Thursday, June 30, 2011

Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer: Time Is Not On Their Side

Article first published as Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer: Time Is Not On Their Side on Blogcritics.

In sports, the emphasis is always on youth. Great players are shooting stars  across the sky of their respective sports. Alas, like those shooting stars their path is all too brief, and then they flame out and disappear from view.

Today Roger Federer won the first two sets at Wimbledon in London in the quarterfinals. Anytime he has done this before in his career - 178 times to be exact - Federer has won the match. Today was a different story.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back and won the next three sets. There is no question that the Federer of the past  is no longer out there on the court. Tsonga (26) simply overcame Federer (29) with power and resilience and broke his serves the way it would not have happened a few years ago. Federer has to face the facts about his game, just as all the tennis greats like Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras have had to do.

Last week Tiger Woods (35) announced that he would not compete in the AT&T National. In golf older men have had much success, but one has to remain healthy and in shape. There is no question that Woods has always been into training, but his body is not "healthy" enough to compete. Again, as with Federer, reality rears its ugly head. Tiger is feeling all too human these days, and even with that sex scandal behind him and a lucrative endorsement for a Japanese company announced, Woods is realizing he is only human.

And then there is Derek Jeter, the perennial All Star shortstop for the New York Yankees. Jeter (37) has struggled this season (as he did last year), and now he is on the disabled list. The Yankee captain has been a great player for many years, but his body is starting to send signals to him that he may not want to receive. His hitting and fielding have been substantially compromised by the calendar, and whether or not the fans want to accept it, Jeter has to know that he better not turn around, because Father Time is gaining on him.

These three great sports figures have given fans many years of excellence, but the truth is that no one can expect to see their stars play forever. In each of these cases, we must appreciate their contributions to their respective sports but also know that attrition hits everyone. Even Jeter's teammate, the great closer Mariano Rivera, will someday see his powers diminish. It is just a fact of life.

The question one can ask is when do these guys throw in the proverbial towel? How long do they continue to push themselves to perform? While we expect that they must obviously see that their production is diminishing, perhaps they overestimate their contribution to the game. Whatever the case, don't expect any of these gentlemen to retire any time soon.

Maybe they should leave when they can still make that decision, or perhaps there will come a time when each one of these guys will face the inevitable after failing. Today Roger Federer had to see the truth in what Tsonga did to him. We television viewers certainly saw it and everyone in that stadium did too. Tiger has put himself on the shelf, and Jeter is on the disabled list. It's obvious that time is not on their side; in fact, it's not on anyone's side whether he or she is a player or a fan in the stands. Perhaps that's the toughest truth of all.

photo credit- BBC sports

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Goodbye to Good Neighbor Carl

Article first published as Goodbye to Good Neighbor Carl on Blogcritics.

In his amazing poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost wrote “Good fences make good neighbors.” The whole poem is about how the narrator and his neighbor walk along the length of their adjoining properties, fixing the wall between them as they go along. The narrator wonders why the wall is necessary and even sees his neighbor as “an old-stone savage armed” as the neighbor brings new rocks to support the wall. It is a delightful poem and captures all the nuances of that most odd and sometimes difficult of relationships – being neighbors.
We don’t get to choose neighbors the way we do friends or spouses. They are more or less inherited when we move in or when they move in, sort of like siblings and cousins from Poughkeepsie that you are happy never come down to the city. Still, being a good neighbor or being neighborly all connote a pleasant and rather collegial existence. This calls to mind the great movie Good Neighbor Sam starring Jack Lemmon who plays Sam, a neighbor who goes above and beyond expectations to help out the person next door with hilarious results.

I am thinking about this now as my neighbor Carl has all the boxes out on the front lawn and the moving truck in front of his house. I don’t recall how many years Carl has been here, but I do remember his son being in Kindergarten (I believe) when they moved in, and I think Jack just finished 8th grade now, so the years have gone by for sure.

