K CARDS FOR JOHAN.

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It was a grand night out at Shea tonight, one of those classic late-season games that starts to feel like something else, ripe with potential and taut with anticipation. The weather was warm but not hot, cool but not cold. The crowd wasn’t the sellout a Sunday afternoon game would have been, but it was plenty full and wonderfully vocal, chanting “Let’s Go Mets” before we even sang the anthem.

[the flickr set is here.

Selfishly, TBF and I love the ESPN Sunday games, because it’s a buyer’s market, and you can get great seats for under face. As soon as the game time gets announced, we fly onto eBay and bide our time. We never get bad seats for an ESPN game. This time, we ended up in the front row of the upper boxes, Box 571, Row A, Seats 3 & 4. Here’s the view from our seats:

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I show that view to you not just because it is an unusual perspective for the third-base denizen that is MetsGrrl, but because the last time we sat in those seats was for the game at which that vantage was priceless. No joke, we were back in those exact seats, an eBay purchase snatched up by TBF at some point over the last week and a half. Unlike that game, the people sitting in seats 1 & 2 were Mets fans; the woman told me that they bought the seats from a season ticket holder who wouldn’t sell the seats to Phillies fans. We had a few in our section, woofing all the louder the further they got away from a win. “Dude. You’re down by three runs. Sit down, and shut up,” TBF lectured. Later in the game, when I finally turned around to get in my “Beat the traffic” line, I noticed that they had mysteriously vanished.

The crowd was loud and in fine spirits. We didn’t need Diamondvision to tell us to MAKE NOISE or GET LOUD, we were already loud. The upper deck was shaking gently, bringing back fond memories, and wistful thoughts of how the Promenade level over yonder probably doesn’t move at all. The yellow security shirts were running to and fro all night, but like the residents of our box, most of the Phillies Phans skulked off into the night early.

Tonight we finally made and brought K cards. We’ve talked about it the few times that we’d ended up in the front row of a box, but never got around to it; the closest we’ve come was the banner I fortuitously (and heartbreakingly) brought to Game 7. However, during that first inning, I have to confess that I wondered if we had jinxed things by our industriousness. This was not Second-Half Santana we were seeing for a few pitches there.

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Charlie Manuel getting run within what seemed like two minutes of the game having been played was a tactical error. It didn’t fire up the Phillies, it just fired up the entire stadium. It was a fine performance, worthy of an award from the Lou Piniella Academy of Excessive Dramatics, and while I loved every minute of it, it took entirely too long during an ESPN game which is, to my tastes, already long enough. Not quite AL long, but long enough without needing to add to it.

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There was a gentleman sitting behind us who I kept referring to as Ralph Kramden, because of the gravelly tenor of his voice and the volume of his commentary, which kept running the entire night. In the second inning: “GOOD D JOHAN – DID YOU SEE THAT, EVERYONE?” to the next inning’s “I WANT A BOBBLEHEAD – THERE AREN’T ANY MORE KIDS COMING, YOU GOTTA HAVE SOME EXTRAS.” Whenever there was the smallest lull in the crowd’s roar, he would remind us “YOU SUCK [NAME OF PHILLIES PLAYER AT BAT] or “THE PHILLIES SUCK… YOU KNOW YOU SUCK… OH, YOU SUCK.” But most priceless had to be his christening of the Phillies right fielder, who will now forever be known in our house as “Sphinctorino.”

I’ll wait while you digest that touch of genius.

While this was going on, I was busily trying to work up some material about how that double-flap helmet of his makes him look like the Great Gazoo. (Come on, click on the link and then tell me if I’m wrong.) That material fell on deaf ears, because TBF was chuckling like an 8-year-old over Mr. Kramden’s commentary.
“It’s not that funny,” I protest.
“Oh, yes it is.” More chuckling.

I know Ralph sounds annoying but I gotta tell you that I hate games where no one does anything except maybe clap a few times, but then turn around and look at you funny when you offer some comment about the opposing team, the manager’s in-game strategy, or a particular player’s performance. (Of course, these same people look at you incredulously when you refuse to participate in the wave when the game is 2-1 and the tieing run is at the plate.) There is a certain charm in the upper deck that is going to be lost next year in the favor of club level bs. Sometimes I think people don’t understand that a ballgame is a ballgame and isn’t the opera, or even a tennis match. There should be a place where you are going to be treated to your neighbor’s loud and grating vocal commentary about the game. Hell, at least it means he’s paying attention, and isn’t playing with his iPhone or his Blackberry in the middle of the inning (and before you get down on me, I have TWO devices, one for me and one for work, but I’m not answering it while David Wright is up to bat, you know?)

