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Sympathy for poor Mets fans

Phils loyalists should be able to empathize with those pathetic losers to our north.

I was walking along Walnut Street near the University of Pennsylvania on Sunday when I became a target.

"Faggot! You faggot!" a red-faced man was yelling at me from the passenger window of a silver sedan. He was livid. "What's the score? What was the score, you faggot?"

Of course, I paid him no mind. Having been raised in New York City, I am a master of the "subway face" - the blank expression that is most appropriate when a weirdo is nigh.

But then the car stopped about a block ahead of me at a red light. After sticking his head out of the window and glaring at me, the man opened the car door and threatened to come after me. I am proud to report that I didn't flinch and kept walking along Walnut Street in the general direction of his car. Indeed, I found it impossible to believe that anyone - including this hateful degenerate - could be stupid enough to assault someone simply for wearing a New York Mets cap.

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The light changed

Fortunately, my intuition was right. The man held his car door open for two seconds, possibly thought twice about the implications of attacking a quiet pedestrian over baseball loyalties, and then closed his door before the light turned green.

Yet I'm starting to wonder whether my luck will soon run out. After all, this was hardly the first time I've been verbally accosted for wearing Mets gear. Philadelphians routinely scream profanities when they see a Mets cap on my head.

At another point last weekend, a teenager who spotted me wearing a blue and orange T-shirt cursed at me from the back seat of his parents' car. On a Saturday night in March, I was threatened for wearing a Mets jacket while walking along Market Street with my wife.

I have two responses to this insanity. First, Phillies fans need to realize that they no longer have a legitimate claim to vitriolic bitterness. Their hometown heroes are the reigning world champions and, in all likelihood, will return to the playoffs for the third straight year in October.

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Only in your mind

Moreover, their historic rivalry with the Mets - which, by the way, exists only in the minds of Phillies fans - has been totally lopsided in recent seasons. The Phillies have played an integral role in two consecutive late-season Mets collapses, including one that ranks among the worst in baseball history. (Don't worry, I won't go into 1964.) Phillies fans need to adjust to a reality in which they root for winners, which means no longer needing to pick fights with Mets fans to assert their superiority.

Second, Phillies fans should empathize with Mets fans. After all, the only thing saving Mets fans from suffering the indignity of a 10,000th franchise loss - as Phillies fans did two seasons ago - is that our team was founded in 1962. Indeed, for every Bobby Estalella, Mets fans have endured a Mackey Sasser; for every ticket-price-inflating David Bell, Mets fans have taken out second mortgages for a Bobby Bonilla (among many others); and for every Mitch Williams in Game 6, there's a Kenny Rogers in Game 6 (or Carlos Beltran in Game 7).

Very simply, rather than vilifying Mets fans, Phillies fans should recognize the common experiences they share with their rivals to the north and show some collegiality.