By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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For my money, this is as bad as it’s ever been.
This, folks, is what we call rock bottom.
I am a diehard Mets fan and have been my whole life. This team and its history are a part of who I am. For over two decades I have waited with anticipation nearly every day — from April to September — for first pitch later that night. I have countless memories that will be with me forever. Sneaking out of my room as a grade-schooler when I should have been sleeping to watch Carlos Baerga hit a walk-off single with my older brother. Skipping school to go to Opening Day. Heading to Shea Stadium as a child and seeing that beautiful, dumpy blue toy off the side of the Grand Central Parkway. Waking my dad up from his nap in a hotel in Binghamton when Todd Pratt hit the homer off of Matt Mantei.
I’m a grown man living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and I still proudly display a Mike Piazza bobblehead doll on my mantel. In college I had a Billy Wagner one on full display in my apartment. I still routinely watch the grand-slam single, Benny Agbayani’s homer against the Giants in 2000 and Endy’s catch on YouTube. Goosebumps each and every time.
Oh, and I also write about the Amazin’s for a living. A dream job that I never dreamed I’d have.
Let all that sink in.
Now, process this. It’s late-June, and I have stopped watching games. I’m done. This is the time of year that I look forward to most, but I can’t handle it anymore. I actually avoid watching games, and make a concerted effort to do so. It’s just too infuriating, too maddening, too depressing, too boring.
How much more of it — and I think I speak on behalf of all Mets fans here — can we take?
I still follow the team on GameCast, watch highlights on the official website, read plenty of columns and articles and study box scores. It’s my job to stay as informed as possible, and I take that responsibility very seriously. Also, no matter how poorly this team plays, I always need to know what’s happening in Mets-land. It’s like eating and breathing. It’s in my DNA. I have to know what’s going on, good or bad.
But that’s what I’ve resorted to. I’d literally rather watch dots on my computer than the actual game on my television.
I’d recommend the practice to any disgruntled Mets fan. Believe me when I say it leads to far fewer frustrations. GameCast tells me that a player struck out, but it keeps me from seeing that said player looked at three straight pitches and never got the bat off his shoulder. GameCast tells me that Daniel Murphy was caught stealing second base, but it keeps me from seeing that he actually made an inexcusable baserunning gaffe. I can catch the score and see that the Mets tallied three runs, without having to endure the pain of watching the offense leave nine runners on base and fail to capitalize on opportunity after opportunity.
Sounds pretty good, huh? Who needs the daily agita?
For more than 20 years, I loved nothing more than sitting down and watching every pitch — every pitch — of a Mets game. There was nothing more enjoyable, nothing more fun. It was a beautiful escape from the rigors of everyday life.
We don’t need to go into the numbers and the statistics, and, frankly, I’m tired of continuing to write about them. We know that this team flat-out stinks. There’s not much of an offense, the fundamentals are lacking and a sixth consecutive losing season is all but certain. Pretty much sums it up, right?
As has always been the case — until now — I watched as many pitches as I could through the first two months of this season. I got angry when the offense left runners in scoring position and the bullpen blew a lead. I had hope, however misguided, and was let down time and time again. Despite knowing deep down that this team was not very talented, I continued to pour my heart into the product.
But I’m already in September mode, with the season not even half over. Sure, I still prefer that the Mets win, but it doesn’t eat at me. I can actually sleep during West Coast games. I always, always used to tune in until 1 a.m. — man, I despise those 10:15 starts in San Francisco — and if I had to be up super early, I would wake up every half-hour to check the score. There was nothing I could do about it. But on the most recent road trip I slept like a baby despite not knowing the outcome. I woke up at about 3:30 a.m. recently to find out that the Giants scored twice in the ninth to stun the Mets, and proceeded to fall right back onto my pillow with only mild disappointment.
What a treat that was.
But the underlying message? I’ve become relatively apathetic, which is just downright sad.
Lord knows there have been many miserable years in the past. But this just feels different. In the ’60s they were lovable losers. In the early ’80s there was hope on the horizon. Even in the early-mid ’90s and early 2000s (following the trip to the World Series), there was a belief that — at the very least — this big-market club would spend money to add players. It may not work out, but it would be interesting. And even if the team continued to under perform, at least there would be the excitement of watching new stars.
But the Wilpons haven’t spent money to address their needs. They’ve operated like small-market owners, and fans have had to watch the same below-average players year after year after year. While other teams have taken initiative and improved, the Mets have remained largely stagnant. Recent history tells me that this won’t change anytime soon.
I just can’t fathom why any Mets fan would go to Citi Field these days. OK, tourists are one thing. That I can get behind. Upper-middle class families who can more than afford a night out? Yeah, that makes sense too. But why would a true Mets fan — looking to watch his favorite team rather than just have a night out on the town — fight the traffic or the subway, spend money on tickets and take a big chunk out of his day to watch miserable baseball? Clearly, I’m not alone in thinking this. Have you seen the attendance numbers recently?
When the Mets were competitive, I would head to Shea Stadium roughly eight to nine times a year. That number gradually dwindled down to six, five, four, three. I’ve been to one game in 2014. Will I be back? Unless this club goes on a miraculous run, the only way I see myself returning to 123-01 Roosevelt Ave. is if I take a date or if I go with a buddy from out of town. If it’s the latter, we’ll pay for $11 seats and eventually move down to field level, since there will be nobody there anyway. Shouldn’t be too difficult.
For the time being, the Mets have officially lost me. And there aren’t many Mets fan on this planet more devoted than I am.
Sure, I’ll be back. But if they’ve lost me — even for a season — imagine who else they’ve lost and who they’re going to continue to lose? It’s a troubling sign for a franchise that I’ve maintained for years has the most passionate fans in the city.
Patience is wearing thin. Fans are losing interest with every passing day, and if this situation doesn’t get better soon, I don’t even want to think about what the future holds for the New York Mets.
It will get all-time ugly — even uglier than it is now.
Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.
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