- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Never Say Score

Your good wishes for my wife's well-being (and your total lack of concern for mine) notwithstanding, RFK Stadium ain't much when it's dry either. To paraphrase Billy Martin regarding the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, it's a shame they named a great man after a place like this.

Our game was Friday night when there was just the lightest of light sprinkles, resulting in about as many raindrops as Met runs. When did we go from never say die to never say score? I think I liked it better the old way.

We did indeed spend Saturday afternoon pursuing culture, lingering at the Museum of American History where the Smithsonian had just put Victor Diaz's last hit on display. Tourists from all over the world oohed and aahed.

* “How did they ever get ahold of something so ancient?”

* “Are you sure an artifact that old can be exposed to light?”

* “I'm from the Audubon Society and I thought discovering the first Ivory-Billed Woodpecker since 1944 was big. I now realize my life is a sham.”

It was part of the Smithsonian's very popular “Rarities” exhibition. They're expecting quite a crush for the Collected Walks of Jose Reyes.

As Mets fans, we were not alone in Washington. There was friendly apparel dotting the District when we arrived, mine among it. “You going to the game tonight?” was something I heard repeatedly. I even heard it as we arrived at Union Station for our train back to New York (which is when I stopped thinking it was a stupid question). If Nats Fever and its companion malady, Visiting Team Recognition Syndrome, aren't at epidemic proportions, there seems to be plenty of baseball going around. Whether it's heartfelt or simply trendy, there was a full lid of Nationals headgear in evidence everywhere. The Friday night Metro was full of it, topping the per-Met-capita average on your standard Sheabound 7.

It was definitely intriguing mingling with folks who decided to cast their fate with 25 total strangers just because those guys wear white uniforms in Washington and not Montreal. This wasn't a Rockies thing where they knew a team was coming and had years to prepare for the birth. The Nationals were dropped by MLB on the capital's steps, deposited in a basket with a note attached: whoever finds this unwanted franchise, please give it a temporary home — we're not particular what kind.

Imagine Shea. Then imagine Shea not as good as Shea was to begin with. Then imagine Shea neglected for decade upon decade. Then imagine Shea in a less grand setting. Then imagine something far drearier than all of that put together.

Now you're at RFK.

Whenever I visit a ballpark I haven't seen before, I like to go through an elaborate process of ranking it versus its peers. I like to look at amenities and presentation and flourishes. I didn't do that for RFK because there were no amenities, there was no presentation, and it's hard to imagine anything will flourish there except airsickness brought on by the instant National tradition of fans jumping up and down to make the stadium sway just because they can. Their seventh-inning stretch version of “Lazy Mary” is House of Pain's “Jump Around”. Boy do they ever.

Slack, and lots of it, is in order for the facility because prior to April 14, RFK hadn't hosted a regulation baseball game since Denny McLain was the home side's ace. Yet when you look at nothing but the field and the fence, it's reasonably big league…assuming it's not raining. All the rest is window dressing whose dismal state is best left for passersthrough like myself to ponder. The Natbackers won't care for quite a while. When you've just completed 34 years in deprivation, you're entitled to jump around a little, no matter how unsafe the structure.

The nascent Nationalists are still in that smitten stage. They were told they had a team and that they should like it, and these people were like, “OK!” Those who are into it are really into it, literally shaking the rafters and totally comprehending the beauty of their starting pitcher going deep as a hitter (and as a pitcher, damn it). They're also not shy about reminding those of us who pilgrimaged down from New York in quest of a successful road trip that we didn't get what we came for. I heard “hey, we beat you” almost as much as “you going to the game tonight?”

Those who aren't into it are another story. No doubt there's a novelty factor that's drawn a stream of customers. When there's a lull in the action, they have no old days to bandy about. They can't react to the Major League debut of a Royce Ring with stories of a Rich Sauveur. The only Rich Sauveurs in their past are in their future, which is to say in their present, but they don't know it yet. So one overhears conversations about school and work and dating and commuting and whatever people who don't quite know what they're doing at a baseball game talk about instead of baseball. I only had to endure it for nine innings. As we were using the season tickets of a lovely man named Frank, I only hope the dilettantes in his section aren't regulars.

Then again, what do I know about baseball? I traveled 250 miles expecting to see the Mets score runs. That's “runs” with an “s,” something they didn't accomplish until the dirt turned to mud and we returned to Long Island.