Why is no one in a bad mood?
I am an enthusiastic person. Sometimes I lose patience with people who make themselves miserable with baseball. Baseball is a happy thing and if it makes us unhappy there is something wrong with us.
Still. Aren’t there perfectly legitimate reasons for Mets fans to be unhappy right now? What could have been more excruciating than the last three weeks of each of the past two seasons? Think once again of the fearful symmetries. A seven-game lead with seventeen games to play. A three-and-a-half game lead with seventeen games to play. Falling one game short each time. Two rotten Sundays following two spectacularly redemptive Saturdays. Think of it. Dwell on it. We wouldn’t have to be jerks or fools to be unhappy.
But we’re not unhappy.
I’m not entirely sure why we’re not. But we’re not. Do you want me to say that it’s because the Mets improved their bullpen in the off-season and that they’re all involved in what we’re being told is Jerry Manuel’s new team-first philosophy? Please don’t expect me to say that it’s because over the past two days we wiped the floor with the Orioles and the Marlins and Luis Castillo has come all the way back.
These aren’t the reasons. The Mets routinely enter the new season with a major off-season improvement. Team-first philosophies are nice, but to me it looks like one of these things they make up so that there is something to report (what philosophy is it replacing?). Clobbering the Orioles and Marlins was nice but it’s all just February fairy dust.
We’re happy because we’re excited. And we’re excited, in part, because we’ve been through hell. We are used to the idea that we can lose what we thought we had. We know what this is like and we know that we can survive it. Now that we have the sense that nothing worse can happen to us than what has already happened, we are amazed to realize that something different could happen.
I am struggling to understand the logic or at least the psychology of my absolute belief that what just happened will not happen again. Is this just me? I don’t think so. I sense (sense!) a relaxed optimism in my fellow Mets fans. The past two years, I think, have helped us to grow up. Like adults, we’re hardened, but also more relaxed. Our hope is not the innocent hope that can’t stand to be thwarted. We know what can happen. We have faith in Jerry Manuel. We have faith in the maturity and discipline of our team. We believe. We are too smart to expect. And although I never thought I’d admit this, I think we also have a new sense of possibility that comes from new surroundings. I still can’t believe Shea is gone. But I am excited and curious about Citifield. You know what some people say about replacing the hardwood floors with the Tuscany tile.
Maybe I’m fooling myself. I’ve fooled myself before and so have you. That’s what this whole game is about: the pleasure of fooling ourselves. But what allows us to fool ourselves is the fact that we know that sometimes it happens. Sometimes you sense it and you’re not wrong. In his lyrical little piece at the start of the ballgame, Gary Cohen expressed it this afternoon. We’re here together again, hoping to have a memorable summer and a magical fall.