The New York Mets, my Mets, have lost four in a row and I am avoiding tuning into WFAN, the local sports talk radio station, for fear of being made to feel even worse about things than I already do.
I listened for a while yesterday as listener after listener called in to vent rage, chagrin, despair at the suddenly woeful prospects of a team that a week earlier -- a light year ago -- had been the hottest in all of baseball.
How quickly the good times were forgotten. The callers' blood was up, and more than one wanted the head of Jerry Manuel, the wise and thoughtful manager, whose success with the club -- twenty games over .500 since taking over the job midway through last season -- no longer seemed to matter. Manuel was making all the wrong moves. And joked too much. And was too nice to his men.
For reasons that suggest tough love parenting has never really gone out of style, the cure most often prescribed for poor play is to bring in a manager who really knows how to get very angry. Where, oh where, the callers wanted to know, is Lou Pinella when we need him?
Sweet Lou is in Chicago, where his Cubs are 21 and 17, in third place in the National League Central, three games back. Did I mention that the Mets are 21 and 19, a game behind the first place Phillies in the East?
Not that this matters to those who hold the Mets closest to their hearts. Nor, it seems, does the outbreak of injuries that have denied the team its best slugger, Carlos Delgado, its spark plug, Jose Reyes, and a host of other valuable men.
That is because, in the true telling of the tale, the Mets recent fall speaks about more than sport alone. It is, in the eyes of the most faithful, confirmation that life is a tragedy waiting to unfold.
How do they know this? The signs are everywhere: three balks in an otherwise terrific pitching performance by Mike Pelfrey; five errors in a single game; the otherwise reliable Ryan Church forgetting to touch third base on his way home with a go-ahead run.
Could the harbingers be any more obvious?
Which begs the question: why choose to suffer?
Why? Because it is not take a literary critic to appreciate the greater emotional depth that comes, not through comedy, but in tragedy. If you would like to suggest that the Mets' last two seasons, each of which ended with dreadful late collapses, seemed funereal -- versus, to put it in Shakespearean terms, matrimonial -- be my guest.
There is great pleasure to be derived in this suffering, and not merely because it provides an approximation of real life suffering with none of the dark consequences.
Suffering is a dynamic sensation, certainly more so than winning. Winning is a wonderful feeling that evaporates quickly -- say, the day after the parade -- because there is nothing to sustain it. It happened; it felt good; and now it's over.
But losing, especially losing as the Mets do, is a gift without end. It is a drama filled with squandered chances, missed calls -- literally -- and failure at the moments when even a little success might do.
Which means there is so much to think about, and talk about, endless moments that can be picked apart, hashed over, revisited, bemoaned. Even well into winter.
Bad teams are as uninteresting as great teams in that they are a dimension or two away from being compelling; they do the same thing all the time. But good teams with the capacity for greatness, those are the clubs you love. And hate.
Right now the Mets, who have been finding different ways to lose every night, are the object of scorn mixed with sadness. They fill the heart.
And they play three against the Red Sox at Fenway Park this weekend.
Life never felt so complete.