the sports section

Leitch: A Crushing End for Shea Stadium and the 2008 Mets

I’ve seen pretty much everything you could imagine on a baseball broadcast, but I almost had a first yesterday: I was legitimately worried that someone in the SNY broadcast booth was going to jump out of the booth and kill himself. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be Gary Cohen or Keith Hernandez or Ron Darling, but I found myself hoping that someone had remembered to lock the window.

It’s impossible to think of a more destructive way for Shea Stadium to come to an end than with what happened over the last few months. The Mets’ failure to reach the playoffs will be inevitably compared to last season’s collapse, but 2007’s team was a fat and happy bunch of unmotivated malcontents. This year was so much worse. The Mets actually tried, which is the cruelest trick they could have played on their fans. The bullpen was a disaster, the team was ravaged by injuries, and the whole enterprise was held together by string and spit. And the Mets kept coming, recovering from the early season malaise behind Jerry Manuel and inspiring fans to believe that something special was in the air, that the years of suffering would be rewarded in one miraculous Shea send-off. Had the Mets faded away in June, like they were probably supposed to, fans would have made their peace with it, said goodbye to the old warehouse, and then moved on. The last day of the season would have been a celebration of Mets history, with the page turned, a shiny new yard next door ready to show off. Instead, the post-game festivities felt like a wake performed for a man who just died five minutes ago. In a way, it was the send-off Shea had promised all along. But that didn’t make it any easier to stomach. It was downright mean to put anyone through this.

Over the past two weeks, no sports Website has proven more valuable and hypnotic than Faith and Fear In Flushing. Written by Greg Prince and Jason Fry, two professional writers, it comes advertised as “The Blog for Mets Fans Who Like to Read.” Prince and Fry are literate, passionate Mets fans, and — in the face of every stereotype of the Mets Nation — true believers. (Prince has attended every game this week, afraid to let Shea Stadium go.) Despair forces them into the abyss, but somehow they always, true to their title, keep the faith. They’re like the collective unconscious of Mets fans, and they slowly devolved into madness as the week ended. (“My overexposure to the Mets in September 2008 has left me with only my love as a reason for my love. It is circular reasoning whose perimeter permits no logic to permeate.”) Prince and Fry’s writing has been almost as compelling as the games themselves. You couldn’t help but worry about them.

Six hours after yesterday’s loss, the most crushing loss of all, the one that’ll never, ever go away … the site somehow made us feel a little better.”[S]oon enough the days will be longer, there will be old and new Mets in Florida, and then they’ll be here, once again, under warmer and warmer nighttime skies, in a place that’s different but that we already know how to get to. And we’ll have begun again.” Radio silence would have been an act of mercy; hope and faith, and the renewal of next March, turned out far more soothing. Maybe we’ll all make it through the cold winter after all.

Oh, and rest in peace, Shea Stadium. May we never speak of you again.

Leitch: A Crushing End for Shea Stadium and the 2008 Mets