Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – By day’s end the Mets and Royals will at last complete a full, seven-game series — albeit one interrupted by a five-month Royals reign delay — and here is my takeaway as an honorary citizen of this prairie burg:
Mets fans deserve for this to be them next fall, winter and spring. All of it — the people wearing team colors and logos everywhere you turn, the championship flags in store windows and front porches, the warm, fuzzy glow of success.
Of course, there are mammoth differences in size, personality and logistics between the two cities, and New York’s loyalties are shared with another baseball club that has enjoyed some success in the Bronx over the years.
So it never can be exactly like this back home. But there is much alike between the two franchises since they arrived as expansion teams in the 1960s.
Each has had memorable moments — including two World Series trophies apiece — amid long, less-then-memorable stretches, with fan bases that seemed dormant at times but always were poised to bloom, and now have.
So, here we are, and hopeful Mets fans are detecting a pattern.
The Royals won it all in 1985, the Mets in 1986. The Royals lost the World Series in 2014, then won it in 2015. The Mets lost the World Series in 2015, and now are among the favorites to win it in 2016.
Kauffman Stadium set an attendance record last season with more than 2.7 million paid. The Mets drew nearly 2.6 million, their most since Citi Field’s inaugural year in 2009, a figure that should be surpassed in 2016.
An average of 26.4 percent of Kansas City-area homes watched Sunday night's opener on ESPN, an astounding figure never before seen for an opener in any market in records dating to 2001.
In New York, a more modest 5.6 percent tuned in, but because of the size disparity in the markets, that actually translates to about twice as many households as watched in KC.
Those are just numbers, though. What is unmistakable is the happy vibe around town here, which culminated with Sunday’s World Series banner-raising. (The Royals get their rings Tuesday.)
Because it was first the Opening Day rematch of last season’s World Series in history, the Mets were forced to stand along the third-base line during a Royals highlight video and imagine what might have been.
Same goes for their fans.
Nothing can take away what the Mets did last autumn, a hugely entertaining ride to their first pennant in 15 years.
But there is a reason the 1969 Mets are remembered more than the ’73 team, and the 1986 Mets more than the ’00 team, and the 2015 Royals more than the ’14 team.
Winning it all is different, in Middle America as in Gotham.
We journalists do not root for teams. We root for good stories (and favorable deadlines). And the story that has been told here over the past five months would be even better closer to home.
Mets fans have earned it.