The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Who's Your Team?

Josh over at the mighty TPM has offered up a conundrum: how do you choose a baseball team? As he acknowledges, it's an unusual problem, because fandom is - as someone once said of Ruth - an heirloom handed down from generation to generation. One of the reasons baseball - and to a lesser extent, other sports - works through history as it does is that kids grow up hearing about the exploits of their team's past heroes. The novelty "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" by Les Brown has a transcendent line: "Our kids will tell their kids his name;" when I sing that line to my two year old girl (she likes Take Me Out to the Ballgame, on the same CD), I get choked up. Because, indeed, 65 years later, I'm doing it.

But Josh has a legitimate point: in our peripatetic nation, we can lose the threads of team loyalty. My sister is still a bit offended that the Pirates are my team; we both grew up Mets fans, and she still is. I still pull for the Amazin's, but how could I go to 20+ games a year at Three Rivers and not develop a rooting interest? But my choice was easy; Josh has two teams to choose from, and was raised with a prejudice against expansion teams that balances any good American's natural antipathy towards the Yankees. So he asked for opinions, and I offered this:
Well, one game in, and I think you've got your answer: Will you root for the store-bought Murderer's Row, overpowering its outspent opponents, or will you root for the scrappy Amazin's, pitching and finessing their way to close victories?

I suppose I've betrayed my prejudice, but I think that it's a pretty apt synecdoche for the relative merits of the two teams. Obviously, the Mets also have bucks, and Glavine and Wagner, the yesterday's biggest stars alongside homegrown wunderkind David Wright, were free agents. But the Mets under Omar Minaya - the game's only Latin GM in an era of Latino dominance - are a team being carefully assembled, not a roster of All-Stars compiled in a desperate effort to assuage The Boss's wrath. If you want to see what a team does without big free agent signings, then I encourage you to revive your fealty to the Battlin' Buccos. Their 3-2 loss to the Brewers is probably a pretty good indicator of what you'll get there, too.

As for the idea that the Mets aren't real, I would offer these thoughts:

The Mets were in the first generation of expansion teams, and are approaching a half century of history. Unlike most expansion teams, they have a real history and lore - the epically bad '62 team (40-120); the prodigal Yankee, Casey Stengel, becoming the wise guru (note that he called them the Amazin's when they were bad, not when they became the Miracle Mets); those Miracle Mets with Seaver and young Ryan and Cleon Jones; the team colors that honor their NL forebears (Dodger blue and Giant orange); the 10 years spent in the wilderness after the worst trade in history, sending Seaver in his prime to the Reds for a pack of trading cards; the '86 Mets who were one of the all-time best teams, but spent too much time partying to fulfill their promise.... There's more, but the point is that being a Mets fan is being part of a tradition in a way that fans of most other expansion teams can't imagine. Whereas, as Peter Vescey wrote last year, "Yankee fans fear the worst but demand the best. That is part of the peculiar joyless attraction of being a Yankee fan, I guess."


Blogger ronica said...

Hear hear, on the merits of the Mets over the Yanks. As your sister, I want to clarify that it is just fine that you root for the Pirates. As long as it doesn't interfere with your love of the Mets. You know, just like you can attend a seder, as long as you don't skip Easter Mass (not that I practice Catholicism anymore, but you get the point). I had a soft spot for the Rockies--and still do--after 9 years of attending games at Coors Field. But when the Mets came to town I wore orange and blue and bought better seats and booed the home team lustily, if required as part of my loyal support to help the Mets win.

And I expect little Iris to be a die-hard Mets fan. :)

1:03 PM


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