Today, we’re starting a new regular piece that—for now, at least—is called “Please, Explain Sports”. In the content of said piece, we’ll employ our longtime friend and sports fan Hemal Jhaveri—Senior Social Media Editor at USA TODAY Sports Media Group—to…essentially explain sports.
In both my case and Katie’s, neither of us has ever been that into sports in the past. But I’ve had a gradual if not totally uneducated love of soccer grow within me in the past years and, in general, both of us have come to appreciate the wide world of sports much more than our against-the-grain, “ANGRY BANDS AND PIERCINGS ARE MY SPORT!” personalities. Thus this late-in-life education, courtesy of our friend, Hemal.
For other…less familiar sports fans out there, we’ve linked through to explanations on a few terms below—I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what a postseason berth was, but it sounded a little gross. And yes, we even hyperlinked team names. I don’t know. Maybe someone, like, just got out of a weird cult and doesn’t know who the Mets are.
Alright, Hemal, we batted a few things around to start off with—see, I can do a moderate sports analogy—but you seem especially stoked on baseball right now. I’ll be honest—and I’m not kidding here—I’ve spent 4-7 innings of the last three baseball games I’ve attended looking for vegan nachos that I don’t think exist at Dodgers stadium. So, enlighten us on this thing you call ‘base ball’.
Baseball, of course! A lot of people will try to tell you that college football, which starts in a couple of weeks, is great, but these people don’t know anything. Don’t listen to them. With about two months left in the season, MLB is where it’s at, and right now, the Mets are occupying a huge chunk of my time and affection.
I’ve been a Mets fan for a long time but what you have to first understand about this team and what makes them so intriguing right now, is that they usually aren’t very good. In fact, they have a well-earned reputation for being comically awful. The Mets are so bad that fans invented the hashtag #LOLMets to describe the team. Trust me, it gets used a lot.
At the start of the season, the Mets looked good, but fans expected the same thing that happens every year—a lot of promise that eventually implodes as the season heads to the final stretch.
But, as of Wednesday, the Mets are leading the National League East (by one game), finished a sweep of division rivals the Nationals and have won five straight games.
This team is actually good! Strong pitching and hot bats have a lot to do with this of course, but it’s been an emotional rollercoaster that pivoted on a crucial few days last week.
About a week ago, with the MLB trade deadline approaching, the Mets set up a trade to ship right-hander Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores to the Brewers for center-fielder Carlos Gomez..
Word got out, as these things often do, and Flores found out that he’d been traded from a fan as he walked out into the infield during the 7th inning of a game.
That’s just brutal. Flores, understandably, was crushed and unable to hold back tears as he finished out what he thought was his last game as a Met.
It was gut wrenching to watch. I don’t like to see anyone cry, much less an athlete.
But, in true Mets fashion, the deal fell through at the last minute and Flores got to stay with the team he loved. Which, yay!
But, the story gets better. In their next game, with the score tied 1-1, Flores hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of 12 inning against division rivals the Nationals and won the game. Everyone lost their damn minds. As he ran the bases, Flores kept pointing at the Mets logo on his uniform to show how proud he was to still be a Met.
That’s redemption right there.
No kidding, I almost cried.
The Mets have a beautiful history that’s built mostly on heartbreak and failure. If you’re a Mets fan, you’re not used to winning, just trying hard and falling short.
That’s what makes the last few weeks and the story of Wilmer Flores so compelling. Flores stayed with the club through some pretty lean years, and just like the fans, his loyalty isn’t built on wins but rather shared misery. For better or worse, this was his team.
I don’t think you can overestimate how something like that has kind of galvanized the team and the fan base. Since the trade debacle, the Mets are playing with more passion and emotion, and it seems like a postseason berth really is within grasp for the first time since 2006.
Now, with two months left in the season, all eyes are suddenly on the Mets to see if this team is actually for real.
The thing is, they might be. Or they could implode again and miss the postseason but regardless, it’s going to be so much fun to watch. Every game matters and now is a perfect time to hop on this bandwagon.
Hemal Jhaveri is the Senior Social Media Editor for USA TODAY Sports Media, a resident of the District of Columbia, and, above all else, an awesome person. In the past, she’s worked as Executive Director of Digital Innovation at Politico, Executive Producer at AOL, and—many lifetimes ago—was a student in a Geology 101 lab I TA-ed. Feel free to contact us if you have any sports-related questions you’d like Hemal to tackle.