I own a video game called Heavy Rain. It’s made for Playstation 3, it came out in 2010, and it’s a truly phenomenal game. This being a sports site, however, I’ll keep the video game stuff brief.
In the game, you cycle control between four characters. Long story short, you use these four characters to investigate a string of murders while preventing the next. What separates Heavy Rain from any game I’d played before, however, was its multiple endings; decisions made during gameplay contribute to a glorified choose-your-own-adventure book. Characters can live, they can die, and the case can be solved with everyone happy, left unsolved with everyone, well, not so happy, or somewhere in between.
Because of this, you can really only play the game once; after that, you know the facts and how to manipulate them, and while you can see a new ending, it’s not organic. You can, however, gladly watch as someone else plays, knowing any decision that deviates from your own could create a whole new adventure, almost as fun from the passenger seat as it was from behind the wheel.
The 2015 New York Mets are my Heavy Rain. What, you need me to elaborate? Fine.
I am not a Mets fan; I’m a Red Sox fan, which keeping with this Heavy Rain analogy, is kind of like letting everyone die at the end. My dad though, he’s a Mets fan born and raised in Brooklyn before re-settling in the Boston area. He’s also a Jets, Knicks, and Rangers fan; living in Boston has been a blast for him.
My team is out of contention. It has been for months. The Mets, for the first time in nearly a decade, are not. And as much as I’d love to be controlling the players and invested in my own outcome, I can’t be. Instead, I’ve handed the controller over to my dad, explained the rules, and told him I’d be silently by his side.
Backseat fandom, a term I just made up on the spot, is watching Heavy Rain from the sidelines. I’ve been through it. I know what a playoff push is like, I know how nerve-wracking and intense it is. My dad doesn’t. Or, more accurately, does, but hasn’t experienced it first-hand in a long time.
As someone who will willingly admit his Jets, Mets, and Knicks fandoms exceed that of his Rangers loyalty, for all intents and purposes, he hasn’t seen a championship in my lifetime (and as I was just a wee lad of three when the Rangers won in 1994, even if you count them, it’s almost an 0-fer since I was born).
When it’s your team, or your game, of course you care more. You live and die with every pitch, every at bat, every second of every game. As a backseat fan, cheering less for the Mets and more for my own father’s happiness/sanity, it’s a totally different experience. I’m not worried about myself, I’m worried about him. I’m not happy for the Mets, or the city of New York. I’m happy for my dad. As cheesy as it sounds, it almost – almost – makes it even sweeter this way.
As a 24-year-old Boston sports fans, I’ve had a pretty good time. I’ve seen my teams win nine championships; even with heartbreaks in 2003 (Red Sox), 2008 (Patriots), 2010 (Celtics), and 2013 (Bruins), winning nine titles makes me pretty freaking spoiled.
By comparison, my dad, whose age I’ll omit because he’s going to read this, has seen six. In my sports-fan lifetime, I can remember only a handful of his teams even giving him a reason to watch, let alone being a true contender. These Mets are his contender. And I’m more than happy to hand him the controls on this one.
Since signing him up for an MLBTV account, allowing him to actually watch his beloved Mets, the “Oh god I can’t watch” and “This team is amazing” texts have become a nightly occurrence. He’s up, he’s down, he’s back up. He’s losing minutes of his life with every Mets cardiac bullpen appearance. He’s gaining belief and faith with every comeback win. He’s trying to balance the two. As he tries to figure out where to take each character, what details to watch for, and who the real killer is, I’m watching from the sidelines, taking in his every emotion, and trying to keep him sane.
It’s kind of nice.
I don’t have to live and die with the Mets. If they lose, they lose. I’ll surely get over it. My dad will too, eventually. But if they win, I’ll get to see the most important person in my life – as a human being and as a sports fan – experience something I’ve been able to experience on my own every 18 months or so for the first time. His joy becomes my joy. His heartbreak, my heartbreak.
I know how this story ends, good and bad. I’ve gone through it on my own plenty of times. Now, I sit back, semi-relax, and watch someone else try to navigate it.
Good luck, and remember dad, enjoy the ride; I know I will.