There were many very significant, life or death issues in the news this week. This email isn’t about any of them.
There was the whole Bibi and Barack at AIPAC thing. I must have read 50 articles on that and I still don’t know which one of them is right on Iran. There was the whole Super Tuesday thing. I must have read 50 articles on that and have nothing enlightening to say about that either.
But, there was one piece in The Times today that caught my attention and really made me think: David Brook’s column entitled, “Hey, Mets! I Just Can’t Quit You.” OK, so those of you who know that I am an avid Mets fan are now LOLing all over the place. And “laughing out loud” is really what I should be doing about the Mets if I wasn’t so bitter. “The Mets have suffered a pair of bone-crushing late season collapses that have changed the personality of the franchise. The team is mired in financial turmoil. It is expected to be mediocre for the next several seasons at best,” Brooks writes. I think that’s about the nicest thing that’s been said about the Mets in months. The Mets are talentless and broke, with little hope for improvement unless the franchise is sold. But, the Wilpons (is there a financial reason, is it just ego or something else?) refuse to sell. Like David Brooks I would love to quit the Mets.
And like David Brooks, I can’t. Not that I’ve really tried. Brooks describes how he tried to become a Washington Nationals fan. Feh. That may be the only thing sorrier than being a Mets fan. (OK, maybe being a Cubs fan is more pathetic. How many years has it been since they’ve won?) Actually, the Nationals have a lot of young talent and seemingly a promising future, so they’re not a bad choice. But, as Brooks correctly points out it’s not about choice. When one is a true fan of a team one is not capable of changing allegiances, no matter how bad the team becomes. One can go to games less often or watch less often on TV, become more distant and even act disengaged. But, like many a Knick fan who experienced “Linsanity” a couple of weeks ago, just get a whiff of success and you’re back in your seat, excited and joyful like you were as a child.
There’s a core American debate between “On the Road” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Brooks writes. “’On the Road’ suggests that happiness is found through freedom, wandering and autonomy. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ suggests that happiness is found in the lifelong attachments that precede choice [my emphasis]. It suggests that restraints can actually be blessings because they lead to connections that are deeper than temporary self-interest. “ Brooks goes on to say that the happiness research suggests that ‘‘On the Road’ is an illusion and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is correct.
Huh… I thought about that for a while and realized: Is this not what being Jewish is all about as well? We develop our allegiance to the Jewish People early, experiencing it with “youthful enchantment,” as Brooks describes becoming a fan. Or we become Jewish as an adult, adopting our faith enthusiastically through conversion. Through these experiences, “the team crystallizes in your mind, coated with shimmering emotional crystals that give it a sparkling beauty and vividness. And forever you feel it’s attraction.”
Sure, we can become disillusioned as Jews, become angry, behave apathetically, stop going to the “ballpark,” so to speak. Most of us do, at least for some periods in our lives. But, it is folly to think that you can let it all go and find a better team to root for. It is foolish to quit. “Happiness is found in lifelong attachments that precede choice.” So, I will continue to be a Mets fan, no matter what the score. And I will continue to be a loyal Jew.
Fortunately, the Temple is doing a lot better than the Mets. We’re having a fantastic year. If you were here on Purim for our Purim shpiel you experienced our version of “Linsanity.” What an incredible night. With all the new, exciting things happening it feels a bit like spring training!