“Meet the Mets!” New York City baseball fans pick a side
There’s more than one way to measure the difference between the Mets and the Yankees. If you’re going off of World Series wins, the Yankees come out on top. 27 to 2. If money is your metric of choice, the Yankees win that one too… with a budget of tens of millions more dollars to buy a star-studded roster. But Mets fans aren’t in it for the accolades.
I think the Mets fans // somehow like disappointment. It’s almost like they expect it…
Marty Appel is a Yankees fan. He’s also a baseball historian.
you ask a Mets fan and they say disaster’s just around the corner and it suddenly satisfies a need inside of them to see their hopes dashed.
Appel’s Manhattan apartment is home to a collection of baseball memorabilia that would make any little league player dizzy with glee. Nine baseballs bearing the signatures of Yankees greats in thin black ink are stacked in clear protective cases. A painting of Appel by sports artist LeRoy Neiman hangs on the wall.
Appel is a fan with a capital “F.” And he says if winning is something you care about, odds are you’re a Yankees fan.
Here there’s a pressure of winning in New York. And I think for a lot of people, rooting for the Yankees is sort of an extension of their own personalities. If the Yankees are winning, somehow by being a Yankees fan, I’m a better person.
But the Mets, they attract a different crowd…
We lose… We lose a lot. It takes a certain type of person to just accept it.
Shawn Steele has been rooting for the Mets since he was a kid. He teaches high school history in Long Island City now. And for him, there’s something special about being the underdog. He’s the kind of fan who roots for the Mets because they lose, not in spite of it.
It’s just grinding out those wins. They never come easy. They’re always hard, and they always find a reason to screw up. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. And I’m ok with that. I think a lot of fans are. It’s fun.
Losing is something Mets fans are used to. Their team is rooted in disappointment—it was born from heartbreak when the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants abandoned their fans and moved to the West Coast. The Mets were a replacement team…
And they were horrible!
Marty Appel again. He says they stayed that way for a long time. But the team attracted new fans anyway… thanks to a Yankee. Casey Stengel became the Mets first manager in 1962, after eleven years working for the team across town. And he knew, before the fans did, what it meant to be a Met.
He just sort of made everybody fall in love with this inept team because they were trying so hard, that was his take on it. He made that team so loveable that the fans just fell in love with them no matter how many games they lost.
[[Archival tape of “Meet the Mets”]]
And so began the rise of the Mets. Like a gaudy blue and orange phoenix, the team rose clumsily from the ashes of its forebearers. And loving the Mets became bigger than just loving to lose. New fans, who fell in love with the Mets when they were winning, had become attached by the time the team’s luck started to fail.
[[fade out “Meet the Mets”]]
If you grew up in the 60s and 70s, this was your anthem.
Greg Prince was one of those new fans. He started watching the Mets in 1969, when he was six years old and the team was headed for the World Series. He remembers being swept up by the excitement, reading about the Mets buzz in the newspapers and watching them win.
But even after the Mets won the World Series, by the time they started losing again, he was still cheering them on, sometimes against his better judgement.
People will tell you, they found ways to lose nobody had ever found before.
Prince is the kind of fan who loves his team like he loves his family. You don’t choose your family, but you stick with them, no matter what. It doesn’t feel like a choice.
At the very core of my being, I’m optimistic about them. Like broadly optimistic and specifically fretful all the time that something is going to go wrong.
[[fade in parking lot ambi]]
But, there’s another kind of fan.
Vincenzo DeMatteis, Michael LoVerde and Sal Sutera spent two and a half hours commuting from Staten Island to make it to Citi Field for tonight’s Mets game. They’re hanging out in the parking lot, decked out in blue and orange mets gear, clear plastic cups adorned with the Mets logo in hand. LoVerde has a confession to make.
So did you guys grow up Mets fans?
Started as a Yankees fan.
Oh, we’re not friends with him anymore!
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LoVerde is a convert, the kind of fan who had a fling with another team before committing to the Mets. He says he came to his senses during the 2006 season… when the Yankees were in a slump and, for a minute, it looked like the Mets might make it to the World Series.
…and they lost to the Cardinals. I asked my mom the next morning. She was like “Mets lost.” I started crying. That’s how I knew I was a Met fan.
But, they all agree the sign of a true Mets fan is whether they stick around.
‘Cuz we know the Mets are gonna go through some rough times. We know that’s gonna happen.
((fade in stadium sounds))
Those rough times are waiting just inside the stadium. The Mets are down three to nothing after the first inning. The stands are littered with fans. Fans who don’t mind losing, converts like LoVerde and another kind of Mets fan… the penultimate fan.
Michael Casiano, or “King Cougar,” as he’s known around here, sits in section 515, at the top of the stands behind home plate. He isn’t wearing the Mets’ trademark blue and orange. He doesn’t have to. His notebook, in which he’s scored each of the 8,405 baseball games he’s been to, is open on his lap. His cane lies forgotten under his seat.
HEY! STRUCK HIM OUT!
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Casiano invented this chant 38 years ago. He’s been leading it since, at each of the 727 consecutive games he’s attended at Citi Field.
STRUCK! HIM! OUT! …That’s what I do.
Casiano’s never been anything but a Mets fan. He and his parents discovered the team in 1962, and Casiano, a kid at the time, watched—enthralled—as the Mets lost every one of the first nine games they played. By game ten, he was hooked.
I used to cry when they’d lose. I used to carry on in my apartment and my mother couldn’t take it. That’s why I started going to games. She couldn’t take it!
Tonight, he sticks around through the bottom of the ninth inning. The Mets give him reason to hope—a home run, a grounder to left field and two runners on base. But then, true to form, they lose. And Casiano, who’s seen thousands of games end this way, shrugs his shoulders, picks up his cane and heads home. He’ll be back tomorrow to sit in his spot behind home plate. It won’t matter if they win or lose.
Sarah Wyman, Columbia Radio News.