Early this morning we spoke briefly, and Carl revealed that he has been reading my stuff and plans to continue doing so. I was sort of surprised that he even knew I wrote anything, and then I felt great joy in that he would even have interest in my work. After we said goodbye and I went inside, I felt motivated to write about Carl and his time spent as my neighbor.

Carl has certainly been a good neighbor in many ways. He has always been friendly, outgoing, willing to assist with his snowplow during a blizzard or helping to put up a tent for the annual block party. Carl is a very social person and has friends times ten, which is wonderful because people are drawn to his gregarious personality. His wife and he had many parties, but never anything that ever caused a disturbance. They are well liked and will be greatly missed.

I admire Carl very much for his outgoing personality and also because he was a member of the local volunteer fire department. You have to give credit to a person who works all day and then spends evenings running to the fire house for emergency calls. I give my donation every year to what I know is a good cause, but Carl went above and beyond by getting on those trucks and doing a job most people cannot or will not do.

His wife used to organize the annual block party, and with them leaving there will be no block party this year. My daughter wants us to get involved, but my wife and I are just too busy with everything. In fact, we say that all the time. Carl and his wife worked too but seemed to find the time for these things. Again, that is a credit to them and this year the block will be very quiet and lonely especially during the last weekend in July when the party used to take place.

As it is in life we always wish we had done things differently. I do wish I had been able to make more time to get to know Carl better, but that is nothing I can change. I have been busy and he was busy in his way. I blame myself for not extending an offer to do something or to just hang out, have a beer, and talk, but such is the nature of modern life.

We do indeed have a fence between our properties, and Carl’s kids would lose balls on our side often enough. They were always respectful of the fence, as was their dog Molly (a black Lab). Molly used to bark when they let her outside and reminded me of my old Lab who died earlier this year. I used to always reach over that fence and pet Molly, who greeted me like I was her long lost master. I am going to miss that dog.

I also want to say that Carl taught me something about being a good father – one of the best lessons I could ever learn. Carl was a huge Yankees fan when I first met him. He bled pinstripes like I did Mets orange and blue. We would have genial talks about the teams and, of course, his team was a good deal more successful than mine. When his son got older and became a Mets fan, Carl did what I think is the most amazing thing ever – he became a Mets fan for his son. I was so impressed by this and (though I have never told him in person) I admire that so much. Carl is not just a good man but a great father and person because his love is obviously unconditional to give up the team for Jack.

To be honest, I must say that I am not certain that I can live up to that with my son. If he should grow up and start loving the Yankees, I don’t think I could be as big a guy as Carl and drop the Mets. I think I would be devastated personally, and Carl didn’t let that happen. He just turned around and started wearing a Mets cap and supported his son. I am hoping my boy will love the Mets, but if he doesn’t, I am going to try to follow Carl’s lead but it will be difficult.

The last of the boxes is getting put on the truck as I look out the window. Soon it will rumble down the block and the family car will follow it with Molly sticking her head out the window. They are off to a new life elsewhere, and we will continue to live ours here and wait to see who will move in. I doubt the new tenants will ever be such good neighbors, so after Carl is gone I will frequently walk the fence along the property line and make sure all is secure. As Frost wrote, “Something there is that doesn't love a wall” and I understand it more than ever on this day.

So, goodbye, good neighbor Carl. You will be missed. Thanks most of all for the lesson you taught me about being a good father. Now excuse me while I go put a Mets cap on my son’s head and hope for the best.

Photo Credit:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Just One More Thing: Remembering Peter Falk's Columbo

Article first published as Just One More Thing: Remembering Peter Falk's Columbo on Blogcritics.

When I heard that Peter Falk passed away, I couldn’t help but remember him as Columbo, the indelible character he portrayed on the hit television show Columbo during the 1970s. The disheveled, disoriented, and seemingly insipid detective stumbled his way through every episode, appearing lost in thought about his dog, mother-in-law, wife, or some illness that plagued him. This was always a ruse that made the killer think he was going to walk, but at the end of every episode Columbo revealed his true genius and caught the antagonist much to his or her chagrin.

