1: IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME.

DSC_0272

I thought Brian Schneider was going to do it.

I confess, at the end of the 8th I fell back into my chair, dejected. But a guy who came down the stairs to take a photo saw my face and said, “Cheer up, it’s not over yet,” and TBF muttered something about two outs in 1986. So I looked at the lineup and thought to myself, Okay, Easley can get on, and Endy can bunt him over, and maybe Church can just get HBP, which leaves it to Schneider, and he’s been having these wondrous inexplicable 2HR hits when no one expects it, he can do it again.

You see, I had it all worked out.

It had every potential to be a glorious day, despite the rain, despite the late start, despite everything. We took the train instead of driving, because there was no way we couldn’t ride the 7 today, this very last day. We started at 10am with a tailgate with ex-Section 12, joined the Crane Pool Forum a little after 11, and picked up our complimentary lanyards at 12:15. People stood around on the concourses calmly during the rain delay. Once you got to your seats, people were friendly and pleasant and chatty and a downright pleasure to be with. The crowd was loud and proud and didn’t need Diamondvision prompting. One side was cheering Ollie, the other was staying true with LET’S GO METS. People were on their feet at every second out. The crowd was the best of the best today. The very very best.

DSC_0255

Another good thing: In the space after the third inning, Diamondvision announced MR. MET SAYS GOODBYE TO SHEA, and rolls the film. Mr. Met comes out of the dugout carrying a little Mets duffel bag. The park is empty. He packs his bag, and starts walking out across the field from home plate. He stops at critical points along the way to remember everything worth remembering : Endy, Robin, Mike, Buckner, Jesse Orosco, you could name them all yourselves without thinking. He looks around. He stops at the warning track and fills a Shea Stadium tin with dirt. He gets to the 410 marker, looks around one more time, and waves goodbye.

That was it, but that was all it took to turn on the waterworks. There were no corporate sponsors. No elaborate production values. It was wonderful, genuine and heartfelt. 1:30 of footage that wasn’t difficult to conceive or shoot, but incredibly effective. I could not stop crying. I felt silly and was incredibly embarrassed. I ask TBF, “Am I the only one crying right now?” and looking a little misty himself, he said, “I seriously doubt it.” I wish they would put it up on mets.com.

There were other good things, things I only remember now that i sit down to go through the photographs and to write this, “Twist and Shout” when Beltran got that HR, Endy out in left field and Jerry looking like a genius, and other moments when it truly seemed possible. When BELIEVE was something I felt in my bones so hard it hurt.

DSC_0331

The flashes when Church was at bat simultaneously saddened and repelled me. Were they all taking photos because they thought it was going to be the last out or because they thought it was going to be the start of the rally? My camera was down but I picked it back up because I put into my head that it was going to be the start of the rally. I didn’t even have it up when it counted. I just couldn’t.

My last memory is the ball flying through the grey clouds and then my heart landing in my stomach like a stone as that last ball was caught. Just like Game 7, the fact that it can be over so quickly still astounds me. I sat back, stunned, and didn’t try to pretend that my eyes weren’t filling with tears.

[The Flickr set for the pre-game and game is here. The Flickr set for the Closing Ceremony is here. I do not have a lot of energy left right now to embed the latter. I took 853 photos today and getting them whittled down to 250 was about all I could manage. I am so sorry. I will pick out some favorites later in the week.]

Someone stood in my way while the Marlins gallivanted on the field, so I was spared that. I had running commentary courtesy a woman a few rows behind me who kept screaming at them to get off the field, celebrate somewhere else, and to put back the dirt they were stealing off the warning track. TBF briefly considered emailing the NARC ALERT email address to inform the Mets that someone who hadn’t paid for it was stealing Shea memorabilia, and then didn’t have the heart.

People left while the Mets took an interminable (and inexcusable) amount of time to prepare the field for the closing ceremonies, but more people stayed. The most people left on the field level. The most people stayed in the upper deck. The truisms always repeated stay true at the end: the upper deck are the People’s Seats, and always will be.

However, we could have replaced all the missing people in the field boxes with the insane amount of NYPD who were lining the field and the aisles of the upper deck. When I got up to run to the bathroom and had to ask, twice, for two cops standing around with nothing to do to move out of my way so I could do so, my next thought was, “…And there better not be any crimes being committed in New York City right now.” It was insulting and ridiculous. “HERE’S A HINT,” yelled a gentleman who became the voice of our section, “NO ONE WANTS TO RUSH THE FIELD WHEN YOU LOSE.”

But, let’s take a different tack. Here’s what was good in the closing ceremony:

  1. The fact that the fans let the Wilpons have it by booing loudly during the delay between the game and the ceremony and every time Alex told us that it would be starting soon. And, most importantly, after Mr. Met took down that 1 and Alex announced something about Citi Field coming. Only Mets fans would refuse to be polite because they were angry and pissed off (and had every right to be).
  2. Howie Rose narrating.
  3. The players who were there, and giving everyone their moment in the spotlight.
  4. Getting to watch the players socializing amongst themselves, Al Leiter posing people in groups for photographs, one or two of them taking infield dirt. I am sure a lot of that didn’t get caught on camera.
  5. The fireworks. I thought the guys scurrying around the roof during the game were security (although I caught one or two of them cheering at appropriate moments).
  6. Using Southside Johnny’s “It’s Been A Long Time” as the soundtrack to the highlights reel. This one song choice alone makes up for every single musical sin by the Mets, ever. I have no idea where it came from, or who picked it, but they should be promoted. Bruce Springsteen even shares lead vocals on it. Lyrically, there were few things more appropriate:

    It’s been a long time since we laughed together
    It’s been a long time since we cried
    Raise your glass for the comrades we’ve lost
    My friend it’s been a long, long time

    It was our one very personal, very shared consolation in this entire day.

