It has been only a few hours since Johan Santana completed the first no-hitter in New York Mets history. I am a born and bred Mets fan. It's just part of the deal in my family. My dad is a Mets fan. My uncle Jack, his brother, was a Mets fan. My cousins are Mets fans. And, despite living in DC, my five-year old son is a Met fan. It's just the way it is in my family.
The Mets are a part of my blood. Growing up as a Mets fan on Long Island you have an inferiority complex. You are surrounded by Yankee fans, who just drive you nuts. You are a second class citizen in your own home town. Besides for 1969-1973 and 1984-1989, you also root for the second-class team. It is something no Red Sox or Cubs fan, or long-suffering Cleveland sports fan can understand. You get tortured.
At the core of being a Met fan is the no-hitter streak. It is hard to understand. It's our curse of Nolan Ryan. 8,019 games, 51 years, and no Mets pitcher had ever thrown a no-hitter until Friday night. The streak defies logic. Names like Gooden, Seaver, Koosman, Cone, Viola, Hampton, Leiter and El Sid are etched in Met fan memories, and none ever did what Johan Santana did Friday night. It defies all statistical probabilities. The streak is more at the core of being a Met fan than anything. It perfectly sums up life as a Met fan. Friday night, it was over.
Upstairs in my glass bookcase is an old, dirty authentic Mets hat, proudly displayed. It belonged to my uncle Jack, the biggest Met fan I have ever known. Six years ago he passed away after a battle with ALS. Yes, Lou Gehrig's disease. Ironic, huh? My uncle, a Mets fan, died of a Yankee disease. He joked about it too, even after he could no longer talk. Because being a Met fan was in his blood. Friday night, I looked at his hat and cried from happiness for a good five minutes. I wish I could have shared the moment with him. We would have started emailing about the 6th inning on.
Then there's my dad, the man who made me a Met fan. He once told me he'd rather me bring home a non-Jewish girl than a non-Mets fan -- to this day I don't know if he was joking (I note I married Jewish girl who is also the daughter of a die-hard Met fan). In 1986, my dad had four work tickets to Game 7 of the World Series, but couldn't take me, as they were for work. Our relationship almost ended that day, but weather intervened, the game was delayed a day for rain, someone cancelled last second, and I got to go. Our relationship saved and we shared a World Series championship together. I can't wait to talk to him tomorrow. Why not Friday night? He's on a plane, no Internet connection, flying from overseas to NY. Such is being a Met fan.
On to my son, who just turned five, and has become a huge Met fan. The first question he asks me when he wakes up in the morning is who won the Met game last night. He is so excited for the Mets first trip of the season to DC next week. I got him out of bed for the 9th inning Friday night. We listened to Howie Rose (the celebrity in my synagogue growing up) call the last inning. We would have been watching it, but my Internet was down due to storms in DC, and I couldn't stream the video feed from mlb.com. Such is being a Met fan.
Even in the no-hitter, the game was laced with irony. It couldn't be easy. No, we had to suffer through pitch counts with our bum shoulder ace on the mound, wondering if he would get pulled. We will forever suffer with a bad call on ex-Met Carlos Beltran's line drive being called foul when it was fair, basically putting an asterisk on our no hitter. Beltran was in his first game back in NY, and got a standing ovation from the fans. He was a great Met. He should've broken up our no-hitter. That's how it works as a Met fan. But, Friday night was different. Mike Baxter, a rookie from Queens, yes Queens, literally knocked himself out of the game making a catch running full steam into the wall.
When I saw Yadier Molina on deck with two outs in the ninth inning and Santana behind David Freese 3-1, I thought here we go again. Freese will walk and Molina will break up the no-no. Molina's shocking home run in Game 7 of the NLCS knocked the Mets out of the 2006 playoffs. Molina stands with Mike Scott, Roger Clemens and Chipper Jones in Mets nemesis yore. And he stood on deck, poised to ruin us again. The same guy. But he didn't. Santana completed the no hitter. Freese struck out. The curse of Nolan Ryan was dead. 8019 games all clearly in the past. Now watch R.A. Dickey throw a no hitter tomorrow. That, would truly be how the Mets do this. Such is being a Met fan.
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