GET BACK. [7-20-10]

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After the game ended, we went in search of food. We walked out of the restaurant around 10:15 pm, waved goodbye to our companions, and headed for the light rail station. The area around the ballpark was deserted; it was a Tuesday night, after all. The game had lasted a brisk two hours and twenty-three minutes, and it wasn’t a sellout; everyone had already headed for home. I wasn’t exactly worried but I also wasn’t pulling out my phone or camera as we waited for the train.

Luckily, it pulled up in less than five minutes, and we climbed on board. The denizens of the train were a rough bunch, and we tried to find the most neutral seats possible for the 20 minute ride back to our hotel by the airport. We thought we had chosen judiciously until a scruffy, over-tanned dude climbed into the seats across from us and took a good look.
“Leaving the game early? Can’t say as I blame you.”
Our mistake was that we didn’t just nod and smile and take out a book or something and do what you do on the subway in New York when someone starts to be chatty with you.
“No,” TBF said, “The game is over. It was done around 9.”
“No way! Wow, how about that. Good game, huh?”
“Not really.”
“What was the final score?”
“2-3.”
“Oh, so it was one of those games, huh?”
“Not really.”

See, that was our mistake. In the interest of being informative and helpful, because we were no longer in New York City, we might as well have hung up a neon sign that said TALK TO THE PEOPLE NOT FROM HERE.

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When it became apparent that our neighbor had no intention of settling into anything resembling a societally approved ignorance of one’s neighbors on public transit, I decided that the best thing to do was to respectfully engage him in conversation. I could smell the veneer of alcohol, but he was clean and wasn’t asking us for money and any signs of affluence, aside from the fact that we were wearing tshirts advertising our affinity with the New York Mets and had traveled a distance to see them, were hidden. We only had four stops; I can talk to anybody for four stops.

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So he meandered through baseball and how he really wasn’t a Diamondbacks fan, that he grew up in Minnesota down the street from Harmon Killebrew and played baseball with his kids, who were terrible at baseball. That his brother worked on the construction of what is now Chase Field, and how as a result, he has a case full of baseballs signed by the original Diamondbacks players. I don’t know if any of it was true, or he was making it all up, but aside from the fact that we were tired and hot and annoyed at our baseball team and as a result didn’t want to talk to anyone we didn’t have to, there could have been something interesting there. It’s why I like going to baseball games, the opportunity to interact with people you would never have the chance to in the course of your day to day life. That going to a baseball game and sitting shoulder to shoulder with your fellow human teaches you tolerance, gives you insight, might even show you some patience. TBF is used to me engaging with random strangers all over the country because it’s in my nature as a writer to genuinely want to hear other people’s stories.

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All of this was good until he started telling us about how the roof at Chase Field worked. Even TBF perked up at this, because it is interesting. It was interesting until he started going off on a tangent about how the ballpark was on the flight path of the Phoenix airport, and that they were worried about terrorism, which segued into the inevitable conversation about 9/11 that every person from New York City traveling outside of the Eastern Seaboard seems to find themselves entangled in, even all these years later. People don’t mean to be hurtful, I know; for many of them, when they talk to you, it is their first chance to talk to A Person From New York City and as such they are going to treat us as their personal ambassadors. There isn’t anything you can say, or anything you can tell them; they don’t want to hear you talk, or have you correct them or inform them – they just want to be able to say their piece to you and have you accept it as some kind of skewed confessional.

I knew we were literally minutes away from our stop, so we just smiled and nodded and smiled and nodded even though we wanted to get up and get off the train and get far, far away from this person, he wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t hateful, he was just addled and alcohol-riddled and there was much I could blame on his disease. Or at least I could, as we got up to get off the train.

“You know, the Mets just suck,” he yelled, as we stood waiting for the door to open. “They just suck, that’s why you lost.”

As the train pulled away, and TBF and I waited to cross the road to the hotel, I said, “Sometimes, I just hate people.”
“I know.”

