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Mets fans steadfast, scandal or no scandal

Dave Iaquinta couldn't kick his Mets habit if he tried.

His Flushing roots run deep, and no matter how dark a cloud the Madoff mess has cast over the franchise, he's prepared to cheer on his childhood team with unwavering pride.

The pitching's poor and they'll struggle to get .500, he said matter-of-factly before Friday's home opener, a 6-2 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. But the Wilpons' financial woes are the least of his concerns.

"I don't think anyone cares," said Iaquinta, 57, who now lives in Morris County, N.J. "I don't care at all."

The Mets said in January that owner Fred Wilpon and his partner, Saul Katz, would sell as much as 25 percent of the team to deal with a near $1-billion lawsuit brought by the Bernard Madoff bankruptcy trustee, Irving Picard.

Ownership is being sued for $300 million in fictitious profits, along with another $700 million damages, for their connection to the Ponzi scheme operated by Madoff.

But those troubling figures didn't stop Iaquinta, one of a near-capacity 41,075 fans who turned out for Friday's game.

"It's mostly what goes on between the lines on game day," said David Medina, 43, a Brooklyn native who lives in Manhattan. "I don't think the fans will be affected [by the Madoff situation], because as long as the team's competitive and trying, I think they'll be all right."

For the past 20 years, Medina and his buddy Tom DiChiaro have attended Mets games together, and each year they go on the road once to see the team. This year -- Madoff scandal or not -- will be no different, the pair said. They've already planned an August trip to Arizona during the Mets' three-game series with the Diamondbacks.

"I think they were in bed with the Madoffs and they got caught," said DiChiaro, 43, of Massapequa. "I'm still here though."

Richard Barbella, a friend and a co-worker of DiChiaro's, believes the lack of fan support only compounds the Mets' money woes.

"The problem is they have no money," said Barbella, 60, of Rockville Centre. "They're not generating enough fan interest, not enough people are coming to the stadium so they're losing too much money. I think they'll have to sell."

Medina said he'd like to see Mark Cuban or Donald Trump become partial owners.

"Those guys are winners," said the Brooklyn-born Medina, who now lives in Manhattan. "That's the bottom line."

Steve Hartman, Iaquinta's best friend who lived in College Point up until seven years ago, said he isn't too optimistic about the Mets' chances of success this season. But there's at least one person in his family who is: his 29-year-old son.

"He believes they're going to win the World Series every year," joked Iaquinta.

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