I woke up this morning, did my sleepy scan of newspaper Web sites, and thought, “Oh yeah, Subway Series begins tonight.” I skipped quickly over the pointless tales of the tape, glanced at the every-year-it's-the-same feature in which the new guys don't get it and the veterans bemoan what a pain in the ass the hype is, snickered at the news that the women of New York thought the Mets were hunkier, and even tried for a little arrogance: Some second-place team is coming to town, big whoop.
All this studied nonchalance was complete nonsense, of course. By 6:30 I was a disaster. Joshua kept yelling “Let's go Yankees!” to make a joke, as he likes to put it, only after the third time he did it I told him, “If you say that again you're going to your room.” (Let's review: The poor kid is three-and-a-half.) Emily looked shocked, then amused, then just shook her head.
“I'm serious,” I growled.
“I know,” she said.
(A bit tense? Me? Whatever do you mean?)
And then, as Jeremi Gonzalez was throwing BP and I saw the first Jeter Smirk, that little prelude to him sniggering like Muttley as we went down in flames again, the last pathetic shreds of my I'm-above-this pose fell away and I was eight years old again, watching Setauket's Yankee fans circle me and my ten-speed on their dirt bikes, laughing at my Mets cap while I sputtered that Mike Phillips was hitting .266 (or something equally inane) and fantasized that this year we'd win the World Series and beat them and it would show them, it would show all of them, even though I knew there was no way that was happening and life would always be awful and humiliating like this, because they were the Yankees and we were the Mets, and the best I could hope for was that the Royals or the Dodgers might stop them weeks after our guys had stopped playing and gone off to whereever it was baseball players went off to when you could no longer find them on Channel 9.
The Yankees. Jesus Christ do I hate them.
More great moments in fatherhood followed — tomorrow I'm sure Joshua will be inquiring why I told the man on TV that he sucks, and when we finally crawled out of the wreckage of the top of the first (helped by a terrible call on A-Rod that went our way, since Mazzilli wasn't there to coach a replacement ump), I muttered that we'd have to see how the Unit came out in his half of the first. Which is one of those stupid baseball things you say after the visitors put up a crooked number (or one that looks kind of like a busted H), even though it's never true.
Tonight it was true.
Joshua went to bed (with a final “Why'd you say 'gahdamit' daddy?” — oops) and I tried to get out my aggressions and frustrations on the treadmill as we crept back and then they pulled ahead. And again. How many times could this happen? I wondered. Because I hadn't missed that the Yankees looked old and battered, like it was August instead of May — Bernie Williams is running like Barry Bonds, the Unit looks creaky and confused, and that's not even counting Sheffield and Matsui on the shelf. And then Posada somehow hurt himself, yeesh. Which didn't work in our favor, because even though Kelly Stinnett now looks like the guy who hangs out by the trash barrel in “Repo Man” (ever think of a plate of shrimp, Kelly?), he was on a mission to kill us. I'd lost track of Scott Erickson and couldn't believe he was out there — I figure Torre didn't bring him in for fear that Omar would swoop down as he jogged in and try to make him our fifth starter. And then, thanks to Kaz Matsui, a tie and then a long stalemate. Heilman was marvelous, but I'll confess that when Jeter strode to the plate I was terrified. That's no knock on Aaron, just a reflection of how much I fear and loathe and grudgingly respect Jeter, who always seems to find an even-higher level against us.
Then I was sure we were doomed when Billy Wagner entered and I heard “Enter Sandman.” Ugh. Not a save situation. Such bad karma. Nope — Wagner looked the best he has all year, despite the fact that I couldn't remember the last time he'd pitched. By now I was sitting on the downstairs steps, hemmed in by the railing and the child-safety mesh (see, I'm not always a terrible father) and peering at the tiny downstairs TV over the limb of the treadmill — a terrible place to watch a baseball game, but nothing bad had happened while I was perched there, so there was no way I was budging an inch, not if we were going to survive however many innings Rivera was going to throw against us.
And then Lo Duca ripped a double when Rivera tried a second inside fastball and Beltran struck out on a great cutter for the second out and they walked Delgado and I was thinking about St. Louis and Izzy and the fact that David Wright was still 23, not yet the magical 33 at which one obtains Ray Knightesque wisdom, and I got up off the stairs to exhort Wright to good things and then remembered that nothing had gone wrong while my butt was parked on the step and sat back down.
And Wright golfed one and I was up off the step, knowing that Johnny Damon had been playing shallow because he has no arm, but also knowing the ball wasn't out and had a lot of hang time and Damon was closing ground, but of course he has a bad foot…and at some point while these calculations were chasing themselves around in my skull the ball plummeted past Damon's glove and I was leaping in the air over and over again, yelling silly things, because we had won. Down 4-0 before coming to the plate against a team with Derek Jeter on it and we had won.
A confession: Since about the second week he's been in the big leagues, I've been thinking in idle moments about getting to see a walkoff for David Wright — not a run-of-the-mill walkoff (if there can be such a thing) like a medium-range fly ball with the bases loaded and nobody out, but a thriller walkoff. You know, a home run that left him floating around the bases with the team waiting at home plate or…well, how about a drive off the best closer in the business that beats the team I hate with a white-hot intensity to end a game where it sure looked like they weren't just going to beat us but were going to humiliate us?
It was every bit as nice as I'd imagined.