Certain historic impasses defy explanation through the usual cold metrics of the hard “sciences.” These events are too mystifying, too terrifying and too tragic to metabolize through strictly rational means. At instances like this we turn to the gypsy, the oracle, the soothsayer—one who can perceive time in a sweeping existential context, and bring comfort by reminding us of the suffering endured throughout the ages. Certainly, it is fair to say that the New York Mets 2009 season is the single worst confluence of circumstances in the history of the planet Earth. The deprivations and Promethean punishments are endlessly cruel. Madness and evil irony lurks at every turn—it’s as if “Moneyball” had been set in Dante’s Hell.
And so, we turn to a wise man—the celebrated novelist Rick Moody, who has lived as a Mets fan for a long time and understands many things. The better that we might find courage from his calming insights, rather then losing control completely and tying Omar Minaya to a grizzly bear.
The L Magazine: What is the pre-history and derivation of your Mets fandom? Were you shanghaied or willfully indoctrinated? Did you have childhood favorites? Any reflections on Ed Kranepool?
Rick Moody: My grandfather happened to be the publisher of a newspaper, The New York Daily News, that was, during my childhood, America’s bestselling daily. It was also extremely popular in Queens. Thus, when the Mets appeared in Queens, in the early 60s, the News was very partisan. Even more so during the pennant run of 1969. I was eight then. My grandfather always sent us whatever promotional stuff they were giving away, and that year they were giving away a lot of Mets stuff. I therefore went with the winners because it was easy. Fair-weather child! Little did I know how much losing would follow that summer of improbable victory. Anyway, I remember Seaver and Nolan Ryan from that year, and Cleon Jones, et al. But I was more into it in 1972, when the “Amazin’s” ground to a halt against the Oakland A’s—as I recall it. Then I liked Tug McGraw a lot. I liked pitchers, I guess. But I did like Ed Kranepool, because how could you not like a guy named Kranepool. And Dave Kingman. And Rusty Staub. Oh, and later I really liked George Foster. What an elegant guy. And Al Leiter, even though he’s a Republican.
The L: Most Mets seasons are trying, but this one has been a Russian Novel. The unassisted triple play, the Tony Bernazard imbroglio. Twenty men on the DL and counting. They could scarcely have suffered greater casualties had they invaded Petersburg in Winter. As a Mets fan, are you temperamentally disposed to accept this kind of outcome as a cruel fact of nature, or do you feel that there is actual agency in man to change the fate of this franchise?
RM: All Mets fans, I suspect, know and cherish failure. I once wrote a piece about the theology of the Mets, in which I argued that the Mets were truly like Christianity, because you have to WORK to believe in them. Yankee fans secretly know that their own love is indefensible, because it’s too easy. There’s nothing complex about it. It’s like evangelical belief. Or Calvinism. But Mets fans know that they have to believe in the darkest of dark hours, against all hope, and this season is just such a time. This part of why the Davey Johnson-era Mets were so transcendent, because they snatched victory from the gaping maw of failure. With much bravado. They were failures as human beings, but as a team they were awesome. Whether this propensity to failure in the Mets clubhouse is FATED is a deep question, but I perhaps prefer to think that it is historically bound, owing to the failure of the city to really be able to back a second team effectively—what with the Yankees around.
The Mets in this formulation are like the White Sox, or like Tampa Bay. They are one team too many. Once the New York teams went off to California in the expansion (the Dodgers, the Giants), New York was too ashamed to believe in a second team. It tries. But its attempts are enfeebled.