We Are What We Repeat

 

Gertrude Stein wrote, several times as a matter of fact, that we are what we repeat. Look around you. This is true. Each of us is composed of the things we say and do over and over and over.

We can see why this might work with individual people. We can see why this might work with nations and cultures, who tell themselves the same stories through generation, who pass on a set of beliefs. It’s a mystery to me, however, why this also sometimes works with baseball teams.

The Red Sox kept doing the same thing for over a century. They finally broke the pattern in 2004, but it looks now as if they are trying to slip back into it. The Mets right now are doing something they’ve done many times before. Why is this happening? The Mets, for the most part, did not grow up as Mets fans, unlike most of their fans. How much do they even know about the team’s history? What could be inside of them that would cause them to repeat this ancient, primordial, obsessive pattern? I don’t know and you don’t know. But we all know that we have been here before.

No matter how good they are in any individual year, the Mets never stride into the room, take what is theirs, and exit in triumph. What happens instead is something like what happened in 1969, when the Mets charged almost to the very top, after years of humiliation, by mid-July, and then collapsed completely to play like a last place team for a month, falling 9 and a half games behind the Cubs by mid-August. That time, they revived and won the pennant by 8 games and went on to win the World Series. In 1972, they got off to their best start ever and looked as if they would repeat 1969. Then they collapsed. But they never revived. 1973 was a crappy last-place season all the way to the final month. The Mets were back to where they had been in the ’60s. But then they won the pennant. In 1984, the Mets roared back to life and led for most of the season, but then they lost it. In 1985, the Mets had one of their best seasons ever, winning 98 games, but because of some heartbreaking games in September, they came in second. 1986 was the best Mets team ever. But the Mets got Mike Scott into their head and almost didn’t make it to the Series. Then when they got to the Series, they got spooked by a dramatically inferior Red Sox team and almost lost the Series in 6. The best Mets team won a World Championship, but not before coming as close as they could to losing it twice. The 1988 Mets were probably the second best Mets team ever. They dominated the National League all season. But after one ill-advised article by David Cone, and two unexpected late inning homers by the Dodgers, and they went home before getting to the Series, which they would not see again for 12 long years. Remember having a Mets miracle comeback season in 1997, but not making the playoffs because we couldn’t win just one of the last six games we played? Remember almost the exact same thing happening in 1998? Remember their solid lead in the Wild Card in 1999 and how they lost that lead by losing seven in a row, in a year in which they would win 97 overall? Remember how heroically they came back? Remember winning the one-game playoff? Remember beating Arizona on Todd Pratt’s homer? Remember digging our second grave of the season by dropping three to Atlanta? Remember how we almost came back? But didn’t. Until next year when we did win the pennant, with a grand triumphant team that still couldn’t win the division, but could win the Wild Card and the playoffs with ease? Remember what happened in the Subway Series you had dreamed of all your life? Remember what a Yankee team that had won only 87 games did to our sterling squad that had won 94? Remember the great, exciting comeback season in 2005, and then sinking back into the herd by losing 11 out of 14 on a roadtrip in September? Remember 2006, the most evenly triumphant season since 1986? Remember rolling over the Dodgers. And then do you remember whatever it was that happened in that series against the Cardinals?

Why am I telling you all this? I’m telling you because this is what you are. This is what they repeat. This is what you repeat. This is what you are. Sorry. Always, they dig their graves. Always they lie down in it and get comfortable. Sometimes they climb out of the grave and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are beaten even though they climb out. And sometimes, twice to be exact, in 45 years, they win it all.

Live with it. Live it. You have no choice. You don’t love them for it. You love them in spite of it. But you love them. That stays the same. And if you don’t, go away. We want to be alone with our team.

 

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