I was introduced to Columbo by my Aunt Margie (who passed away in 2006). She would watch every episode faithfully with a little smirk on her face. She loved Agatha Christie books, Perry Mason, and most police shows, but Columbo seemed to be her favorite. I think she liked the premise of the show most of all because it pleased her to see a pompous (and usually very wealthy) killer taken down by a rumpled everyman like Columbo.

The show was not the standard procedural but rather what I call a "how done it," unlike the usual murder mystery known as a "who done it." At the beginning of every episode the viewer got the exposition of the killer and his intended victim, got to see the actual killing, and then the "brilliant" cover-up that would supposedly leave the police baffled.

Of course then into the mansion would stagger Columbo. Sometimes peeling an egg for breakfast, or coughing with a cold, or seemingly obsessing over a lost item, Columbo would encounter the killer and immediately send the signal that he was an incompetent buffoon. The fun of each episode was the unraveling of the facade, as Columbo became either friendly or more annoying to the culprit, a sort of reverse of cat and mouse that was a joy to watch because many of the killers were played by such fine actors - Ruth Gordon, Leonard Nimoy, Jack Cassidy, Robert Culp, Vera Miles and many, many more.

Columbo was such a fish out of water. A New Yorker who once admitted he came from the Lower East Side and ran around the streets barefoot through Chinatown. This poor New York kid somehow ends up in Los Angeles, rubbing elbows with the wealthiest people as he tries to solve the crime. Wearing an old worn raincoat (even in warm weather when everyone else is running around in shorts and polo shirts), smoking a half-chewed stogie, his hair looking spiked and matted as if he just rolled out of bed, Columbo was truly an anti-hero anyone could relate to.

So now the great Peter Falk is gone. He has left behind one of the greatest characters in television history. I imagine that when he passed on and appeared at the entrance to heaven, he may have started through the Pearly Gates, stopped, and turned to St. Peter and said, "Just one more thing...." as his character often did to disarm his intended target. I am sure Falk got as a big a laugh up there as he got down here. I just hope he doesn't run into my aunt because she is going to want an autograph.

Photo Credit:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interleague Play Should End This Year

Article first published as Interleague Play Should End This Year on Blogcritics.

I don't know about you, but I am tired of interleague ballgames in Major League Baseball. As the Mets play the Los Angeles Angels this weekend at Citi Field, I feel no compulsion to go to a game. Even a matchup against the Oakland A's (long ago opponents in the 1973 World Series) does little to attract my attention. There is simply no reason for me to want to see these games and I think many people feel the same way.

Yes, I can see that regional rivalries could attract interest - St. Louis and Kansas City, Cleveland and Cincinnati and so on - but this would be limited at best to one three-game series a year. Here in New York City the luster of Mets-Yankees games has long worn off, making me long for the old Mayor's Trophy Game that was played once a year.

Let's look at the reality of it: American League teams are asked to lose the DH in a National League park and have their pitchers hit. This really highlights the incongruity of the two leagues (and reasons why people want to get rid of the DH). Conversely, National League teams have to find a guy to DH - which may be easier, but it is unnatural in the scheme of things for those teams.

In general, I think interleague play should be reserved for when it really counts - the World Series. Otherwise, let's get back to baseball the way it used to be played within the leagues for more games that really matter during the season. That is what puts this fan (and I'd say many more) in a seat at the park, and that should be what is most important to MLB rather than games that have as much appeal as hot chocolate during a heat wave.

Photo Credit: Daily News

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Before Titanic There Was the General Slocum

Article first published as Before Titanic There Was the General Slocum on Blogcritics.

There is something about a ship sinking that truly frightens people. It is the equivalent of a plane crash or a disaster like 9/11. This is because mostly ordinary people know they don't want to be caught in an extraordinary situation, and due to things beyond their control they would be thrust into danger and confronted with the possibility of dying. Whether it is on an ocean liner sinking into the icy deep or a plane falling from the sky, most of us don't want to think about it, but when we do it is a thing of nightmares.

