One of the practices that keeps us sports fans sane—and we need such practices, given the manifest irrationality and comprehensively taxing nature of our pursuit—is the practice of comparison.
On more occasions than I’d like to mention, I have offered up a hundred dollars (or more) and four hours (or more) to watch my New York Mets lose. They do a lot of losing, six in a row and nine of their last 10 at the moment. My spreadsheet tells me they’ve lost the last 10 I’ve attended as a civilian, which is an especially unlucky run, yes, but also basically emblematic of the experience of being a Mets fan. After a loss, the ride back to Manhattan from Queens, even when the MTA runs its super-express subways, is a long and despondent one. Misery loves company?—not on a packed train. Even in April, our gang turns vituperative and understandably a little unpleasant.
What little solace one can find on those gloomy evenings comes from looking across the train car, at the fan wearing not only a Mets cap but a Mets jersey and a Mets jacket and several Mets tattoos, and thinking, well, at least I’m not crazy like him. I have boundaries.
SI Films—yes, that’s us, we make movies now—has a documentary, Loyal 'Til the Last Out, which premieres on MLB Network on Saturday at noon and re-airs on Sunday at 10 p.m. It chronicles a year in the life of the 7 Line Army, the English-soccer-style Mets fan club to which more than a few of the aforementioned crazies who ride the aforementioned subway belong.
They’re loud; they wear lots of orange; they travel to away games in impressive numbers. (They had the good fortune, the doc reveals, of being out in full force in San Diego for the seminal May 2016 occasion of Bartolo Colón’s only career home run.) In Queens, they’re reliably garrisoned in center field.
What started as a t-shirt business is now the biggest Mets-adjacent enterprise this side of SNY, and I admit that its triumph has long puzzled me. Not because the t-shirts aren’t cool—they are; I own a few—but because, well, what would possibly compel fans to enlist in a brigade like this? Mets fans, in particular … we take little pride in this whole endeavor; instead we go about cheering for the team like it’s a disease we’ve inherited. And, really, it is.
These aren’t the Yankees, Cardinals, or Dodgers. There is no tradition/legacy/heritage of greatness/excellence/winning. The Mets have Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, the best broadcasters in baseball, one improbable five-decade-old title, and another, 31 years past, that should have kicked off a dynasty but didn’t. Aside from all that, they’re not especially different from, say, the Brewers or Padres. Had the 7 Liners been watching the same team the rest of us had? Were we missing something?
I still haven’t figured out what’s behind their zeal, and I’m not likely to join their number anytime soon, but as time has passed I’ve warmed to the variation among Mets fans, even the 7 Liners across from me on the 7 train. Yeah, you guys are nuts—I’m glad someone is.