You Gotta Believe!This week my two year old nephew, Nate, learned a lesson in one of the values we hold dear in our family: rooting for the underdog. We are, after all, lifelong Democrats, champions of the working man and due to our proximity to New York growing up, die-hard Mets fans. Why Mets and not Yankees? That would be too easy. Where is the challenge in being a Yankee fan? Anyone can do that. No. We prefer to suffer, thank you very much. We’re also Italian Catholics, so there you go.
I’m not sure exactly how we came to be Mets fans. My mother grew up with only a mild interest in baseball and rooted for the Yankees (she was Presbyterian back then). My Dad, as a 10 year old Italian immigrant, moved to Brooklyn and was consequently indoctrinated as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. So perhaps it was out of respect for him that we chose to become Mets fans. After all, no self-respecting Dodgers fan could just turn around and start rooting for the Yankees, even after suffering the betrayal of the Brooklyn Dodgers moving to Los Angeles of all places. So, that left us with the Mets, an upstart new team from the1962 season.
Most likely though, it was probably my jock eldest sister who grew up to become a Sports Medicine doctor that is responsible for our allegiance to the Mets. In 1969, about the time my sister was old enough to understand what was going on in baseball, the Miracle Mets won the World Series turning her into a lifelong fan. Since we younger kids did what ever she said, our fate was sealed.
Like my mother, I had only a mild interest in baseball as a kid. I played Little League (badly) which didn’t exactly inspire me to follow any particular team religiously. But then, Lee Mazzilli (pictured below) joined the Mets in the late 70s.
That was it. I, too, became a rabid Mets fan. I even started collecting baseball cards hoping for more pictures of Lee with every pack of Topps bubble-gum trading cards I purchased. Besides, the "Mets," I learned, was short for "Metropolitans" which appealed to me for some reason. Probably because it sounds like a gay street gang.
Anyway, when my nephew Nate was born, my brother Peter had him in Mets garb from the time he came out of the womb. By the tender age of two, Nate was enjoying a regular male bonding ritual with his Dad: Wednesday night pizza and B-ball where the two of them would root for their beloved Mets. Earlier this week tickets went on sale for opening day and the pre-season subway series where the Mets will face their crosstown rivals, the dreaded Yankees. Peter and Nate donned their Mets finery just for the occasion. This was not for the actual series mind you, merely the ticket sales. My brother then had to explain to Nate that the series in question was not the World Series, for although the Mets had a great season last year, they didn’t make it that far. Nate did not take the news well.
My brother then had to sit Nate down and explain to him the hardships of defeat and the lesson that every Mets fan must learn sooner or later: That our team can’t always win but "there’s always next year." That losing builds character which will make us stronger in the end. That "you gotta believe" you can still win another time. Being born into a family of Mets fans doubtless this is the first of many times poor Nate is doomed to hear this pep talk. But learn it well, Nate, for someday you will have to teach it to your own son. (Pictured below: Nate's first pep talk.)