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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Payoff For Rooting For A Loser, The Mets


In the rare instances when the professional sports teams that I root for advance deep into the post season – and then lose – I find myself questioning why I’m a sports fan the way some challenge their faith in religion when terrible things happen to innocent people.  Okay, I shouldn’t sound so dramatic, but you get the point.

I really do wish I could be cured of this addiction to watching sports.  My affliction costs me thousands of hours – no, tens of thousands of hours in my lifetime.  And what do I have to show for it?  Heartbreak, frustration, anger, envy, and grief.

Overall, the teams I’ve rooted for, collectively, do not have winning records.  This means there’s a better than 50% chance I’ll watch a losing effort every time I turn on the TV to tune into the Knicks, Jets, or Mets.  But this year was different.  This time I had to build up my hopes for a huge letdown, as the Mets lost the World Series.

Now, one can look at it a few ways.  You can say that you watch the games for the love of the sport and that you know going into it there’s only a small chance your team will win a championship.  Even the most successful baseball franchise – the Yankees – don’t win it 75% of the time – and some teams, like the Cubs, haven’t won it in 107 years.

But at some point you really set the bar high and expect to win it all.  And magically, your team cooperates and it goes on a tear and finds itself, through skill, luck, timing, passion, training, and strategy to be in a position to win it all.  Now, all of the years of near-misses or downright futility start to come together and you look back and realize how long this has been in the making.  For the Mets, it was 15 years ago that they even contended in a World Series. They’ve played over 4800 games since 1986, the last time they won it all, and none of them meant anything.

Yet, there I was, alongside millions of others, rooting for the home team to play better than all other teams for one full year.

But even if the Mets managed to win every so often, what’s the point of it all?  I’m not paying or managing or directly contributing to their success, so why do I feel as if my fate is aligned with the outcome of their games?  I’m not even betting on the games.  I’m not employed by them.  I get nothing if they win – except more expensive tickets next year and the urge to spring for overpriced memorabilia that honors their rare victory.  Why do I yell, clap, and cheer for them when they really do nothing for me, those spoiled millionaires playing a kid’s game – and not always very well.

But then time goes by and the healing will begin in the cold, dark recess of the winter.  My mind will be quieted by the lack of hearing about, reading about, or watching the Mets.  A hunger for the warmth of spring will build up and it’ll be led by the spring training of the Mets in the middle of February in Florida.

It’ll be a little over 100 days that will have passed after the Mets fell a few games short of winning it all come spring training.  It’ll be the dawning of a new season, one with promise and hope greater than most of their spring trainings. Optimism, confidence and an air of childlike fun will fill the hearts of not only the players, but the fans.

The cycle will begin anew.  We’ll put our faith back into the team that traditionally disappoints.  We’ll go back to rooting for something beyond our control.  We’ll eagerly lose ourselves and forget our lives and commit to watching hundreds of hours of games and analysis this coming season.  We’ll talk them up to fans and those who root for opposing teams.  Again, we’ll look for bragging rights as if the Mets were our own kids or some kind of extension of ourselves.

But why, why do we do it?  Why do I do it?

I’d rather play than watch. 
I’d rather coach than watch. 
I’d rather do something that produces a payoff to me rather than root on others to experience good fortunes.

I watch because I love the game and marvel at seeing how great even the crappiest big league player is.  I watch the Mets because I grew up with them the way I grew up with the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge being extensions of me.  It’s a part of my culture, my family, my vantage point of life.  It’s my religion and I learn so much about life and myself when I see the games unfold.  The Mets are my conduit to a competitive side, to the athlete in me that is no more. I love the strategy and the battles within each game.  I love getting to know the players as if following around actors in a movie.  Baseball is a beautiful sport in a world filled with many wrongs, bad people, sad events, tragic moments, and inconceivable pains.  Baseball – and the Mets – as disappointing as they can be, are like a paradise compared to real life.

Don’t get me wrong, the world offers beauty, wonder, and some amazing people.  But in between what’s great is death, loss, despair, and suffering.  To focus on the Mets is a thing of beauty, even if they leave you saying “Wait til next year.”

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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