Tuesday, June 9, 2009

There Are Worse Things Than Being a Mets Fan

(My latest column with The Examiner):

My son is playing Dad’s Club Baseball here in Pleasantville. I find watching my son begin baseball to be an enormously pleasing rite of passage. The teams among the first graders all have names and uniforms adopted from the big leagues: Cardinals, Red Sox, Yankees and Mets. And I was further pleased to see that my son had lucked upon joining the Mets.

The New York Mets are my team, through and through. Throughout my life I have found this group of men, so buoyed by lofty expectations yet so mired in what seem at times to be immeasurable flaws, to echo my own toiling amid life’s wondrous yet often random existence.

For it was in Flushing, Queens that I was begat, if you will, just down the road from the now vanquished Shea Stadium, at a time when those gaudy orange and blue square plates still graced its façade. Like any rebellious prodigal son, I have had my moments where I found allure in the colorless success of the Braves or the cool mechanical megalomania of the Yankees. Yet, there are fundamental elements in this life from which there can be no escape.

I called my father and told him the news of my son’s budding baseball days. He replied, “The good news is – he’s playing for the Mets…the bad news is – he’s playing for the Mets.” And so it goes – to paraphrase a great poet, he who was begat, begets.

But I’ve seen this process before. My older brother lavishes the New York Jets with a rich adoration which I believe they have yet to earn. And it was from our father, once a Jets season ticket holder, that he gained this condition which I can only describe as an enveloping insanity. Like his blood type or lyrical vocal pitch, it was undeniably inherited.

As for my own Mets devotion, I look to our mother, the daughter of a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. I grew up thinking everyone’s mother could rattle off baseball trivia. To this day, my mother addresses the Mets on her TV screen, complaining of haircuts and excessive jewelry as though these were her own sons.

For a while, my son was attesting to fully fledged Mets fandom. Although I knew I was to blame, I saw no severe ill-effects. We’ve developed a nightly routine whereby I let him watch a half hour of baseball with me. It is a ritual I hope endures until the end of time. His presence seems to have a calming effect on me. At one point during a game, he asked, ‘why are you not yelling at the TV’?

Yet I do worry if the lad can endure the toll that Mets devotion can bring. And so it is with parenting – the most difficult part is accepting that life’s ambiguities, difficulties and injustices cannot be shielded from those we wish most to protect. Becoming a parent has forced me to create that laundry list of all the things I don’t like about myself in the hopes that bringing these traits into the light will thwart their transference.

It has now come to pass that my son has decided he wants to be a Yankee fan. It’s an odd cocktail of revulsion and relief when your child looks at you and says, ‘no…I’m not going to be like you. I am going to be something better. I’m going to be me.’

And so it goes with fathers and sons. In all likelihood, he may return to the Mets, maybe. We are a combination of how we’re born and who we choose to be. In the overall perspective of the human condition, let a devotion to a balking, bumbling baseball team be the worst my son must endure.

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