The Home Team: They may be awful, but they’re ours
Published 6:22 am, Sunday, August 9, 2015
Thursday of last week, my New York Mets hit rock bottom. In one weird, humiliating, but all-too-Mets-like 24-hour period, they a.) tried to trade Wilmer Flores, a popular young infielder; b.) botched the trade; c.) leaked the deal while it was still being negotiated d.) left Flores on the field, crying, from his position at shortstop; e.) blew a six-run lead against the San Diego Padres, and f.) lost the game on a three-run Padres homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Moments after this body blow all but crushed any shot the Mets had of making the post-season, my phone pinged with this text from my youngest son: “This is sickening and despicable. Gotta be the most embarrassing 18 hours in franchise history. I can’t root for this team anymore.”
The Mets most embarrassing moment? Now that’s really saying something.
And then ...
On Friday, the very next day, the Mets a.) actually did complete a deal for one of the great young sluggers in the game, and b.) defeated the Nationals, their arch-rival, in the 12th inning, on a walk-off home run by — you guessed it! — Wilmer Flores.
Text from Robby: “Good job, NY!!! Wilmer!!! Cespedes [newest Met] is a god. I’m not going to sleep tonight!”
The Mets went on to sweep the Nats in the weekend series. At this writing, they’re in first place, one game ahead of Washington. And Robby’s gone from disowning the team to pretty much assuming they’re a lock to make it to the World Series.
I’m not making fun of him. Not at all. I do exactly the same thing with all my teams. All the time. How many times have I said to Robby, after a spirit-sucking New York Knicks loss: “I can’t watch this team anymore. I’m gonna start rooting for the San Antonio Spurs.”
Would that it were so simple.
Sure, the Spurs are a model of excellence and consistency. They play the game the way it was meant to be played. Their stars are not only super athletes, but also stellar individuals. Their coach is the best in the business.
But unfortunately, you can’t switch the team you root for, any more than you can switch your mother. You can switch jobs. You can switch wives. But you can’t switch teams. If you can seriously say, “I’m not a Knicks fan anymore, I’m now a Spurs fan,” then, to me, it’s axiomatic that you were never really a Knicks fan to begin with.
Because, bottom line? You don’t choose your team. Your team chooses you. Maybe it got passed down to you, father to son. Or maybe from your big brother. Maybe it’s geography: root, root, root for the home team. However you got your team, you’re stuck with it. For life.
I’ve been having some rough sledding with my teams for quite a few years now. The Mets, the Knicks, the Jets — one has been worse than the next. The one bright spot has been UConn men’s basketball — and even they went from national champions in 2014 to not even making it to March Madness this year.
But I feel things are beginning to look up. The Mets have five young studs in their pitching rotation and some newfound power in their lineup. The Knicks drafted a seven-foot-three center from Latvia who’s supposed to be a difference-maker. UConn incoming freshman Alterique Gilbert is being hailed as the next Great One in the Huskies’ long line of superstar point guards.
And my Jets, who just started training camp? They’ve overhauled their front office, had a very successful draft, and are supposed to be markedly improved, which, considering they’re coming off a 4-12 season, wouldn’t take much. True, they don’t have a legit quarterback, which some might consider a significant problem.
But I prefer to look at the brighter side. A lot of experts think the Jets look great on paper, and that’s good enough for me.
Until they lose their first five games. That’s when you’ll start hearing me wishing I could be a Seattle Seahawks fan.
“The Home Team” appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman. To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.