The other day I contemplated the possibility of making a drastic change to my life, and turning 2011 into a year of serious transformation. We’re talking a change so radical that my wife would have been left reeling and my pastor would have been shocked. This had the potential to be a tsunami of a mid-life crisis.
I wondered if I could start rooting for the Boston Red Sox.
Never before had I questioned my loyalty to the New York Mets. Until I was 13, I had lived in suburbs of New York City, rooting passionately for one very good team (the Miracle Mets of 1969) and a slew of mediocre ones. There is a reason the Mets play in Flushing.
Among my happiest moments of my first months in Vermont were watching the 1986 Mets-Red Sox World Series at Esox Bar in Burlington, Vermont. (For those of you who are not from the Mesozoic Period, that is the World Series in which Bill Buckner allowed a Mookie Wilson groundball to squirt through his legs like a gerbil on steroids.) I was living in a furnished apartment in a house on South Union Street, while my wife remained in Brooklyn, New York to sell the walk-in closet that we told people was a one-bedroom co-op. The South Union Street rental came with a neighbor who owned a Samurai sword, but it lacked a television set.
Consequently, I watched the Series at Esox, and it was a real experience to be the only Mets fan in Red Sox Nation. It was probably a bit like being Ralph Nader: Everyone hated me, but I still felt there was a moral righteousness to my very existence.
In any case, when I was at the gym in Bristol two months ago, Andrew Furtsch, a Red Sox fan, shared with me a “Sports Illustrated” essay about the indignities that come with rooting for the Mets: The bizarre ways they find to lose games. Bad personnel decisions. Allegations that the current owners ignored the likelihood that Bernie Madoff was perpetrating a massive fraud.
Then in May, the former Mets clubhouse manager, Charlie Samuels, was charged with stealing close to $2.3 million in memorabilia and equipment, including the uniforms the Mets wore on the first game played in 2001 after the attacks on 9/11. A few weeks later, the Mets owner made snarky, ham-handed comments about three of his best players in an article in “The New Yorker.”
These were the last straws. The team looked morally bankrupt. And isn’t baseball all about pastoral innocence and the boys of summer and our weirdly poetic affection for the game? Moreover, I’ve now lived in Vermont longer than I have everywhere else combined. Howard Frank Mosher is my literary godfather. How in the world could I root for any team but the Red Sox?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Oh, I tried. I watched Red Sox games on TV. I read all the stories about the Sox in this paper. I rented “Fever Pitch” and listened carefully as Jimmy Fallon tried to explain his love for the team to Drew Barrymore. And, still, I couldn’t shake my interest in the Mets. My blood remained more blue and orange than red. (All of this begs the question: Why is it easier for professional athletes to change teams than fans? Would we, too, sell our loyalty for a mere few million dollars? Well, yes.)
Among my favorite books when I was a boy was Pat Jordan’s essay collection, “The Suitors of Spring.” It’s a series of articles about pitchers. And one I still recall is his essay about Tom Seaver, the ultimate Met (who, of course, the Mets would trade away). The essay opens with Seaver flying a kite on a beach. He motions at the sea gulls overhead and says to Jordan, “I could watch them for hours. I’d love to fly like the gulls, but I can’t. So I pitch.” And that, on some level, is precisely why I write.
I can’t change my DNA. Too many of my best childhood memories begin and end in (groan) Flushing.
So, let’s go Mets! Just, please, try and keep your embarrassments on the field.