At the end of the 1998 season, a moment in time that I seem to be referencing quite a bit lately, I came to a decision:
I would no longer be a baseball fan.
I started by not watching or listening to, other than to get a score, the Giants-Cubs playoff game that determined the winner of the Wild Card, the prize that we held at the beginning of the final week of the season and one that we squandered across a five-game, curtain-closing losing streak.
Didn’t watch that game. Only nibbled at the post-season. Gave up on the World Series in the middle of Game Two. I just didn’t have it in me anymore. I pictured myself becoming one of those codgers you run into, the ones who tell you they haven’t watched a game since O’Malley left Brooklyn. No interest whatsoever in following the Mets again.
Ya see how that took.
I had that feeling coming on down the stretch in ’99 when it when it appeared to be déjà blew all over again, but the Mets put an end to that by turning everything around and in fact immersing me more deeply in baseball in a way than I ever was or probably could be again. In 2001, after 9/11, I didn’t think a silly game could ever hold any meaning for me, but as I’ve mentioned before, a pennant race can do wonders for one’s concept of what’s important.
I’m back to not giving a damn.
OK, I give a damn to the extent that it bothers me that I don’t give a damn, but all at once, after losing the second straight to Atlanta and eight of the last ten at the absolute worst juncture to do something like that, I’m strangely numb tonight. Once the game was over and I knew we were four out (and after I confirmed that the Devil Rays had done their part for humanity), I couldn’t watch any other baseball, not live games, not highlights. I didn’t want to know that there were fourteen clubs besides the Braves that were happy tonight. I didn’t want to know that baseball was being played to the satisfaction of anybody.
It would be bad enough to lose eight out of ten — it was bad enough to lose six out of eight — but why the Braves? Why always the Braves? They’re good, I grant you, but they’re not that good. Nobody’s rightly 53-20 good over somebody else for nine years in one place. It’s beyond being fodder for darkly cynical amusement. It’s insulting and dispiriting and horrible. Not New Orleans horrible, but pretty awful for something that’s supposed to serve as a diversion.
When I’m watching a game from my couch and something goes dramatically wrong for the Mets, I tend to make a fist with my right hand and punch the middle cushion. The cushion has lost a great deal of its firmness since August 27. Just hearing the name “Marcus Giles” during the post-game incited gratuitous violence against innocent furniture.
Alas, that couch hasn’t absorbed the last of me. Despite my swelling discord and hardening dismay regarding our team, I expect to be sitting on my ass at 7 o’clock Wednesday night watching baseball being played in Atlanta. Let’s hope the Mets aren’t doing the exact same thing.