideas as a result.

Cornell West once said, “When your prejudices and preconditions no longer sustain you, you’ve been educated.” Imagine a society filled with open-minded, contemplative citizens? That’s a world I could be happy living in. And just maybe that’s our hopeful destiny.

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Reading at the Princeton Library

I’ll be reading along with poet Dan Maguire on Monday, August 12 2013 in the Princeton Library, Fireplace 2nd Floor.

More information at http://www.princetonlibrary.org/events/2013/08/poets-library.

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Reading at the Bucks County Bards – Newtown, PA

I’ll be coming out of hibernation to read at the Newtown PA library as part of the Bucks County Bards series on Feb 15, 2013. More details: http://www.newtownlibrary.com/Events.html.

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Reading at the Hamilton Library – April 23

I’ll be reading along with poets Nancy Scott, Ray Brown, and Peter Dabbene at the First Annual Hamilton Library PoetryPalooza. In celebration of National Poetry Month. Open mic follows. More details: http://www.hamiltonnjpl.org/

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Reading at Farley’s Bookstore, New Hope June 2, 2011

I’ll be reading for the “First Thursday Poetry Series” on June 2, 2011 at Farley’s Bookstore, 44 S. Main Street, New Hope, PA, at 8 p.m. with one of my favorite poets, Nancy Scott. Call (215) 862-2452 for info.

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