  7. Getting to cheer “DARRYL… DARRYL” for my first and only time.
  8. And finally, getting to watch Tom Seaver throw a pitch from the pitchers’ mound at Shea Stadium. I am not downplaying the fact that he was throwing it to Mike Piazza. But to me, getting to see Tom Seaver throw a pitch at Shea Stadium will be one of the highlights of my baseball life.

Honorable mention goes the fact that no one was rushed out of the stadium that we could see. We even were able to walk from right field to home plate to take photos and no one tried to interfere. And there were still a lot of people left when we finally made our way out of the stadium.

And now, let’s get to everything the Mets did wrong:

  1. The delay between the game and the ceremony. OMFG, what were you THINKING? When they started carrying out those cardboard cutouts onto the field, in my mind they were going to play some kind of integral part of the ceremony. The fact that they were dragging out MEASURING TAPES ensured to me that they had to be placed exactly where they were because those were the historic locations where those plays happened. It wasn’t until I saw that Jesse Orosco was kneeling on the pitcher’s mound out along the left field line that I realized that the cardboard was set dressing. I didn’t time how long it took them to start the festivities, but beyond a 15 minute delay, anything else was UNCONSCIONABLE and disrespectful. Finally, Alex came on and told us it would be 5 minutes, and then after 10 minutes, told us it would be another 2 minutes.
  2. The ridiculous amount of police on the field which prevented us from seeing a good part of what was going on. Look at the photos to see what I mean. I am quite sure this looked thrilling on TV, but in person, the experience was horrific. When Mr. Met (the only person wearing a current Mets uniform who wasn’t going to get booed today) went out to take down that last number, IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO SEE BECAUSE IT WAS BLOCKED BY A MOUNTED OFFICER. Someone tried to get the horse to move over, a little, but it was still mostly obstructed. Tell me, please, who was going to be rushing the field FROM THE BACK? It was even worse when personnel (like Ralph and Joye Murphy and the Shea family) were brought out onto the field and positioned in front of the dugouts. WE COULDN’ T SEE THEM. There were too many officers and security guards on the field to see anything.
  3. I didn’t need TBF to point out that Bobby Valentine wasn’t mentioned in the “not present due to other commitments”. This was the day that you stopped holding grudges. And, while it’s important to mention the names of the people who couldn’t make it, couldn’t that have been done at the end on Diamondvision, instead of taking up 10 minutes at the start of the ceremony? It wasn’t like they put up the names or photos or anything. Howie just read a list.
  4. So if you saw the ceremony, the old timer’s came onto the field from the bullpens, alternating, walked down the field lines, turned at first base or third base and then stood along the infield. Again, because it was a colossal mess down there and because they certainly didn’t get a chance to rehearse, i understand that you need a production assistant in a headset to gently guide the players in the right direction. Over on the first base side, the PA did just that: gently guide. This means that the players were free to say hello to each other, shake hands, hug, or otherwise socialize on their way out to their place in line. Over on the third base side, the PA was an absolute twit. He was rushing people along, and doing his best to interfere with, say, Al Leiter taking photos. I don’t care how you want the players spaced exactly evenly and arching perfectly along the edge of the infield. These are Hall of Famers, or if they’re not, they are men who are respected in this place and some black garbed, headset mic’d weasel of a PA doesn’t get to push them along to make it look prettier. Whoever was in charge of that should be fired. Whoever didn’t get on the walkie and tell him to stop doing what he was doing should be ashamed of themselves (she says, as she gets herself on the SNY blacklist for 2009).
  5. While I realize the Mets made a nice little video thanking fans for record attendance and welcoming us to Citi Field, we should have been thanked again during this ceremony specifically, and definitely at the very end.

When it was all said and done, and the lights had come back on, we took some more photos, walked around a little bit more. I was ready to go right away, but tonight, the minute of our departure was governed by TBF and only by TBF. There were times while we were waiting for the closing ceremony that I briefly considered walking out and going home alone, because I couldn’t face it one second more, but I stayed. I took video down the ramps as we were leaving, and we didn’t talk much, not on the way out, not up the stairs to the 7, not on the train ride home. Some people are happy and chatty and smiling and I looked at them as though they were monsters from the deep. I had no idea how they could act so blissfully NORMAL, how none of it mattered.

A few hours ago I walked back into the kitchen and looked at TBF sitting at his desk, doing something with his scorecards from this week, and I said, “Thank you for making me fall in love with baseball. Even after all of this.” This week was magic. It was heartbreak and defeat and elation and joy and loyalty and determination. We sat with friends and strangers, we danced and sang, we shouted, we cheered and we cried. Every night, we took the 7 train out to the ballpark and cheered our team on. While heaven knows I wish it had ended differently, I wouldn’t have traded this week for anything, and i will remember it forever.

And as my father will no doubt remind me tomorrow, his mantra as a child: Wait Till Next Year. I grew up with Brooklyn Dodger fan lineage without ever knowing it, and a fine thing it is.

Comments are closed.