NOTHING AS IT SEEMS. [6-12-09]
It is funny how much you can will yourself into believing.
It happened again and again tonight; hell, it happened just to to get me to the Bronx tonight. Taking the 4 train to the Bronx instead of the 2/3 to Times Square; standing amidst the pinstripes and the tourists and the just plain folks trying to get home after a long week and not appreciating their already-overcrowded subway line filled with clueless folks who don’t know basic subway etiquette. 161st St. is enemy territory, the shadowland, a foreign country. Two stadiums greet us at the bottom of the stairs, one standing mute, one barely broken in, so new it was gleaming in the sunlight. We file in; we look around; we take our seats and take a deep breath.
Coming off that inglorious two-game loss to the Phillies, it felt like we were walking on eggshells. We kept reminding ourselves that the Yankees were in a parallel position, having been solidly trounced by the Red Sox earlier in the week. We kept reminding ourselves of that, but also looked at the gaping holes in our lineup. No matter how great the New York Times tells us we should feel about Alex Cora, he is not Jose Reyes. No matter what miraculous hits Omir Santos gets for us, opposing pitchers do not think twice before throwing to him. And no matter how many chances we give Gary Sheffield, to look for consistency there would be a fool’s errand.
But, this is our team. This is the 2009 Mets. We put on our hats and our jerseys and we go forth to do battle in the Bronx. We are not like the cowering blue-and-orange free fans we met on the 4 train, who looked around twice before asking us if they were on the right train, explaining that they would never wear their stuff to that place. TBF is kind for some reason and does not tell them what he really thinks, that lacking the cajones or ovaries to firmly represent is one of his cardinal sins. You don’t bring signs; you don’t bring flags; you don’t provide a standing ovation when a guy gets a single, unless that single gives you a RBI. (There is a list of rules, you see.) This is our team, win or lose, suck or not. These hats are not new.
And, you know, Livan worked hard. He did well. Joba Chamberlain coughed up that 43-pitch inning. A Yankees friend trash-talked me from the other side of the stadium via text message, that this was a one-hit game. I replied that that was funny, given that we had two runs on the board. It was funny, at least for us. At that point, we could afford to laugh out loud just a little, and make remarks under our breath about “Joba rules”.
Then Matsui hit that three-run HR. If this had been any normal game, the Mets would have quietly rolled over and played dead. You could have put up your feet and read a newspaper, because they would have gone down with barely a sigh.
Not today. Not here. Not now. We came back, and then so did they.
We tied the game, and they bring out Mariano Rivera in the 8th inning. That’s right, Mariano Rivera in the 8th inning in a tie game. This is the aftermath of the Yankees getting slammed by the Red Sox. They want to win this one. They need to win this one.
Fortunately, so did we.
There was a point, that moment when David Wright was at bat, and I watch the top of the bat and I watch his body language and I try to intuit something from his batting stance, from all the way up in the Yankee Stadium stratosphere. If I just think hard enough, he will get that hit that will win the game. If I just want it enough, he will hit that ball into the bleachers. If I hold my breath, the universe will bestow this grace upon us and David Wright will get another miracle game-winning hit off of Mariano Rivera. If I stop thinking these idiotic things that have absolutely zero influence on the game, I –
Johnny Damon wasn’t in center field this time, but it was that miracle hit that we needed, that we craved, that every person wearing blue and orange (either inside or outside) was praying for. It seems too good to be true. My stomach stops hurting. My lungs seem to have expanded instantly.
Sean Green performs admirably, and gets the game to Frankie. Frankie is Frankie, and I am digging my nails into my palms so hard they start to hurt, because if I do not I will start biting my nails to bits. “This is what he does,” TBF says, for what has to be the umpteenth time this season. “He throws the ball all over the plate to get them to chase it, and then he surprises them.”
“You better not be telling me bedtime stories,” I reply, half-jokingly, digging my nails in harder. I felt good at that moment. We had had a good time – we always have a good time, even if the Mets lose, the two of us sitting together in a ballpark is never anything but wonderful while it is happening. I look (and listen – see my Twitter feed for the color from the game) to the dolts around me and say several prayers that I got lucky. I watch these Mets fans on the other side of the aisle taunting their Yankees fan friends on our side: “What’s the score? What’s the score?” one of them says, mock-holding his phone up to his ear. “Go and get me some nachos, motherfucker,” he laughs at his buddies, who flip him off from the other side of the aisle, making the security guard nervous.
As my mother (and undoubtedly, your mother) used to say, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
Or until Francisco Rodriguez gets Alex Rodriguez out with that cupcake popup, and Luis Castillo manages to drop a ball that every little leaguer in the Tri-State area could have caught by the end of their first day of practice. I am literally frozen in half-joyous yell. My mouth opens. It closes. It opens again. YANKEES WIN is in the scoreboard. TBF gestures at my camera bag: “Outta here. Now.” Otherwise I would have stood there like a deer caught in the headlights, unwilling to believe that we just lost that game at that moment in that pathetic, undignified, unnecessary, amateurish, and yet completely Vintage 2009 Metsian fashion.
We rode the 4 train in silence back to Grand Central, in order to collect our workday possessions from TBF’s office nearby. We felt like refugees, skulking our way through the silent hall. We were stopped more than once, by various elderly gentlemen, to ask us if that had really happened, to confirm the score, to ask us to tell them what we had seen because clearly, no one could believe that it happened, either. I wait in the lobby while TBF runs upstairs and have to explain it another two times, and console the building security guard who said he’d turned it off when it was 6-3 because he thought we had it. The Yankees fans weren’t even crowing because, after all, A-rod had choked (there was booing every time his name was announced, and that wasn’t Mets fans), and the great Mariano Rivera wasn’t invincible and their bullpen sucks, and they had won on stupidity.
But, they had won. And we had lost.
Tomorrow is another day, and next week is another week, and there are, indeed, days and weeks and even months of baseball left to play. Perhaps there is a miracle waiting somewhere, perhaps some ineffable force will materialize and turn the 2009 Mets into a winning team. I will just enjoy watching my team play baseball, and not count on anything. Or at least I might try hard not to count on it.
It is funny how much you can will yourself into believing, but how impossible it is to do the opposite.
Full writeup of my venture into the new House of Evil to come over the weekend. For now, some photographs.