We boo because you saddle us with Vince Coleman and Bobby Bonilla and hideous black jerseys and 15 years of Fran Healy calling games. Win some playoff games and everyone will shut up.
By BRIAN ETTKIN, Staff writer Click byline for more stories by writer. First published: Wednesday, April 30, 2008
You suspected toxic gases had infected the atmosphere when fans booed Johan Santana after he yielded three homers in his first home start as a Met, despite introducing himself by pitching superbly in his two preceding starts.
Then it got worse.
Something has spread like disease at Shea Stadium, but instead of inducing fits of coughing, it causes piques of booing.
So they boo Willie Randolph when he wakes in the morning, and they boo Carlos Delgado because he fails most every night; and on the rare occasions Delgado’s performance merits applause, such as Sunday’s two-homer game, he understandably declines the curtain call.
They boo Aaron Heilman as if he were pro wrestling’s biggest heel.
For the moment, Shea’s grounds crew is spared.
All of this is fine, of course. Other than ceasing to attend games en masse, booing is one of the few ways for fans to voice their displeasure and be heard. But this booing is different. It’s as if fans come to games waiting for the slightest provocation to discharge pent-up venom and stingers.
It’s as if The Collapse happened yesterday, though the 2008 season is now 25 games old. Mets fans are still angry, still lugging a chip as large as the Unisphere on their shoulder. They don’t like their team’s middling start and have made this abundantly clear.
But there’s another force at play: a loss of perspective, even by New York standards.
The Collapse is a leading candidate for worst baseball free fall ever. But some Mets fans consider it a star-crossed example of how unlucky a lot they are. Well, guess what? Many fans wish to “suffer” as the Mets’ have.
For all their alleged misfortune, Mets fans have experienced two World Series championships and four pennants since their 1962 inaugural season. The Mets have had 22 winning seasons in the past 39 years. They’ve advanced to the World Series four of the seven times they’ve made the postseason and came within a base hit in 2006 of making another.
They’re not the most successful big-league franchise, not even close; you need only look across town to see who that is. But Mets fans haven’t suffered nearly as much as their aggrieved self-image and behavior suggests.
The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 100 years, and yet the mood at Wrigley Field is — get this — almost always joyous. Between 1946 and 1983 the Cubs never made the playoffs, and yet Mets fans are embittered?
Pittsburgh Pirates fans have reason to boo from the national anthem’s last note until the final out. Their team’s streak of 15 consecutive losing seasons is the longest current one in major U.S. pro sports. Through blind luck you’d think the Pirates would win more than they lose one year. But they don’t. And unlike the Mets, they’re a small-market team with a small payroll that hinders them.
The Kansas City Royals are nearly as bad as the Pirates, with one winning season in the past 14.
Then there’s the Milwaukee Brewers, who’ve made the playoffs only twice in the franchise’s 39 years.
Those are just some of the starkest examples of true torment.
Mets fans can boo if they wish; and if they wish to cast themselves as baseball’s hard-bitten suffering class, none of us will boo them for it.
A few of us might chuckle, though.