When I used to fly before 9/11 (which was frequently and now not at all), I still always worried about a plane crash. While other people brushed off the safety demonstrations by the flight attendants, I was pulling the card from my seat pocket and watching and listening carefully to the directions. I never took it for granted that the flight would be safe, though I know now that if the plane went down there would probably be little or no chance of surviving.

Still, people are lulled into a sense of security in these moments. The Titanic was touted as "virtually unsinkable," but we know how that turned out. Still, eight years before the famous ship sank a lesser known one took roughly a thousand people to a watery grave - that ship was the General Slocum.

The Slocum left lower Manhattan on a beautiful hot June day in 1904, bound for the pastoral shores of northern Long Island where a day long picnic was planned for a group from St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Greenwich Village (an area known as Little Germany at the time). Mostly women and children boarded the vessel which proceeded north along the East River where it caught fire in an area appropriately named Hell's Gate.

Things quickly spiraled out of control. Whatever life saving equipment was available was minimal, and the life vests were so old and useless that apparently people who wore them and jumped into the water actually sank faster than if they jumped in without them. Also, since so many children were aboard, mothers frantically tried to save the children from the fire by throwing them overboard, only to have them sink before they could jump in to save them. Unfortunately, another factor was that many of the people had no idea how to swim and drowned.

Today a lovely tribute exists in All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, where sixty-one unidentified victims are buried. I remember visiting the Slocum Memorial as a boy and being struck by the engraving of the doomed ship on the tombstone, as well as the idea that so many were lost so close to shore, especially children. That thought still makes me shiver as I think of those poor little ones floundering in the river.

Going back today to visit the memorial I was pleased that it was as I remembered it. The surrounding community was mostly of German descent back in the early 1900s, and those victims found a permanent resting place in the heart of the neighborhood where restaurants like Niederstein's and Zum Stammisch served the German inhabitants.

1904 is a long time ago, and those people lost and even those few (361) who survived are mostly long forgotten now, but as I stood there I wondered about the senseless loss of life. While it is legendary that the Titanic disaster caused major changes in sea travel, no one seemed to learn much from what happened on the Slocum. Perhaps had this disaster been taken seriously, something like the Titanic would have never happened. Unfortunately, it was seen as a local tragedy and its impact did little or nothing to change the way people traveled on ships. That would sadly come eight years later when a mythical ship struck an iceberg and became the stuff of legends.

If you are ever able to make a visit to All Faiths Cemetery, the memorial is a place to stop and think about the fragility of life and how mothers and children going to a picnic could have their worlds turned upside down forever. The memorial is a stark reminder of a sad moment but also a beautiful and lasting tribute to those lost and the people who cared enough to remember them.

Photo Credit: Slocum -

Monday, June 13, 2011

Teacher Accountability Does Not Equal Evaluations Tied to Test Scores

First appeared as Teacher Accountability Does Not Equal Evaluations Tied to Test Scores in The Apple.

Here in New York State Governor Cuomo is making it his business to tie teacher evaluations to standardized test scores. The teacher’s union is fighting it, and well they should, because judging teachers on their students’ test scores is about as fair as judging Cuomo on the state’s economic condition. In both cases no one would get rehired, and that is because you are evaluating a person on things beyond his or her control.

As an educator, I welcome the drive for teacher accountability. Just like a doctor should be accountable for his patients, a teacher is responsible for the well-being of the whole child. Because of this, there should be a wide range of evaluative criteria used to give a teacher a formal review at the end of the year. What has the child accomplished in this classroom? Is there a portfolio of his or her work? How far has he or she come in speaking, listening, reading, and writing? What mathematics skills is he or she coming away with? And, perhaps most important of all, does the child leave that class more than ready for the next grade on a social as well as an academic level?