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We were surrounded by idiots tonight. Our lovely, lovely seats, purchased from a Dbacks season ticket holder on eBay, were four rows up from the Mets dugout, dead center. We could see and hear everything, see Pelfrey hiding under a jacket so no one could see it was him (Barajas spent BP wearing Pelfrey’s 34, for reasons still unknown to us, beyond what I’ll guess was some symbolic team spirit in taking heat from him for yesterday’s debacle), we could hear Luis Castillo vocally trying to get people pumped up, we could see the faces of player after player as they returned to the dugout, face carefully arranged so as not to display disappointment or sadness or anything, except you could still see shades of it in some people, like David and Carlos and Ike (or at least in my mind I could see it, of course there is no way I will ever know what they are truly thinking).

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But we were surrounded by people who were at the game just to be at the game, and even people wearing blue and orange did things like play musical seats in the middle of the inning, invite their friends down to sit with them when the count was 3-2 and Dickey in the middle of his windup, move around and be stupid and jump and scream for balls at every half inning. (Funnily enough, we think Ike threw a ball at us, except TBF was working on his scorecard and I was checking some photos, since we don’t engage in the GIVE ME GIVE ME GIVE ME GIVE ME marathon after every half inning as the team returns to the dugout. This is of course how I got a ball from David Wright at BP on Sunday, too.) We were surrounded by Mets fans who were chanting JOSE JOSE JOSE before Jose actually did anything, who started LETS GO METS with one runner on first base, who waved flags when there was nothing on the field worth waving a flag about.

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Mostly, we liked Chase Field all right; the full report will come after we’ve had another game and a tour, but the food was fine and the people who worked there were genuinely kind and helpful. And maybe all of the above would have been bearable if the Mets had shown up and gotten hits and runs, if we hadn’t loaded the bases in the first inning and stranded the runners there, Ike and then Jason Bay, Jason Bay who spent like 15 minutes signing autographs during BP. So many people responded to my note about that with vitriol, but I have to say that I get it; his lack of offensive production on a consistent basis has been unbelievably disappointing. And Carlos Beltran up close just tells you what you feared, that he is not Carlos Beltran at 100%, although even Carlos Beltran at 100% would not have gotten that one ball that everyone was yelling at him to have caught (that is, if SNY was back on the air by then); while I agree that there is a tentativeness to Carlos on the field that I am not accustomed to seeing, that ball was not missed because of that.

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In the end, at the very end, when TBF was busy shoving water bottles into bags and making the statement of, “I need us to be ready to walk out of here the millisecond after that last out, we are not going to rally here,” I was refusing to be negative, I compromised by putting my phone away but keeping the camera out, keeping it out in case there was that moment of celebration as Ike crossed home plate, as we tied the game, as the Mets pulled out a win that wasn’t pretty and wasn’t elegant and wasn’t the kind of win you can get to October baseball with, but was still a win. Instead, of course, you know what happened, and that was when I stood up, put the camera away, and hoisted my bag onto my shoulder, as every other Mets fan around us pushed their way down the aisle to the dugout where they continued to beg for autographs and balls and gloves and bats and pints of blood and buckets of sweat. Actually, requesting the latter would have been just fine with me, because those are things I want myself, but I want to see them in the game, I want to see it on the field.

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If I wanted to do anything, I wanted to stand down there and ask them what the hell was wrong, what was happening, ask them what happened to the bats, why they couldn’t hit a rookie pitcher whose name sounds like the guy who does your taxes once a year. I wanted to make eye contact with Francoeur and Takahashi and Barajas and get something that was going to show me some sense of remorse or disappointment or, I don’t know, something that will make me feel less stupid for caring so much about this goddamn game, for coming all the way out here on this odyssey, for caving just before the All Star break and buying another prorated 15 game plan (really, it is our fault that they are failing now, because we decided to roll the dice again). I wanted all of that but I am also smart enough to know that I will never get it, that comments from David Lennon about things Alex Cora says in the clubhouse besides, it does not matter, because these are professional athletes, these are men who are paid millions of dollars to play a game and they get that money whether they win or lose, whether they care or not. We know this – we always know this – but it is part of the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to care about a professional sports team that we ignore all of that, and engage in the charade that it matters.

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But if it didn’t matter, I wouldn’t be here, and I would not be writing this. We are back tomorrow again, and perhaps we can bring some luck this time. We are both well aware that the season could come to an inglorious end on this very roadtrip, that all the games waiting for us back at home in Queens could just end up being things that we do because they are things we have tickets for, and we count out the season until the leaves turn and the air sparks cool and for it to start all over again.


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