Yes, yes, I know. We’ve been having a blast watching the Mets get to the World Series. Cheering on home runs, outs, calling balls and strikes, yelling “Thor” whenever the camera caught his blonde mane. It’s been a good run. It still is. The Mets are in the World Series and I was proud watching you trash-talk Miss Brooke, your preschool teacher and a Dodgers fan.
“The Dodgers are the losers!” you said and everybody laughed. Trust me, one day you’ll get beaten up with an empty beer bottle for saying this in LA. But you’re six and right now it’s cute. Adorable, even.
What’s not so cute is that you’re completely oblivious, clueless even, to what this means to your life. And it’s all my fault.
I was the one who indoctrinated you into being a Mets fan. I was the one who indoctrinated you into being a Jets fan. I was the one who indoctrinated you into being a Knicks fan. And worst of all, I was the one who indoctrinated you into being a Cologne soccer fan. That’s the German team that’s been breaking my heart since I was your age and this new kid moved into our apartment complex. He was a year or two older and I think his name was Torsten. No, not Thor.
I was obsessed with everything he did and he was a Cologne soccer fan. At the time, early eighties, they were a good team. and thus I became a Cologne soccer fan. And I stuck with it despite living nowhere near Cologne, despite Eintracht Frankfurt being the local team and Bayern Muenchen the always winning bandwagon team for people who don’t enjoy misery. There’s no logical, geographical, and emotional reason for me to be rooting for fucking Cologne other than I wanted to connect with somebody. And when the kid moved away I stuck with it. I stuck with Cologne, the misery, everything. I suffered with them. Or perhaps I suffered through them. My childhood wasn’t jam-packed with Disney moments and I spent a lot of time in my room, bouncing a soccer ball around and pretending I was Pierre Littbarski or Bernd Schuster, scoring the goals that they never did when it mattered. I was attracted to the losing team. I felt a connection that is hard to explain and impossible to unchain myself from.
Before I go on, I want to say that I am a reader. I love the arts, movies, I read philosophy, I made some short films, I’m trying to say that I’m not a jock. But it’s sports that occupy my mind when I need to not think, when I suffer, when I refuse to look within, when time just doesn’t pass fast enough.
It’s much easier to curse a team than to look within.
I moved to New York in 1999. In 2000 the Mets went to the World Series against the mighty Yankees. Only months earlier I had deciphered the game of baseball while smoking a joint watching a Yankees game. It’s not as simple a game as soccer, let me tell you. But I liked it. And I became a Mets fan. D’uh. They’re the underdog. They’re not expected to win. Their success is unsustainable. Which proved true.
I became a Knicks fan just because I wanted to belong. New country, new city, new people. I needed something to connect to when baseball season was over. Through Shandon Anderson, Stephon Marbury, Scott Layden, and everything else (and there’s tons) I remained a Knicks fan to this day.
I became a Jets fan because I liked the color green. Still do, still am. FML.
It’s obvious that my teams reflect an inner state of despair. That we were emanating matching frequencies.
And now I have to call myself out for my selfishness. I indoctrinated you, brainwashed you, took advantage of my statue as Daddy, and made you support all of the losers I mentioned above. I never even gave you a choice despite the certainty that these teams will rip your heart out, eat you up and puke out the mush that’s left of you.
On occasion they’ll flaunt a little hope in front of your face:
What if this is next year?
What if management finally got their shit together?
What if they stay healthy this year?
What if God has mercy on them for once?
Instead, you’ll get the Butt-fumble, Tommy John, Isaiah Thomas, James Dolan, another relegation, another rebuild, another patch-up job, another vantage point from which to imagine a different future with different results. You’ll get insanity.
Kid, I’m having the time of my life watching our team win, wearing matching hats, high-fiving each other, hugging, laughing, cheering, talking trash at the TV. I’m present in this moment with you. I don’t even scold you for jinxing the Mets when you say that they’ll definitely defeat Chicago. What were the chances? And you don’t know any better. They’re the Mets. You weren’t there for Art Howe, Mo Vaughn, Beltran taking Strike three, 2007, 2008, and Bernie Madoff. You were born at the bottom of yet another rebuild. You were born when the Jets were brash and gave us hope for a couple of years.
One day, it’s inevitable, you’ll scream “Fuck you, Dad!” at me. It’s OK, it’s expected. It’s a rite of passage. But my wish is that your life won’t be as empty as mine when I screamed the same words at my Dad, albeit in a different language. I think it won’t be. I think you’ll be full of life, I can see it already. But who knows.
Anyway, I hope that in that moment you’ll continue screaming at me:
“And fuck the Mets!”
“And fuck the Jets!”
“And fuck the Knicks!”
“And definitely fuck Cologne!”
Because if you do that, I know that you’ll be fine. Even if it’s just because you hate sports and really want to sing. Or dance. I don’t care. Just don’t go through life the way I did. Empty, depressed, insecure, exposed to the conditions, assuming the worst. But if you will, hell, you’ll be tougher for it because you’ve gotten your heart broken by the Mets, Jets, Knicks, and Cologne. Over and over again. And then you might even thank me.
Anyway, I can’t wait to watch the Mets lose the World Series with you. I’m sorry, kid. But it’s just sports. Right? Right? Right?