If I'm being honest, my feelings on the Subway Series typically fall on the "hate it" side of the fence. A twice annual reminder of why my team isn't as good as their team is usually not my idea of fun, and even those seasons where the Mets have come out victorious against their cross-town rivals, it's usually set against the overaching reality that the Yankees have a shot at playoffs and beyond, and the Mets just don't. Like in 2008, when the Mets won the season series 4-2, including a sweep at Yankee Stadium...and the Mets were eliminated from wild card contention on the last day of the season by the Marlins. Again. Or 2004, when they swept at Shea and won the series, only to go 71-91 that year.
Living in New York, the Mets are the team you root for if you don't really mind a dark cloud over your head. They're who you root for if sports don't have to be easy for you, if you want to feel a sense of fulfillment by earning success through years of despair. That is, if you think your being a fan has anything to do with anything, which - as it happens - I narcissistically do. Being a Met fan means that, even when you win, you gotta be ready to hear it from the Yankee fans in the room when they remind you of their many titles and how Jeter is God and how they don't even like A-Rod, as if that lends them more credibility (it does).
This season smells a little different, though. The teams step up the Subway Series in remarkably similar circumstances - the Yankees in third place in the AL East, a half game back of the surprising Orioles; the Mets in third, back a game and a half from the surprising Nationals. They each also sit in divisions with powerhouse teams in last place, further complicating their own prospects at an eventual postseason berth with the chance that the Red Sox and Phillies could suddenly remember how to play baseball again.
And, lest I forget, they each have teams owned by rich men who made money by swindling middle-class investors.
What's that? Only the Mets are owned by dirty crooks? Oh. Bummer.
/cries in corner over Wilpon crimes
/considers argument that all sports team owners are crooks who swindle the middle-class
Despite the similarities of circumstances, the Yankees and Mets of 2012 are still very different teams. The Yankees are squeaking by despite fielding a team of proven winners and more than their fair share of perennial All Stars, while the Mets are exceeding expectations with a team of nobodies and top guys on the DL, leaving a roster seemingly held together with duct tape, naive ambition and the magical, high-pitched tone of Terry Collins' voice. Add in a guy coming off the franchise's first no-hitter, and suddenly this series doesn't just seem like an opportunity to show up the big brother club from the Bronx, but a chance for the Mets to establish themselves - in the context of a very strong season - as the NYC team to watch this summer.
No matter what happens this weekend, I'm optimistic about the Mets this season, insofar as I had previously expected to give up on them in May and now actually think there will be meaningful games come August and September. But, if I have to walk into work on Monday to find a gaggle of cocky Yankee fans gloating about beating up on the Mets this weekend, things may get violent. You may disagree, but I don't think I'd do well in Manhattan Central Booking or Rikers Island ... so, if only for that, Let's Go Mets!