I n the middle of October on the sports calendar, baseball usually reigns supreme. The World Series captivates the eyes of fans as they watch the season”s culmination unfold.
Not so much last year, though.
Last year, the majority of voices, particularly those away from the East Coast, spoke of little interest in the World Series. They said they hated both teams and that the series only applied to people from New York.
It”s no surprise people from outside of New York rarely like the city”s sports teams. They view the clubs as proof that the most money is equal to the most success.
But this year, it seems that a new mentality has taken hold.
I”m going to be perfectly honest here I”m a lifelong Mets fan, and would like nothing more than to see the Mets in the playoffs again this year. A month ago, they seemed completely out of contention for the postseason, and people seemed intent on pointing out at every possible opportunity that they hated the Mets and that the World Series run last year was a fluke.
I was optimistic that maybe the Mets could turn it around, but deep down, I knew it was impossible.
The Mets have won 22 of their last 28 games. They”re now four games behind the National League East leading Braves. With a win Sunday, it would have been two.
But what”s going on now is more than just a comeback. Now, even though it started before Sept. 11, the Mets seem to be carrying the country on its shoulders, bringing Americans back emotionally.
“I”m definitely pulling for the Mets,” said LSA junior Matt Bechtold, a Traverse City native and Cubs fan. “I think it”s good to see the Mets come out and get a bit of recognition.”
The Mets have brought the tragedy into their daily routine on the field. Since the second game back, the team has worn hats recognizing the New York rescue workers. Relief pitcher John Franco, who had many friends in the New York Fire Department that were lost in the wreckage, has become the face of the team struck hardest by the national tragedy.
“I think these terrorist attacks have brought America together,” said sophomore LSA student Raehan Qureshi. “New York has suffered the most from the attacks and I think for that reason, a lot of people want to cheer for the Mets.”
All baseball fans are seeing what the Mets are doing. And for the first time that I can remember, there”s resounding approval, and even happiness from long-time Met-haters.
“I saw the Mike Piazza home run and I felt a sting of patriotism,” said fifth-year LSA senior Michael Alber. On Friday night, Piazza homered in the bottom of the eighth to give the team the lead, and after a scoreless top, the win.
Alber wasn”t too big a fan of the Subway Series last year, but he wouldn”t mind seeing one this time around.
“I think it would completely different,” he said.
It would be different. For the Mets to make the postseason, they will have to continue a miraculous comeback. The odds of it happening are slim, which makes the story even more intriguing. Senior LSA student Matt Engel is a Braves fan, the Mets biggest rival, but he knows that it would be easier to handle a New York comeback this year than in years past.
“I wouldn”t be too mad,” he said, “because it would be good for the city. Normally, though, it wouldn”t be kosher.”
Sure, the circumstances are horrible, and I”m not about to say that anything good might come out of the tragedy. But like it or not, the Mets have, in a way, become America”s team, as a result. The Yankees are expected to be good every year winning four of the last five World Series will do that for a team.
But just a month ago, the Mets were the city”s red-headed stepson. Now, everyone wants to see them win.
It”s not about money anymore. It”s not about the supremacy and arrogance that comes with New York teams.
It”s about America”s love for underdogs.
And the Mets and the city are certainly underdogs.
“With everything going on, people want to give all their support to New York,” LSA junior Samara Cherne said. “It”s sort of like cheering for the underdog all over again.”
Jon Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org