In my sports life, the Mets and the football Giants have been inexorably linked.
Yes, I’m the exception: The Mets fan who doesn’t root for other teams whose nicknames rhyme with that of my favorite baseball team (though I do pull for the Jets when they’re not playing the Giants).
The Mets came into my life first. I became a fan as a kid during the post-Seaver seventies. Early on, I was never too concerned that they were horrible, it was just a fact of life. I liked that they were the underdogs in New York City, and that they weren’t the Yankees. Also, the Mets were my “gateway drug” into the wonderful world of baseball, a game I learned to love as a spectator and a (not too good) player.
The Giants came next. When I discovered that I felt a void during baseball’s offseason, I realized I needed to find another sport. My uncle would always have the Giants game on if we visited him on a Sunday. He was one of those guys who had been a fan since the Truman administration. So I figured I’d give them a shot, and while I was at it, take in the Jets games as well, so I could see how Shea Stadium looked with a football field covering the diamond (He slides in safely with a touchdown!).
Back in the late ’70s, the Mets and Giants were both train-wrecks. The Mets were perpetually in the cellar, and the Giants never came close to making the playoffs.
This, incidentally, is my theory about why so many Tri-Staters my age are Cowboys and Steelers fans. With both New York football teams in the tank, they hopped on the bandwagon of the dominant teams of the late 70s. OK, back to the post.
Then, in the mid ’80s, the Mets and Giants both started to improve. In 1981, the Giants made the playoffs for the first time since the
’60s, but would falter in 1982 and ’83. In 1984, the Mets finished second in the NL East to the Cubs, and the Giants went back to the playoffs. This year started a run of success for each team that would last the rest of the decade.
In 1986, the Mets won the World Series. In the ’86-’87 NFL season, the Giants won the Super Bowl. Talk about spoiled! Gone were the days of low expectations – now I expected my teams to win it all every year.
The Jints won another Super Bowl in 1991, right around the time the Mets were fading into another, if brief, dark age. The Giants wouldn’t be far behind however, as the Dave Brown/Danny Kanell era soon cast its shadow over the Meadowlands.
In 2000, the teams had returned to competence. The Mets played the Yankees in the World Series, and the Giants returned to the Super Bowl. Both teams suffered bitter losses.
The two teams diverged for a time in the early ’00s, the Giants continued to contend, while the Mets suffered under the weight of poor player personnel decisions. But they reconvened in 2006.
Each team played at a championship-caliber level that year, but both lost in the playoffs. The next year, the Giants scored an improbable upset over the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl, while the Mets succumbed to a dramatic September collapse.
Since then, the Giants have managed to keep up their level of play, while the Mets have been forced to slog through a rebuilding process sparked by financial ruin.
As Super Bowl 46 approaches, this Mets fan has a welcome distraction from the daily negativity that surrounds the team. This week, I can savor the fact that my other New York team has a chance to win its second championship in 4 years. As far as my sports life goes, that’s better than a therapy session.