Even amid World Series run, Mets fans can feel lonely in Syracuse
Walking the aisles of the Wegmans in Cicero with my dear wife Karen on Sunday, we crossed paths with another couple proudly wearing Mets shirts.
They perked up after I smiled and saluted them with a hearty "Let's Go Mets!"
It's a good year to be a Mets fan, what with our once-per-decade postseason appearance after an unexpected but totally delirious post-trade-deadline run to the National League East title. Dodgers beaten. Cubs swept. Bring on the Royals or Blue Jays in the World Series, starting Tuesday. Yes, even in Central New York, we can be loud and proud.
Yet I still feel like the minority, a small voice in a land of Yankees supporters. And Red Sox fans. Our divisional rival Washington Nationals have a bigger red W presence, thanks to the affiliation with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. There could even be a holdover pocket of fans that root for the aforementioned Toronto squad, the team Syracuse was tied to before this.
I tested my theory with a midweek trip to the stores that specialize in sports in Destiny USA, black throwback Carlos Delgado No. 21 shirt on my back and blue Mr. Met-insignia cap on my head.
In Dick's Sporting Goods, I encountered a whole wall of Yankees shirts and not a single item that featured the blue-and-orange of my Mets.
"We don't have any Mets stuff. Sorry," said a clerk who was pushing a rack with new shirts to add to the collection.
Inferiority complex fed.
Things were better, though, in the Sports Authority. First I found a couple lines top-to-bottom of Mets hats amid the Yankees and Red Sox caps. And around the bend were racks of Mets shirts, jerseys and T's and golf shirts. Nice variety, too. There was still more stuff for Yankees fans, though.
Next I sauntered over to upstate-based My Favorite Sports Store, wondering how a five-outlet organization -- with Victor, Waterloo, Rochester and Niagara Falls in addition to Syracuse's big mall -- was handling the rise of the team from Flushing.
I spotted a few hats, but no shirts. I was not the only one looking, either, said sales associate Nick Jofre.
"The last three days, 15 people came in asking about Mets stuff," Jofre said. "We carry a little of everything, but we're out now. Hopefully the owner will buy some for us."
In Cooperstown Connection, a small corner of a wide rack of shirts was given over to the Mets, dwarfed by Yankees and Red Sox ware. A table stand included Mets personalized name-and-number shirts folded with those from the American League squads and the Washington Nationals.
I walked up to the service counter in time to catch the tail end of a conversation between the clerk and two customers. "Now that I'm going back to the Mets, I'm looking for shirts," the man shopper said. The clerk said they were selling fast, and what was left was left.
"They're going strong," John Schleier told me as the man and woman walked off to look in that corner of Metsville. "We had a lot of Mets stuff here. They took a good run at them last week, Wednesday and Thursday. Past seasons, we had that Yankees and Red Sox connection."
Schleier explained how the store owners, based in Cooperstown, plan and order their inventory a year in advance.
"The powers that be took a guess, took a chance on the Mets and stocked up," he said.
That's what I like to hear.
And then I went home, opened up the sports section of The Post-Standard, and blanched when I read the TV grid. The NLCS was listed as TBD at Cubs. To be determined! No Syracuse respect for my New York Mets, I tell ya. Hey Rodney Dangerfield be damned. The Mets are in the World Series for the first time since 2000.