Assessments are fickle things. Over the years I have had parents come into my office upset about a child’s state test score. The child has always been an “A” student (this I know is true from his or her records). How could he or she have done so poorly on the state test? They are upset and don’t like the “stigma” of the child now needing “academic intervention” when he or she does so well otherwise, but the score makes it a requirement.

Why did this child do poorly on the state test? The answers are many. For one thing, a child can wake up and have a bad day. The child may not feel well; the instrument itself may be less than it should be; the day may have been too hot or cold, or maybe the child didn’t eat a full breakfast. The list can go on and on. One test given on one day is what it is: a measure of the child’s performance on that day. It should not be seen in the big picture as proof of the child’s total ability, and it certainly cannot be tied to a teacher’s evaluation with ramifications affecting employment.

As an educator I have had many students return to see me over the years. I have also run into former students on the subway, at a Mets game, on Jones Beach, or even in a movie theatre. When I see them smiling, feel them shaking my hand and talking about my class affectionately, I know they are not thinking about what they got on an assessment ten or fifteen years ago. They are thinking fondly about an experience that goes well beyond the minutiae of state testing results being used by school districts for promotional purposes.

When I look back over my own years as a student, I have fond memories of certain teachers. You probably do too. The ones who made a lasting impression on me did so because of their ability to connect with me on many different tangible and intangible levels. I have no idea what score I had on tests in those classes, but I remember the profundity of the impact they had on my life.

Even now I remember some of the things those teachers said (and have honestly used them myself in the classroom as a teacher). The impact of those words reverberate over time and space, affecting not just my life but the lives of my students and then, perhaps, the lives of many other students who may have some of my former students as teachers. The rock tossed into the pond comes to mind, and the ripples are memories that never fade. State assessments can also be compared to rocks, but ones thrown into the ocean – they sink to the bottom and are never thought about again.

Please let me say again that I believe in teacher accountability. This has to do with many things beyond preparing students for a state assessment every year. Teacher accountability has to do with knowing best practices (and using them); it entails intimate knowledge of the curriculum, state standards, and having the skills to deliver superior instruction. It also has to do with knowing that what happens in the classroom is not about the teacher but about the student and his or her success, but that success is fluid and should never be tied to one assessment given on one day, rather it should be based on a myriad of things that will gauge performance over an extended period.

Being a teacher is truly a calling, and the person who steps into a classroom must take on everything that came before him or her, all that is going on in the present, and needs to be aware of all things coming up ahead (like common core standards). Good teachers never stop learning and never stop doing, and I bet that the ones you remember most fondly probably never sat at a desk. You cannot teach from behind a desk any more than a doctor can operate from behind one.

The message here is simple: make teachers accountable for things they are responsible for doing, but do not place the heft of unreasonable expectations tied to test scores on their shoulders. Evaluations of teachers should include many elements besides state assessment scores, and there should be a direct correlation between the students’ total accomplishments for the year and teacher ratings.

Using test scores is an obvious and poor attempt by New York State to try to rattle the union, get rid of teachers with higher salaries, and shape schools to resemble a corporate mentality that has no business being in education. Teachers are standing up for their rights here in New York, and it is time for the public to have awareness of the reality of what is happening.

I doubt that we will reach a time when former students go to a reunion and talk about their test scores instead of the great teachers they had; however, if that ever happens, then the governor’s push that is brewing now will have done more than just ruin the lives of many hard working teachers, it will be a travesty that changes the face of education in New York State in a nefarious and disastrous way forevermore.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mets Mess: 2011 Mets Are Reminiscent of the 1973 Team

Article first published as 2011 Mets Are Reminiscent of the 1973 Team on Blogcritics.

The more I watch these Mets, I think of what legendary team announcer Lindsey Nelson used to say. As the team started winning in 1969, he called them "A new breed of Mets." Well, this 2011 team has still lost more games than it has won (31-32), but things are starting to remind me of 1973 - that NY Mets team went all the way to the World Series and lost to the Oakland A's in seven games.

