Joshua, Met fan in training, made his big-league debut two years ago, watching Kris Benson get poleaxed by the Dodgers. Last year he saw the D-Train mow us down. So for his third-ever game, I was kind of sweating it. The kid's 0-2, what if he's a jinx?
Kind of sweating it, ha. The mezzanine was the approximate temperature of the surface of the sun, with the crowd on slow boil as the Mets failed to hit, muffed plays, relieved crappily and generally looked the way they've looked since clearing Customs. (And I didn't even know Jose Lima was back in the building for some unfathomable reason. The Neanderthal conservatism of major-league front offices, sheesh. Genghis Khan looks progressive by comparison.) Beyond the fact that it was too hot to move (though not too hot for my son to insist on being on the lap of whichever parent looked marginally further from heatstroke), the crowd's annoyance was held in check only by the fact that the Mets looked as irritated with themselves as we were with them. After Glavine failed to handle Zach Duke's bunt, he batted it back toward the pitcher's mound with his glove. Then he did it again, and for a moment I imagined he might just keep on swiping at it, muttering all the way, until ball and pitcher exited through the bullpen gate.
But then the worm turned. My son was dwelling in a parallel universe by then: The kid had spent a lively two-plus hours cheering for the Mets by number (“Get a hit, Number 11!”), then by uniform (“The man in the white shirt is my friend!”), broken briefly by disapproving of my hollering at Angel Hernandez (“You shouldn't say he's a BAD MAN, Daddy!”) and crying because Number 7 had to wait his turn before he could bat again (with Reyes our only offense for much of the game, I felt the same way) until hot dogs and ice cream and heat and the lack of a nap had left him a ranting, overstimulated mess, more interested in trying to dismantle Shea than in whatever those guys down on the field were failing to do.
Come the 8th, the crowd's near-savage exultation fit his mood perfectly: He cheered madly for Endy's double that left us on the brink and then enjoyed his insane father waving him in the air like a boy turned American flag when Nady sent Wright and Chavez home to somehow give us the lead. Then Billy Wagner didn't make us incredibly nervous for once (maybe Heilman had already squeezed all the incompetence out of the relief sponge) and we were free and clear and my kid finally had a Met victory for the first page of what I hope will be a long ledger.
Later, walking the approximately 25 miles back to the car, the play at the plate on Chavez left me pondering an apparent paradox: Since Angel Hernandez is both incompetent and out to get us, how was Chavez safe? Had our otherwise-inexplicable employment of former Hernandez partner-in-crime Michael Fucker caused our least-favorite ump to abandon his ancient grudge? Or had Angel's primeval urge to screw up a call trumped his hunger to screw the Mets?
Imagine my astonishment when I finally queue'ed up ESPN Motion and it looked like Angel, by golly, got the call right. I suppose I should apologize, at least in some half-assed way, but let's not kid ourselves. This has been a week in which Angel Hernandez called a close play correctly and Alex Rodriguez came through in the clutch. If the sun rises in the west tomorrow, I won't be a bit surprised.
(Oh, and Greg — the guy in the aisle next to us got skulled by a foul ball. My thumb emerged intact, as did my child, but that was through no action of mine — I watched the ball arrive in mute, useless astonishment. Anyway, strange things are afoot in Faith and Fear lives. Let's be careful out there.)