Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
'Fun" is a relative term. But it serves pretty well as the theme for this week in baseball.
Fun in Chicago, where the Cubs won a playoff series at home for the first time since the Big Bang.
Fun in the offices of MLB and TV executives, where the aforementioned Cubs victory ensures a windfall in ratings and casual-fan interest.StoryMets must find way to ruin Greinke's paint jobStoryMets stifled by Kershaw, fail to clinch NLDS
Fun in dens and sports bars across America, where unaligned fans will enjoy three deciding Division Series games over the next two days and fans of the teams involved will enjoy the thrill of the chase.
But none of that is as relevant to Mets fans as how often the word came up in one particular room late Tuesday night: the home locker room at Citi Field.
Even after losing Game 4 of the NLDS to the Dodgers, 3-1, thus missing an opportunity to advance and facing another long flight to California on Wednesday, several Mets insisted on putting a happy face on a less-than-happy situation.
A lot of it was rationalization, since there was nothing they could do about it anyway. But the positivity was glaring at times.
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud seemed to go out of his way to take all media comers and repeat a mantra of fun-ness.
"This is what it's all about," he said. "Game 5, and it's going to be a lot of fun . . . It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to it."
Said Curtis Granderson: "It's what you dream about as a kid."
The one element of Thursday night's Game 5 that all concerned focused on is the same one you and I and everyone else who follows this stuff is focused on: a delicious pitching matchup between the Dodgers' Zack Greinke and the Mets' Jacob deGrom.
One has more experience, the other cooler hair. Both are very good at their jobs.
"If you like pitching matchups, this is the series for you," David Wright said.
Then he noted that entering the NLDS, the Mets knew they probably would have to face Clayton Kershaw and Greinke twice each if the series went five games. That is the daunting math of a short series against a top-heavy pitching rotation.
But it also makes for a string of marquee attractions. Of the 10 starting assignments in the series, the only one filled by someone without much star appeal or at least Matz-ian intrigue was the Dodgers' Brett Anderson in Game 3.
And even he is interesting on Twitter!
Wright was asked to recall Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals in 2006, the last time the Mets faced a winner-take-all game such as Thursday's.
"I remember Endy's catch," he said of Endy Chavez's over-the-wall grab at Shea that took a home run away from St. Louis' Scott Rolen.
That was fun, for sure. But three innings later, Adam Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran looking and . . . here we are.
Those Mets seemed poised for a run of championship contention, but after late-season belly flops in 2007 and 2008 they never did make it back to the postseason until now.
Intellectually, the 2015 Mets know that dealing with Greinke will be no fun at all. Emotionally, though, embracing the experience and trying not to sweat the details is probably the smart way to approach this.
Fans might as well do the same. Or try to, anyway.