I love the 1986 Mets.
I know a lot of people love the 1986 Mets. I mean, not as many as probably hate the 1986 Mets, but I really love the 1986 Mets.
I was lucky enough to be an 8-year-old living in Queens when the Mets had the best season in their history, and I read every book, newspaper or magazine article, and watched every documentary about that team in the years since the Mets’ last world championship.
So maybe it surprises you to learn that I’m over it. And I’m not at all excited about this weekend’s 1986 Mets reunion.
This is hard for me to admit. I’ve identified with the 1986 Mets for so long that I feel like I’m turning my back on a big part of who I am.
I waited for a celebration like this for a good part of my life. But year after year the Mets seemed to try to distance themselves from that sordid championship team. Prison sentences, drug addictions, brawls…it’s not surprising they took that approach. (Some of the players have plaques in the Mets Hall of Fame, but none are honored on the outfield wall, which was a fact brought to light again recently with the announcement that the Mets would be retiring Mike Piazza’s number 31 this year.) But I ached to see my heroes again. And then, finally, they started to re-appear; as coaches in the minor leagues. As broadcasters. As spring training instructors.
And then I finally got my celebration. Back in 2006 the Mets honored the twentieth anniversary of that historic team. I went to the big reunion game, I got my t-shirt, I saw the Mets wear the throwback uniforms. I soaked in the nostalgia, complete with Game 6 parachutist reenactment.
Other than the rain and cold wind that day in August of 2006, the ceremony was perfect. Most of the key players were there, a couple of them spoke, and the first-place 2006 edition of the team logged an exciting come-from-behind victory. And it felt symbolic – the 2006 Mets were headed to the franchise’s next World Series win, the materials for the construction of the new ballpark were piling up behind the outfield walls at Shea Stadium, and it looked like we could close the book on celebrating 1986 as the last time the Mets won a championship.
But the 2006 team didn’t win it all. Neither, in a different kind of history-making achievement, did the collapsing 2007 or 2008 teams. Ten years after that 1986 celebration, the Mets continue to inch up the list of “teams that haven’t won a championship since…” and I’m done celebrating 1986 just like I’m done celebrating Joe Namath and a Jets team that hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 47 years.
Besides my on-the-field frustrations, I have some sentimental reasons for not wanting to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of my favorite team. The 2006 celebration took place in the stadium where the 1986 team won it all. A Citi Field celebration can’t compare in that sense. Then there’s the fact that my favorite player from that team, Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, passed away in 2012. I never would have thought that night in August, 2006 would be the last time I would see my boyhood hero in person. I always clung to the idea that, like so many other baseball fans in their later years, I’d get to shake hands with my favorite baseball player some day and tell him what watching him play meant to me. I’m not sure I’m ready to watch his hard-living former teammates be celebrated without him there.
I get my fill of the 1986 Mets these days in any number of ways. I love watching and listening to Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez on the SNY broadcasts. I enjoy hearing the occasional interview in the stands with the likes of Mookie Wilson or Dwight Gooden. I loved seeing Tim Teufel celebrate last year’s National League championship in his role as third base coach.
For a long time I needed a distraction from the product the Mets put on the field and I would have welcomed a 1986 reunion weekend every month. Not now. Now I’m ready to celebrate the team on the field.
I don’t need another big reunion weekend. At least for another ten years.
And then hopefully we can roll in a celebration for the 2016 team as well.