Thursday, May 19, 2005

Shea hey, time to change trains


Shea hey, time to change trains!


Ahh, it's Subway Series time again. That part of the season where Yankee fans hope the Mets don't ruin their weekend and Met fans hope the Yanks don't wreck their season.

It's the longest two weekends of the season for die-hard Met and Yankee fans.

You'll notice I didn't say all baseball fans in the area, just the die-hards.

Let me confess that I am a Mets fan, a big one. Like most die-hard Mets fans, I lose sleep after a tough loss and lose my grip on reality after a big win. I have a daughter named Shea and would've named my son Mookie, but my wife wouldn't go for it. From Doug Flynn to Doug Mientkiewicz, I've spent every summer of my life living and dying - mostly dying - with the boys from Queens.

I also know many die-hard Yankee fans. I work with some, live near some. They are mostly in their late 40s and beyond. They know why nobody on the current Yankees wears No. 4 and when you ask them to name the greatest catcher in Yankee history, they don't say Joe Girardi. They appreciate what Joe Torre's Yankees have done, but don't take it for granted. And, like me and the rest of the Met fans in the area, they are few and far between.

You see, this city consists of millions of fans who love to play follow the leader.

They started rooting for the Mets the minute Gary Carter arrived, but switched over to the dark side around the same time Jeffrey Maier was making his game-winning catch in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS.

Need some proof? In 1987, the Mets drew over 3 million people to Shea. In 1996, they drew 1.5 million less. Last year, the Yanks drew 3.7 million to the Bronx. In 1986, you guessed it, the number was 2.2 million - 1.5 million less.

Need more proof? In 1991, Billy Crystal wore a Mets hat in "City Slickers" (it's right on the movie poster). By 1996 you got the impression he had been at every Yankee game ever played.

With the exception of Crystal, most of these "Yankee fans" are between the ages of 25 and 40, have highlight videos from 1986 and 1996 in their collection, own Mookie Wilson and Enrique Wilson jerseys, and every once in a while get on the 7 train instead of the 4 train. They are folks called "bandwagoners," and it's people like them I wonder about this weekend.

Now, they will never admit they are bandwagoners, they will swear they are die-hard Yankee fans, but we all know where they spent their time in the summer of 1986. We know they were the ones booing Mariano Rivera in April. We know they still have a Met cap in their closet, just in case.

So just what do they do tomorrow night when Victor Zambrano takes the hill in Queens? Oh, sure, they'll be reminding Met fans about Scott Kazmir, but they'll also be looking out at that big screen in left and thinking about the first time they did "The Curly Shuffle."

But mostly, they will be questioning the decision they made nine years ago.

Sure, they've seen the Yanks win four titles since 1996, but they also know, deep down, the tide could be turning.

After all, the Yanks may have A-Rod, but the Mets have the best Japanese infielder in the National League. Sure Derek Jeter is exciting, but nothing beats the thrill of watching Jose Reyes sprint to first, praying he doesn't blow out his hammy. And we all know which team's manager does the better acting in that Subway commercial.

Plus, there's no Jason Giambi and no John Sterling in Queens, and we have Anna Benson. There's three reasons right there to switch.

With the Mets showing a pulse, the A's and Mariners not on the Yanks' schedule until Labor Day, and Lee Mazzilli - he started as a Met, you know - and his Orioles still atop the AL East, I have to warn all you bandwagoners that your window of opportunity to switch back to the Mets is getting smaller each day.

So before you yell out "Who's Your Daddy?" every time you see Pedro, ask yourself, "Who's My Baseball Team?" Then look deep into your soul and think about all the good times the gritty, gutty Mets gave you when Sid Fernandez was literally the biggest unit in town. So find your Hojo jersey, take it out of moth balls, put it on and and come home.

But, remember, time is of the essence. The Met bangwagon may be full come Sunday afternoon. Then again, it could be completely out of gas.

Bill Price is an associate sports editor with the Daily News.

Originally published on May 19, 2005

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