Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A METS GAME IS NOT A DINNER PARTY. I went to Shea on Saturday, and heard the heavy boos for the slumping Carlos Delgado. So I can understand his reticence to take a bow after his second homer on Sunday. The New York Post's Joel Sherman affects concern for the relationship of the Mets and their fans:
The Met loyalists turn verbally pessimistic at the first sign of trouble in a nine-inning game. The booing feels like the in thing; hey everyone is doing it, so why not me?... There is no let-bygones-be-bygones here. There is a lack of trust toward the team, a lack of faith that the manager or management knows what they are truly doing, a lack of conviviality toward the roster.

And as one player asked, "Do they think that is helping us?" In other words, it is hard to win, harder yet when you are playing either in anticipation of the boos or to try and ward them off. Both media and fans have become harsher over the years, but there is a quick, energy-sapping maliciousness at Shea that is hard to match anywhere.
This is a little rich. Booing makes it hard to win? Major league ballplayers have earplugs made of 24 karat gold. They haven't heard anything besides "Your contract demands have been accepted" and "My name is Tiffany, can I ride in your limo" since Triple A. On those rare occasions when our displeasure reaches them, their response is Delgado's: a quiet Fuck You.

I have followed the Mets through seasons in which booing was about the only cheap pleasure to be had at Shea. The team has gotten better, but the years of overpayment and underperformance have left us a little jaded, maybe even slightly depraved. Last year's collapse was certainly no fun for anyone, but the fans who paid both keen attention and a good chunk of the players' salaries -- and who later learned that Paul Lo Duca's combativeness in the home stretch may not have revealed the heart of a gamer, but the long-term effects of steroid abuse -- had good cause to be bitter.

Soon the franchise will relocate to a new stadium, where everything will certainly cost more: tickets, beer, hot dogs. I think fans who notice, for example, a decreased willingness among Met infielders to dive for ground balls may be forgiven a little vociferation.

No quarter asked, no quarter given, and Delgado was well within his rights to go Ted Williams on the boo-birds on Sunday. I would be pleased if Delgado hit many more homers and circled the bases each time with two middle fingers held proudly aloft. In fact, maybe the key to 2008 is to keep hate alive. If the Jose Song fails to motivate Reyes to realize his considerable potential, maybe "You suck" will; I would happily trade that stupid song for some timely base hits. Athletes know that the best way to shut a big mouth is with a big win, and if they want to stick it to us ingrates by cruising to a World Championship, that would suit me fine.

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