Last night the Mets got another fantastic start from Dillon Gee (7-0), who pitches like a young Gary Gentry. Jose Reyes keeps hitting like he thinks he is Rod Carew, and the "little leaguers" - Justin Turner, Reuben Tejada, Jason Pridie, and Jon Niese - are starting to forget AAA Buffalo and look like they belong. They also seem to keep finding a way to win.

Credit has to be given to manager Terry Collins who, despite all signs to the contrary, never has given up on this team. They won 2 of 3 in Milwaukee, won again last night in Pittsburgh, and have a chance to come home from this trip at or above .500. After that dismal 4-13 start, the team is 27-19 and that's not bad baseball at all (despite all the injuries and Jason Bay acting like he forgot how to hit and play this game).

So as a Mets fan I am not walking around shouting how great the team is - at least not yet - but there is a strange feeling that the team (just six and a half games behind Philadelphia) is still in it. The great Yogi Berra, manager of the 1973 Amazin's, is a kindred spirit to Terry Collins. He never gave up that year either, and with a few remaining stars from 1969 (Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, Tom Seaver, etc.) and new guys like Jon Milner, Rusty Staub, and Jon Matlack, Yogi got his Mets into the playoffs and beat the Cincinnati Reds - the legendary Big Red Machine. They took the A's to seven games in the Series too - not bad for a team that finished 82-79.

Keep the faith, Mets fans. Everyone else who has counted us out should wait to make the call. The late great Tug McGraw coined the phrase "You gotta believe!" for the 1973 team, and somewhere I think he is pulling for his old team to keep on going and make a run. No matter what, the Mets are fun to watch again and are starting to live up to that old Amazin' name once again. A new breed of Mets indeed!

Photo Credits: Terry Collins - NY Daily News
Tug McGraw -

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Strike While the Weiner Is Hot!

Article first published as Strike While the Weiner Is Hot! on Blogcritics.

Strike While the Weiner Is Hot!

Since this whole thing with Representative Anthony Weiner happened, I cannot get the old Oscar Mayer "Wiener Song" out of my head. You know the one, right? I grew up with it being sung on television commercials. It goes like this:

Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener-

That is what I'd truly like to be,

'cause if I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener,

Every one would be in love with me.

Now, I cannot help thinking that someone might just substitute "Anthony" for "Oscar Mayer" and have some fun with singing this song, but this is also a golden opportunity for the company to capitalize on the situation. Never before has the word "weiner" been so popular in the press, on the radio, and television. Everywhere I turn I see or hear the word "weiner." I think that this is some kind of marketing moment that the company (and if not them then someone else) must use before it is too late.

Yes, Mr. Weiner spells his name differently, but that can be part of the promotion. It is something they could play up, kind of like when Gene Wilder as the crazed doctor in Young Frankenstein keeps reminding people that his name is "Franken-Shteen" and not "Franken-stine." It seems like Mr. Weiner has (or at least had) a sense of humor, so this would be a perfect shtick for him.

I don't know if Mr. Weiner would be up for the gig, but it would be a paying job, and he might need that down the road. Also, I hear that disgraced former NY State Governor Eliot Spitzer is looking for a co-host for a new program. Can you imagine if they joined forces? We could hear this opening line (ideally recorded by announcer Don Pardo) for the show: "Live from New York, it is the Spitzer and Weiner Show." I’ll bet it will get great ratings, at least for the first episode or two.

Well, these have been dark days for Mr. Weiner, but someone should reach out to him and make him on offer he can't refuse (like leave the gun but take the hot dog rolls). If Weiner endorses the right product, it will no doubt be lucrative. Or perhaps he can write a book, something like Anthony Weiner's Guide to Twitter or a follow up to Twitter for Dummies - Twitter for Really Big Dummies.

Despite this whole mess, I can't help thinking that somewhere another disgraced former governor - Arnold Schwarzenegger - is rubbing his hands together and thinking, "T'ank Gott fer dat Veen-uh guy." As my grandfather used to say, "You can't make this stuff up." Or can you?