I have in the past tried to explain my hatred of the Phillies and have not ever really succeeded. I think Chase Utley and Cole Hamels are smarmy. Pat Burrell is Chipper Jones in a different shade of red. Shane Victorino could play a serial killer in any low-budget late night film. I dislike that little miniature excuse for a baseball stadium. I think the Phillie Phanatic would have been a cool mascot in the 70’s. And don’t get me started on the fans. Every time I have been in Philly, the default insult involves around the Mets’ alleged homosexual tendencies. Guess what, it’s the 00’s, and calling someone gay or insinuating that he likes to sleep with men is no longer an insult in civilized company. It’s an overwhelmingly white, suburban crowd; there is zero diversity – the terrified faces of the teenagers on the 7 train today wearing power blue and maroon made that patently clear. TBF would rather go to the Bronx any day than go to Philly, and given the gestapo regime in that place, that’s a pretty incredible statement.

I don’t know how I could have survived this game if the offense had been AWOL yet again, especially with the recent innovation where the Phillies fans have discovered that I-95 runs in two directions. I would have had to leave early. I couldn’t take seeing the unmistakable symptom of the season melting out from underneath us again. Yes, I would have rather seen 2 out of 3, and yes, tonight’s game should have been the one we should have been worried about. But the Mets stepped up and said, okay, we’re not letting them sweep us, and they brought it. Yeah, Jose had a crappy game, and is officially in The Land of Slump, and who knows what’s up with D. Wright.

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But the rebirth of Carlos Delgado? I keep waiting for it to stop and it doesn’t stop. He hits a home run and I hold my breath the next time he’s at the plate because I don’t want to think that he’ll get another one, but I equally don’t want to think that he won’t – and yet he does. Again. The fans chant “MVP” and TBF mutters under his breath that he’s not the NL MVP, and while I understand that he’s not, I equally understand what the fans are trying to say. We can’t say, “Hey, Carlos Delgado, we’re unbelievably glad that you’re playing like the Carlos Delgado we originally signed to the Mets, with all the reasons we wanted you here in the first place. Way to go, dude.” Our conversations are shorter than that, they happen through a filter and through distance, and the only way we can say, “We’re really sorry for doubting you and not believing in you and my goodness, you are making us so happy” is to chant “MVP,” and to demand a curtain call from a man who hates them, but gives one to us anyway.

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The mechanics of the K cards were interesting. We were thorough in our planning, thinking through size and materiel and I dictated to TBF over the phone exactly what type of marker he should be purchasing, for durability and economy. We had duct tape. We had electrical tape. TBF snuck a tiny pocketknife in in his sock, and I will tell you that if I had to do it again, I would somehow get scissors in or precut the tape, because I almost-punctured my left index finger six times before I finally drew blood. But we were in the middle of hanging up a card, so I wrapped the piece of duct tape I had just been in the process of cutting around the finger and carried on. I mean, I didn’t want to get blood on the K cards, now did I?

“Where are you? We’re in the top level behind the dugout. Can you see me? Above the K’s,” said one of the girls behind us. “No, no, right above them. The K’s. Where are you? What you wearing?”
“I’m wearing a shirt that says METS on it,” one of her friends answered, giggling at the ridiculousness of the entire exchange. However, we were childishly glad the cards were visible on the 3rd base side, which was battleground central from all appearances and by all accounts.

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And then before I know it it is the 9th inning, and there is one out, and then there is the second out, and everyone is back on their feet – security is still dealing with fights over on the 3rd base side – but there is that last strikeout, and TBF picks up a K card and waves it, while my camera is trained on the infield for the celebration. Once it was in the books, he went to work pulling down the cards while I took photo after photo, and we made our way to the train tired and glad – but also just a little wistful. One more night of Shea magic for the memory books, with a whiff of September, just like the proverbial cherry on top – but one night closer to the end of it all.

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