Got a great e-mail last night from a woman who took her kids to the game yesterday, presumably on the sly. Said it was a great day to play hooky from work.
Meanwhile, I had to work, yet felt I was playing hooky from baseball.
The last Mets game I missed in its entirety was Victor Zambrano’s very first start , in Milwaukee, on August 5, 2004 (Mets 11 Brewers 6; I’ll bet you assumed we lost). The next 262 games were cake. By luck or design, my schedule and the Mets’ schedule meshed so that business never dragged me too far afield from the field, the television or the radio.
Thursday, a client needed my presence in its — not my — office. They needed me only until early afternoon, they said. I knew they were unintentionally making a funny, that this was going to be one of those situations that would last at least double the time they said it would, maybe longer. That’s fine, as far as that goes. That’s business.
But there was the little matter of Game No. 263.
Would I be able to continue what I assume to be my longest-ever personal Mets streak? And was I actually worried about this? Missing Mets games didn’t keep me from going away to college, for instance. But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. Still, there’s a fine line between being Cal Ripken and being just creepy. Was I mismanaging my obsession or was I just being a fan who couldn’t stand the idea that a Mets game was in progress and I wouldn’t know what was going on?
That happens to people every time there’s an afternoon affair. Or had I forgotten?
Making the decision to go the self-employment route two years ago, believe it or not, had nothing to do with the Mets, let alone blogging. Midweek afternoon games were sort of an accidental bonus…a non-paying bonus, but a little extra in my mental envelope to break up the routine of working alone every afternoon, something more interesting than Air America to have on in the background and something to which, for an inning or two except under most severe deadline pressure, I knew I could casually devote my attention if I wanted. When you work for yourself, you make your own benefits package.
Thus, I almost forgot that Mets fans are routinely deprived of daytime baseball action, that following a game on the sly, in bits and pieces, becomes necessary. That’s how I did it in my magazine days. Usually I sat near a window, so WFAN reception was OK and I could at least keep up. If there was a 1:10 or 1:40 start, I’d time my lunch “hour” for well after two, maybe closer to three, that way I could go somewhere with my Walkman and catch the meaty part of the game. I was known to extend those hours like a rubber band if it was a close one. Delayed at least one pointless “let’s redesign the book” meeting while I sat in Washington Square Park and listened to Jay Payton bang a walkoff homer  off of Juan Acevedo (and I was still pissed off I couldn’t stick around, feed the pigeons and hear it again and again on the postgame).
My distractions were generally indulged by employers and associates. If you work productively in a generally creative environment (I did), and your services are reasonably valued (mine were), you can acquire a certain status as the office something-or-other. I was always the office Mets fan. It was cute, so nobody kicked. “Oh there’s Greg listening to his baseball game again. Isn’t that adorable?” When I’d disappear for several innings, it was just understood that that’s what I’d do. I’d be back and I’d stay late and it was no problem.
But when you’re a hired gun as I am now, nobody knows your quirks. It’s your services, not you they’re interested in. Again, fine. I love that somebody wants my services. But they don’t know that the Mets are trying to sweep the Phillies and that I’m trying to punch a 263rd notch in a very hole-y belt. I can’t rightly say, “listen, those are all good ideas, but it’s getting to be a little after one, so I recommend we all take three hours to think about what we’ve discussed, maybe a couple more if it’s anything like the other night when it went fourteen and reconvene in this windowless room when we know more.”
Dratted windowless rooms. They are a scourge on the American workplace. There was one embarrassing period on one of my old magazines when I lost my window. Did I say embarrassing? I meant distressing. No FAN reception at all. That was the year I subscribed to the mlb.com service that broadcasts play-by-play on your newfangled computer machine. It was good as far as it went but when I realized the feed was a minute or two or more behind real life, it seemed a fraud. I once got a call from a friend who was telling me how annoying it was that all these Yankee fans were at Shea just to cheer that non-entity, Tino Martinez of the Cardinals, and I didn’t know what she was talking about because Martinez hadn’t yet come up to bat on my PC. That was when I knew I had to quit that place.
Yesterday’s big meeting surged past 1:10. Limped past 2:00. Must’ve been 2:30 when we finally got a break. I don’t work there, I’m wearing a visitor’s badge, yet I know what I have to do: Scour the premises for an empty office with a view and float unnoticed toward that office widow and furtively plug my ears into my tinier-than-life radio — with all the gadgets going around, I’m sure it looked I was on a very important call from Hong Kong — and hope that the game isn’t in commercial or out of reach.
In all my existence, I was never so glad to hear Chris Russo’s voice. It was the epitome of better than nothing.
Yes, as direly predicted the other day , my lifeline to the 263rd consecutive Mets game I’ve managed to catch at least a little piece of was an ignorant, spittling, gurgling, speech-challenged San Francisco Giants fan. But he was all I had. Chris Russo took me through Brett Myers striking out Cliff Floyd and let on that it was 3-3 after five. It wasn’t much and it wasn’t good, but it was my window into the Mets game. I managed to grab two more smidgens before the meeting was over, the second of which was Eddie C. saying, “Chase it must feel good to get one” and I could figure out he didn’t mean a seat on the we-just-got-swept express . If I had a larger window, I would have stuck around to confirm that, but I had to go on instinct and go back to my meeting.
My two snippets of game action plus the highlights I heard on my way home (very long meeting) revealed Russo and Francesa were having a good time even if few listeners were likely to be having the same. As much as I’d like to, I can’t criticize too much, and not just because of my reluctant gratitude that Mad Dog at Shea served my purposes like Murrow on a London rooftop during the Blitz. I didn’t hear more than a half-dozen pitches live. Barely good enough for the streak, but not nearly enough for a critique.
For an informed appraisal, I will turn this over to that thoughtful reader I mentioned at the top. I will not reveal her name because in her e-mail to us, she indicated that she might have, uh, cough, cough , come down with a little cold yesterday morning and, uh, you know cough, cough, she wouldn’t want to infect the rest of the office and, uh, cough, cough, if she just gives it a day’s rest, she should be fine to come in tomorrow because the Mets are in Florida by then.
Not that I would know how that goes.
I attended today’s game with my kids and was surprised to see that some 50,000+ other people felt the same way I did. What a great day to play hooky from work and go see a game! Unfortunately for the Mets, they lost in kind of boring fashion to the Phils.
More unfortunately for those of you who had to listen at home, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo were at the mic. I pity you if you had to listen. I never thought I’d say this but I’d rather listen to Sterling. Yuck. I took my jogger AM/FM radio with me but as soon as I heard Chris’ whine, I turned it off. You should know that when they announced that Mike and the Mad Dog were in the booth today at Shea, the fans BOOED!
I listened to Mets Extra in the car while stuck in traffic on the way home. Russo’s home runs calls were cringe-inducing. “It’s GAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” No “n” in “gone”. Apparently the Mad Dog doesn’t enunciate. Russo’s voice is to the ears what Lindsey Nelson’s jackets were to the eyes. But at least Nelson could call a game without making the fans reach for the barf bag. Ugh.
What on earth were the suits at the WFAN thinking? Poor Murph must be spinning in his grave.
I love reading your blog. It’s a great escape from work!