Photo Credit: Oscar Mayer Weinermobile -
Anthony Weiner -

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mets Mess: Miles to Go Before I Weep

Article first published as Mets Mess: Miles to Go Before I Weep on Blogcritics.

With apologies to the great poet Robert Frost, as a New York Mets fan I feel like I am in that snowy wood watching it fill up with snow. Of course, that is a metaphor for death, and this 2011 Mets' season seems like it has every reason to sleep with the fishes. Still, I keep telling myself, "I'm a Met fan; the Mets are born from losing." Yes, we are, but there has to be some point when we all give up, right? I'm not there yet, but it is truly a struggle these days.

Current manager Terry Collins went wild this week, ranting and raving to the team in a closed door meeting. We can imagine what was said about them being pathetic, finding every way to lose, looking worse than kids playing T-ball at the park. You get the idea. While I understand what made Collins rant, I question the logic of going that route. It seems like half the locker room must be called up from AAA Buffalo these days with all the injuries, and yelling at these kids may not be the best way to handle things.

I recall that my grandfather always called his old Brooklyn Dodgers "bums" (so did half of New York back in those days). I never saw the Brooklyn Dodgers play because they left town before I was born, but I am told that Pop used to sit in front of the TV and get upset as the Dodgers found another way to lose a game. "They're nothing but a bunch of bums!" he would holler, shaking his fist at the TV set. Now, as a Mets fan, I more than understand his feelings.

When the Mets were new in this town, they were always losing. With their Dodgers pedigree, I always say they were born from losing. That Dodger "blue" certainly manifested and maintained at Shea Stadium what had been wrought in Ebbets Field, and Dodgers fans became Mets fans even with old Casey Stengel (former manager of their arch enemies the New York Yankees) as their new skipper. I can only imagine how Pop and my uncles must have felt seeing Stengel in a Mets uniform, but they went with what they had and endured because they were National League fans and could never root for the team with the straight NY on the baseball cap.

Terry Collins should really become a student of Mets history, particularly of old Stengel. I think all the ranting and raving in the world will only get you so far, but why Stengel became beloved by Mets fans was because he never lost his temper or his sense of humor. Today if you visit the Mets museum in Citi Field, one of the highlights is the Casey Stengel statue. The image of the stooped and broken Stengel, looking almost like the statue of Winston Churchill in London overlooking the disintegrating British Empire, is a reminder that the Mets struggles in the past were made easier by the right guy at the helm. Collins needs to take a page from Stengel's book and fast.

As for many Mets fans, they are starting to lose patience with the 2011 Mets. Getting tickets to a Mets game (and I was only offered them the other day) is kind of like getting tickets to sail on the Titanic - after you already know it has hit an iceberg. Many people are going to decline the offer, but some of us might just slip on life jackets and take a chance. There is a good possibility (like in last night's game) that the team will find a way to lose, but it's hard to stay afloat with all that seawater rushing in.

I am not ready to give up on the Mets; in fact, I will never give up on the Mets. I will not - like many fans did in the mid-1990s - turn away from the team and become a Yankees fan. That mentality has nothing to do with being a fan but rather with being what Thomas Paine called a "summer soldier" or "sunshine patriot." Fans who gravitate to teams simply because they are winning do miss the whole concept of loyalty and fraternity, but that's another story.

So I am in no way giving up on the 2011 Mets, even if most of the time it seems they have given up on themselves. I will not shed any tears because that will not change anything; I will continue to watch the games and root for them because that's what real fans do. Sometimes it will be painful to watch, and I may switch the channels and watch golf, tennis, or even old episodes of M*A*S*H to give myself a break, but I'll go back and check on them soon enough.

Hang in there, true Mets fans, things will get better. Wright, Davis, and Santana are coming; yeah, I know, so is Christmas. I just hope we don't have to wait that long until they return.

Photo Credit: Collins-Daily News; Stengel- Sports Illustrated