NUMBER 9 DREAM. [9-9-09]

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You will ask me why I went to the last four Mets games, you will ask me why I bother, you will ask me why I care. People saw me mentioning the desperate need for a coffee stop on the way to the 7 and offered the comment that I had been to too many games lately. I usually enjoy these self-imposed bouts of diligence; it is honestly a very different experience to go two or three or more times in a row, and I always get something out of it, always feel like it helps me grow as a baseball fan. I can come to you from that pure, altruistic point, that baseball is baseball and you never know, maybe this is the game, or, to quote TBF in the second inning, “There’s still a lot of baseball to be played tonight,” even after the end of the first inning finds us down 4-0.

Ah, yes, Pat Misch. We thought that you would be different, but you’re just like all the other boys.

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This year is so different than it was at Shea because we are not sitting with the same people at every game. We do not have any pleasantries to exchange or gossip to catch up on, or discussions to continue from a previous game. It is us and some random people or us and some empty seats or us and some French tourists or us and a family of four who want exactly their seats even though there are 50 empty ones around us and could you let us take an extra seat tonight? These days, we aren’t excited and burbling and eager for the game to begin and full of baseball tidbits and news to share. We don’t even print out the game notes any more to read on the way to the game. Nowadays, we usually sit there quietly for an inning or two, unless there are particularly egregious offenses on either side, like, oh, say the THREE RUN HR to the detestable Cody Ross, in which case our blood pressure goes up and our calm, placid demeanor vanishes. (TBF spent the rest of the game wishing Cody Ross would get plunked.) After those four runs, Misch seemed to settle down, except for, oh, hitting Chris Coghlan later on, and – well, if you want the box score, you could look it up.

I can talk about the meditations of being a Mets fan, of being an insane, stubborn fan who refuses to eat $25 or $30 worth of tickets, who will stubbornly trek out to the ballpark on a school night and sit through nine innings of pain. I can tell you how I head out to the game with diligence, settle into a resigned “Why are we here, again?” and then, somewhere around the third inning, start to bargain. We’re only down two runs or He’s not doing THAT badly, he can settle down and get back into it, or some similar refrain, something I am sure you have murmured quietly to yourself at some point over the years, when you have sat in a half-empty ballpark watching your team play out the year. While I thought 07 and 08 were horrific because they caused us such exquisite agony, hanging on by the proverbial thread, I can tell you with complete confidence that this feeling is worse, the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness and resignation.

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And within that spectrum, there are ranges, and I confess I get annoyed if someone is too positive or too perky or too stupid or too blind or too negative or too fatalistic. I know, everyone’s experience is unique, but tonight I was thrilled when the brilliant baseball analysts who have the four seats behind us got up and went somewhere during the third inning, because as much as I am sadly disappointed in Mike Pelfrey, I really don’t want to hear someone else calling him a dickhead (this is an exact quote). I know, this is hypocritical; I have done my own share of namecalling; I have stubbornly refused to accept Jeff Francoeur as a Met, I have refused to jump hysterically onto the Daniel Murphy bandwagon, there are probably scores of other offenses I have committed that have made you walk away from this website for a few days, if not longer.

It just seems harder now. Like I have my fandom delicately calibrated and if you go and stomp all over it, the balance will be lost and I will feel the pain and loss of this year too acutely, and then I won’t be able to watch or go to games or take photos or be involved, that I will end up stepping to the side and letting the year go by me. There are people who have done that, who can’t bear it any more, who aren’t watching, aren’t paying attention, couldn’t tell you what number Lance Broadway wears (okay, truth be told, neither could we; when he was warming up in the bullpen, despite the help of binoculars we couldn’t remember who the heck was #35). That, to me, would be worse.

The thing I was struck by the most tonight was how people were so ready to cheer at the slightest reason to cheer. Even in the 8th inning, when some people were leaving in droves (‘droves’ being relative in a ballpark already 75% empty), people in our section were getting up and starting LET’S GO METS. They started CO-RY, CO-RY, when he came up to bat. They kept it going. When one person would stop, someone else would start. We didn’t need the video board, we didn’t need the PA system, we didn’t want any of that. It was just us, a motley bunch of Mets fans, sitting in the stratosphere behind home plate, acting as though the game counted, as though the game mattered, as though the players could hear us, as though our cheers meant something. It wasn’t the sarcastic cheering that we had a month or two ago, it was 100% honest. It was wanting to cheer, it was wanting to have a reason to cheer, it was trying to remember what it was like to cheer for the 2009 Mets. We are cheering because we still can, because there are still baseball games to go to, because on a Wednesday night in September we had tickets to see Mets baseball and we came to see Mets baseball and we were going to cheer Mets baseball.

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We sat there during an 8th inning pitching change, singing along to “Hungry Heart” as though we hadn’t heard the song hundreds of times, as though it was this great novelty, and we look at the lineup and say things like, “Wright, Beltran, Murphy up. That’ll get us the three runs we need,” and I yell things about RALLY TIME and refuse to safely put my camera away so I can grab the bag and be down the stairs and headed toward the exit after the last out before most people know the game is over.

And then it is. I sigh, put away the camera, pick up my bag, and head for the train, genuinely saddened by the loss. We share earbuds to listen to music, just so we don’t have to listen to the happy chatter of tennis fans and the resigned chatter of the Citi Field vendors and the random chatter of the people who go to a few games a year and this one was just another game.

Three more games to go and then 2009 will be over for us. Will you think I am insane if I am sad about this in some fashion, and that I am already starting to daydream about a Spring Training trip and our roadtrips for 2010?


Photoset from tonight’s game

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