Sunday, June 1, 2008

Season After Season - Heartbreak: Yet I Can't Wait For More! Part I

I have always thought about starting a blog but never really got around to doing it. Partially because I would not be able to think of a catchy title and partially because despite the fact that I think I’m funny all of my friends could attest to the fact that truly I am not a funny person, and who wants to read a blog that is not funny? But after some tough persuation from a certain bezzy monster I was convinced to finally start one. But what could I write about? Mr. Bezerman said to just have one and when something pops into your head to just write about it, or write about important things in your life. Well one of the central parts of my life has been sports. Sports offers some of the most amazing times and amazing memories, but along with all the good, it also has crushing losses and heartbreaks, which begs the question, why do I love sports so much?
As a fan of the New York Mets, New York Rangers and New York Jets, coming up short has almost become a routine in life. At the end of almost every season I find myself reading Page 2 columnists Jeff Pearlman’s Loving sports, from Greg Butler to Sweet Lou to Niko Noga, an article written about why he loves sports.
The question remains, why do I love Sports? As a fan of the aforementioned teams I have lived through only one championship in my lifetime, the 1994 Rangers Stanley cup win, but even this was when I was too young to even care about sports. With those teams ruling my life I have become very accustomed to failure. The first season I remember of Jets football finished with a dismal 1-15 record. When I became old enough to start caring about sports and actually following teams, I saw the Rangers beat the Devils in 5 games only to lose to the Flyers in 5 games, and then fail to make the playoffs for another 8 years and not winning another playoff game until 9 years later.
However no team has managed to let me down more then the beloved New York Mets. When the Mets finally made the playoffs as a wild card in 1999 they faced the Braves in the NLCS. Though I was too young to stay up and watch every game that year, they threw me a bone by having a late Sunday afternoon game. 14 innings later Robin Ventura came up with the bases loaded and hit his famous “Grand Slam Single” getting all Mets fans excited for what could happen. What happened next? In game 6 the Braves had bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning and Kenny Rodgers threw ball four to walk in the winning run just as Bobby Bonilla was putting down the 9 of diamonds in his card game with Rickey Henderson in the Mets clubhouse. That was it, seasons over, ending on a bases loaded walk. The following season the Mets rolled over the Cardinals in the NLCS to get everyone excited for Subway Series, one controversial game 1 call later, and the Mets were never even in the series losing in 5.
The Mets weren’t heard from again until 2006, when the team strolled through the regular season, leading their division on all but one day of the season, the second game when Jorge Julio blew a late lead. The team looked like a lock to head to the World Series and probably to win it. After sweeping the Dodgers in the first round, they faced the Cardinals who had the worst record out of all the teams in the playoffs. It looked as if the Mets were to take a 2-0 series lead until right fielder Shawn Green misplayed a fly ball in the 8th inning changing the entire series. The Mets fell down 3-2 and needed to beat former Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter in game 6. After a masterful performance by rookie John Maine the Mets were forced to send Oliver Perez to the mound in game 7. Perez who had been labeled “the worst game 7 starter in history” delivered a masterful performance for 5 and third innings. When Willie Randolph came out to talk to him he decided to leave him in the game to face Scot Rolen. On the next pitch Rolen hit a bomb to left field and every Met fan immediately wished Perez had come out of the game. We then witnessed what could be the greatest postseason catch in playoff history when Endy Chavez leaped and got his elbow over the wall to bring the ball back into the park and throw to first for the double play. This was the highest of highs, there was no way we could lose now, until an inning later Yadier Molina was able to hit one just about 15 feet further for the homerun. We were able to get some hope back when the Mets loaded the bases for Carlos Beltran in the 9th. When Beltran fell behind 0-2 the entire world knew that curveball was coming, that is except for Beltran who would go down looking. And that was it, our season ending when our highest played player failed to swing his bat. As the Mets fans filed out of Shea Stadium the line “wait till next year” made famous by the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950’s became the common phrase.
When next year came around the Mets got off to a hot start and looked like they were going to take their second division title in a row. After a bad run at the end of August including a four game sweep by the Phillies the Mets responded by winning 7 out of 9. What happened next was the worst collapse in baseball history. The Mets blew a 7 game lead with 17 games left in the season. When the phillies took a 1 game lead with two games left hope restored when John Maine carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning to get the Mets back into first place. The entire season came down to one game, I spent hours trying to find tickets to get to this game, this is what it was all about. Two hours before the game I got a call from a friend telling me to just get to Shea Stadium and there would be tickets waiting for me. I arrived at the game 7 minutes late, and when I got to my seat and saw the Marlins had the bases loaded and already scored 3 runs. That was it 7 runs given up in 1/3 of an inning by our “ace” Tom Glavine. The Mets of course love giving us fans false hope and that came in the bottom of the first inning when having already scored one run, backup catcher Ramon Castro came to the plate. Castro was having a career year and seemed to hit a home run every eight at bats. Unfortunately he had homered during his last at bat the day before. Castro hit a bomb with the bases loaded and for a moment the entire stadium had thought it was a grand slam and the Mets would be back in the game. The ball died on the warning track and with the Mets season.
I had spent hours just trying to figure out how to get tickets for this game. 15 minutes later I was crushed, walking out of Shea Stadium wondering why I invest so much time into this team when all they do is let me down. Why I invest so much time into sports when every season just ends in heartbrake? That seems to be the best question, what is it about sports that make sports fans keep coming back year after year?

Part II coming

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