In psychology, there is a term called “learned helplessness.” Learned helplessness occurs when people — or rats — realize that they are powerless to control an outcome, causing them to give up and ultimately become depressed.
This sums up my experience as a Met fan pretty well. No matter what I do, whether I scream my lungs out, pray my soul out, or rub my Jason Bay bobblehead, the Mets do, well, all those damn things the Mets do. If it was me in the batter’s box against Wainwright, I would have at least swung at the curveball. Maybe I would’ve fouled it off.
I’m not depressed — at least not clinically — but at few times have I felt more feeble than in my lowest moments rooting for the Mets. On Monday morning, one of those helpless sensations came over me when I learned that the Wilpons had settled out of court for $162 million. Though it’s a hefty sum, it will probably not be enough to force them to sell the team in the foreseeable future. And, as usual, there’s nothing I can do about it … Right?
It’s strange. On an individual level, a fan can’t do jack. But sometimes on a grand scale, the fans can change everything. In the case of the Mets, there appears to be only one way that the Wilpons will lose control of the team, and that’s if the line for Shake Shack regularly shrinks to less than an inning long. If no one shows up at Citi Field, the Wilpons will struggle to pay off their debts, and it might actually be enough to jolt Bud Selig from his friendship-coma with Fred and force him to apply some serious pressure.
If ever there were a moment to start a grassroots, social media-based ticket strike among Met fans, this would be it. However, I can tell you now that I’m not going to be the one creating the “Boycott Mets Baseball” Facebook page. I’m all for the Wilpons selling the Mets, and, above all, I’m all for the Mets winning again. And yet, nonetheless, I just can’t convince myself that not going to games is somehow the “right” thing to do, or that it is a long-term act of love for my team.
Maybe it’s a product of my learned helplessness. I’m not supposed to matter. I’m supposed to watch and suffer and pray and, if I get lucky, someday celebrate.
Maybe it’s because I’m just one fan, and because I believe that even if I don’t go to games, and if I tell all my friends and everyone on Twitter not to go to games, people are still going to go to games — not a lot assuming the Mets continue to be sub-par, but enough to keep the status quo in place at the top of the organization.
Maybe it’s because I know the team’s poor performance has already been enough to lower attendance and revenue, and I wonder if a boycott would only make a bad situation worse. No one knows for sure what it would take to induce an ownership change, but if a ticket boycott didn’t do the trick, it might just create an even bigger disaster.
Or maybe, above all, it’s because I’ve been going to Met games every year since I was five, and I love going to ballgames as much as anything.
Whatever the reason, instead of taking a bold moral stand, my dad and I will be renewing our 15-game ticket plan for the 2012 season. Perhaps, if a movement picked up enough steam down the road, I could be convinced that my decision to stop watching the Mets would be worth it in the long run. For now though, I will keep going to games, and I will wait, helplessly, for things to get better. Until they do, I’ll be watching baseball to pass the time.