Twenty years ago, on October 27, 1986, the Mets won their last World Series. I wonder how I would have reacted if someone had been able to tell me that twenty years later, the Mets would still not have won their next World Series title.
Let’s say that I had somehow learned that. Would I have been able to pay attention to the Mets, with hope and love, for the next 20 years? Sure. There might have been a few pennants in there, and division titles. There were one and two. They didn’t have the Wild Card back then.
Am I reconsidering all of the time I spent watching the Mets or listening to them? No. Even if the record of accomplishment is less than I would have liked or expected, I didn’t know what would happen. I hoped for more than what we got, and that’s where the pleasure was.
Can you actually sit and watch a baseball game all the way through if you know how it is going to end? I can’t. When I watch a rebroadcast game, I enjoy noticing what was different, I enjoy the glimpses of what I remember so differently. But I can’t watch more than a few innings.
Can you watch a game between two teams when you don’t really care who wins? I can for a little while. I am not uninterested in the general, larger picture of baseball. But usually, I can only watch for a few innings. I wish I could tell you that I was watching the World Series because of my love of baseball, that I was rooting for the plucky Tigers to bury the ugliest team I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. I am rooting for the Tigers. But I’m not going to tell you that I’m watching the games when I’m not.
I love baseball. I love what it does with time. I love how watching baseball is like riding a wave, where the uncertain future becomes the vivid present and then takes permanent form as the past. I look at the blog I’ve been keeping for two weeks and I see this and like it. As I read it from the beginning, I see the future becoming the present, becoming the past. It’s freaky and weird.
And this happens all the time when you are a baseball fan. It’s different from reading a novel or watching a film because no one, not even those who create what you watch know how it will turn out. So you don’t just have the illusion of events developing through time, as you do in a film. You are right up against the reality of time. You are riding it.
The fun is all in the uncertainty and the uncertainty is meaningful only because you really care about what happens. This is why I don’t watch rebroadcasts and rarely watch the World Series. I’m not proud of this, because I feel it is a betrayal of baseball, something I love and admire.
But like everyone else, I come to the game with my own psychological needs. For me it is not enough to admire. I have to be able to hope and to care. I care for the sheer pleasure of caring. I hope because it is fun to hope.
Sure I care about the Mets and hope for their success. But to a certain degree, their success is beside the point. It is not more fun to be the fan of a successful team than an unsuccessful one. The point is the yearning. Winning is the goal. But for me it is not the point.