In the absence of baseball, survival strategies for managing the pandemic reign supreme. As a scientist, it is hard to imagine the pathway for getting teams in isolation enough to play anytime soon. Rather than making another rear-looking assessment of past incarnations of Mets or thinking about some pathway to a 2020 season, here is a recommendation for eating some time as all of us are doing. Astute watchers and fans of English football – or sports fans dying to see anything on television these days – will know I lifted this title from the incredible Netflix documentary series entitled “Sunderland ‘Til I Die,” which chronicles the trials and tribulations of the Sunderland football club in the past couple of years. Hearing about the series from someone who gave it a rave review, coupled with a desire to kill some evening time rang a bell, so on it went with the simplest of expectations: to watch a cool sports series that people seem to love. For me, the football World Cup is “must see,” but beyond that, English football (or the MLS) remains only a passive interest when other preferable options are exhausted. I figured that Sunderland was a town somewhere in England, which Google Maps confirmed. Why it would be the center of a hugely popular major TV epic was unknown, but worth finding out.
The show is a phenomenal product, well worth the time to watch. It does not matter that it is about “football,” or some team you’ve never heard of, because the story uses football as a vehicle to document the insanity of ups and downs of sports fandom. The filming is awesome, the characters so compelling, and after a number of episodes, the story hit me right in the eyes as not only about Sunderland AFC, but about the New York Mets, more specifically the arc of the team and our rabid fan base. What is so cool about the series is that it is a complete look at the team from inside the front office, to inside the homes of fans, to game day coverage in the stands and field of play, to the local watering hole afterwards.
Following Sunderland through two seasons (2017-2019) makes it current in terms of cultural relevance; thankfully it can be binge watched. In this time frame there are ups and downs, ownership issues, changes in front office philosophy, managing personnel from stars with egos to the kids dying to earn a spot, and on-field events that all resonate so strongly with the Orange and Blue. One would be forgiven for thinking all this was actually about the Mets, but with names and places changed to protect the anonymity of those not authorized to talk. No detailed spoilers if you haven’t seen it.
Outside of the daily goings on, what really stuck with me is the incredible working-class fan base, who live and die by their team. Also, not all fans root the same, which can be seen here at Mets 360, where we have a range from eternal optimism, to realism, to pessimism. Underneath all that is one thing however: like the fans of Sunderland AFC, each of us loves the Mets to the marrow no matter how the range of outward expressions look. We follow, chat, write, analyze, cheer, and criticize, but in the end it still all adds up to “New York Mets ‘til I die”. So take a recommendation and fire up this series while you have time and just enjoy the hell out of it. I’d be curious if those that see it feel the same as I do about the proximity to the Mets.