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When I start talking about baseball, which I do all the time now because the Mets are breaking my heart, people always want to know how I became a fan. Even in 2015, girls need a reason to love a sport. God forbid we find it on our own. It's an outrage. It's a scandal. And for me, it's true. I started watching baseball because of my boyfriend.
It was November when we met, and the World Series had already crowned its annual champion. I had been aware of the contest the way you know that J.Lo has a new album out—you've heard a few snippets of it here and there. Somewhere out there, I understood that there were people who anticipated baseball season and the most recent "work" from Jenny from the Block. And good for them! To each his own! I had liked The Art of Fielding, I suppose. For several years during my childhood, A League of Their Own seemed to play weekly on TBS and that was okay. Fictional sports suited me just fine. Grown men making millions to chase a ball on national television moved me less. When I wanted to take pleasure in the baseness of American values, I just watched the Real Housewives.
"Oh, I have an MLB TV subscription," Jason said, dropping it into conversation in March. "Have I told you that?"
He had not. My brother is a Mets fan so I understood the concept. But when I wanted to know whether it was really worth it to spend real money to watch a game from time to time, Jason looked puzzled. I had misunderstood. Jason is a Mets acolyte. He watches all the games.
I called my best friend later that day: "Oh my god, I'm dating one of those guys." Rachel extended her sincerest condolences.
"It's fine. When does baseball season end?"
I had no idea.
Which is how—you guessed it—I started to watch too. Jason was kind and tuned in with headphones at first. I had work to do and friends to see and food blogs to surf. I had space to stare into while he uh-huh'd me for several hours at a time.
"Is it a good game?"
"What are you doing tomorrow?"
"I think I'm going to get a tattoo of Drake on my lower back."
I gave up. Bored to death, I got curious. I wanted to know what made someone a good pitcher and which teams had the best hitters. What's a "balk"? Where's Derek Jeter? I watched a few innings and studied some basic facts. I cheered when the Mets scored what I learned to call a run.
"Rooting for the Mets is character-building," Jason told me, recounting a cruel history of losses and mortification. I nodded and decided not to add that I have never really looked to entertainment to strengthen my moral fiber. I like Bravo too much. It continued on like this for a few months. I dipped in a game and out of it. I commented on what I knew: the Mets mascot could use improvement. Jacob DeGrom needs a haircut. Old men shouldn't wear baseball uniforms. The glory days are over, sir! ("That's Terry Collins, Mattie. He's the manager.")
And then Wilmer Flores cried at Citi Field.
In the middle of a game in the depths of July, reports circulated that the Mets had decided to trade two dudes named Zach Wheeler and Wilmer Flores for some bro named Carlos Gomez on the Brewers. Flores, Jason told me, has been in the Mets organization since he was 16 years old. He's never played for another team. Rumors of the deal spread to the diamond, reaching Flores, who was battling the Padres. On live TV, tears streamed down his face. This was better than Friday Night Lights. This was better than Oscar acceptance speeches and American Idol finales. I stared, rapt. The Mets backed out of the trade at the last minute and Flores was saved, but it was too late for me: I was hooked.
For weeks over the summer, I watched the Mets win over and over and lose to the Nationals a few too many times. I rooted for Noah Syndergaard—not because my boyfriend told me to, but because I like his hair.
I cursed Chase Utley, that scoundrel! And while Jason mastered statistics and odds, I memorized the human dramas. The rivalries! The promise of victory! The way an entire stadium gave an injured Ruben Tejada, cane in hand, a standing ovation when he hobbled onto the field! I love my brother and sister. When my friends are hurt, I'm sad. And even now, I want the best for Britney Spears because I think she's a survivor. But I've never cared about the fates of two dozen random men the way I do about the Mets. No pop star could convince me to watch 14 innings of a glorified game of catch. The Mets did on Tuesday. They lost. Jason and I were too depressed to talk about it. We just looked at each other and mourned.
Baseball is the best reality television. And the writer in me knows it. Every time a team marches out, it's always a redemption story. Someone will forever have something to prove. Yoenis Céspedes will try to make up for that horrendous fumble (opens in new tab). Matt Harvey will do his best to earn our forgiveness (opens in new tab). And the game will decide whether he deserves it. While the "good" books that I like to read tend to end in unresolved discord (very art-y!), baseball is happy to declare winners and losers. There are no ambiguous denouements. And what a pleasure—life is uncertain enough.
I never wanted to be that girl—the one who tries to like sports and eat cheese fries to prove something. No boy could have convinced me to drink beer or hate kale chips. But one did show me that I could jump up and down for Curtis Granderson and groan when Lucas Duda strikes out and hate Mike Moustakas. Love is a miracle. And it's good. Because that's exactly what the Mets are going to need to win the World Series.
Call me crazy but I believe it's possible. I've seen The Comeback Kid.
Mattie Kahn is a writer who lives in New York. She covers politics, style, culture, and dangerous women. As far as she's concerned, candidates come and go, but the Oxford comma is forever.
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