Thursday, April 30, 2009

Can elation of victory surpass thrill of chase?

An intriguing thought dawned on me today, a question asked of myself that I'm not sure I have a definitive answer for. Is the thrill of the chase a superior feeling to the elation experienced by the victory desperately hoped for? I found myself wondering if this was so as I reflected on the fact that I gave up being an active baseball fan a few years after the ultimate moment of fandom triumph when the Mets won the World Series in 1986. Throughout the 1970's, not getting into baseball until after their previous World Series appearance in 1973, I rooted for awful Mets teams year after year. No matter how terrible they played and how little promise they showed, my loyalty was secure. In the mid-80's their farm system began to produce gems such as Strawberry and Gooden, they made moves to obtain top notch talent such as Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez, and they became a force to reckon with. In '86 they won it all and you could not find a happier person on the planet than myself. Yet within 5 years after the magical season when Mookie Wilson's seeing eye grounder somehow made it past Bill Buckner's glove, I had pretty much abandoned baseball. A major strike that decimated a season was the back breaking straw, and in the following years I became much more enamored of basketball than had previously been the case.  But still, why did I not return to baseball? By the time the Mets returned to the World Series and got smacked around by the loathed Yankees I was pretty much just a fair weather fan. When the next season began I was back to ignoring the Mets and baseball in general.

Yet I have not abandoned my other two favorite teams. The Knicks have been horrendous over the past several years. Their trade of a past his prime Patrick Ewing set the franchise into a tailspin that they have been unable to recover from no matter how many Hall of Fame coaches and general managers have been in their employ since then. Although they have given me every reason to call it quits on our relationship, I have held fast in my support. They should have beaten the Rockets in the Finals. Had Pat Riley pulled the streaky John Starks or at least urged him to pass up a shot or two, the result surely would have been different. But revisionist history is the stuff of fantasy. They lost and that's that. 1999 was a joy ride as the Knicks played with house money. They weren't supposed to be in the Finals, were not even supposed to have made it out of the first round of the playoffs, so the entire postseason experience was gravy. Still, it was sad to watch (in person no less) when it came to an end and their fantastical hopes were dashed by a far superior (and far more boring) Spurs team. It's been all downhill since that day, but I have stuck with the Knicks through thin and thinner.

As for the New York Jets, I have yet to see them play in a Super Bowl. Twice they made it to within one game of the big show before falling to the Dolphins in the mud and to the Broncos after being up by 10 at halftime. [The Rex Ryan era that came after this blog post got them to within a game of the Super Bow twice more]  For the most part being a Jets fan has meant accepting maddening disappointment time and time again. Each season they're either really bad or else good enough to get your hopes up only to dash them in increasingly crueler fashion. Last season Brett Favre was supposed to be the savior. Next season their QB will probably be a rookie with plenty of growing pains to experience, and that's the best case scenario. I make it to a fair number of games each season so I get to suffer in the cold among the bitter masses yearning for the arrival of Namath II. It is not easy to be a Jets fan, as any of us will testify, yet I have perservered. So I ask myself, why have I stayed true to the Jets and Knicks but not to the Mets?

Could it be because the Mets are the only one among them who delivered for me? I don't remember the Knicks championship seasons of the 70's or the Jets victory in Super Bowl III, but I was a college student who vividly recalls the ecstacy of the Mets magical run in 1986. Once they came through for me, was I basically done with them? Would I have eventually tired of the Jets and the Knicks as well if they had managed to become world champions under my watch? I suppose it's possible, even if highly doubtful.

I pulled for Barack Obama to become president as strongly as I rooted for any of my favorite teams during any season. And he actually won. The President and a favorite sports team are not an apples to apples comparison, but it is nonetheless true that while I was practically obsessed during the campaign, I've given considerably less thought (and words) to politics post election. My guy won. I moved on to other interests, such as promoting a book. The pattern set with the Mets has sort of repeated itself.

Will I tire of writing if awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Patches of Grey or Matters of Convenience? Doesn't appear likely, but it does seem to be my M.O. I'll just have to wait and see, I suppose. Stranger things have been known to happen.

- Roy

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