Emily and I go out every Saturday night. Every so often, there's a Saturday night game. Every so often, we decide one of these Saturday night games is a must-see: It's Mets-Yankees, or it's a big game against the Braves, or it's an attempt at clinching . So we wind up in a bar or a pub together, parked in front of the TV.
Sometimes when this happens, we fall into conversation with some fellow Met fan. And the process is always entertaining. The first time Emily says something about the Mets or the game, she gets a polite nod or a brief look, and then the Met fan goes back to chatting with me. The second time she says something, it's much the same reaction. About the third or fourth time (depending on how smart the Met fan is), you can see the newcomer starting to recalibrate. Wow, she's talking about Endy Chavez. Hey, she knows Billy Wagner's been lights-out since the All-Star break. Gee, she knows about Duaner Sanchez and his injury.
And then things change — the fan, if not frightened off by his scrambled gender assumptions, stops treating my wife like a baseball afterthought and starts discussing all things Mets as fervently with her as with me, if not more so. It's happened often enough that now we practically wait for it from the moment some guy at the next table or the next barstool looks over and asks, “Met fans?”
I'm an insanely lucky man. I didn't rate a woman who would endure my mile-long list of faults. Somehow I wound up with one. I didn't deserve a woman who's smart and beautiful and ferocious. Somehow I married one. I certainly didn't deserve a woman who loves baseball and the Mets and knows what catcher's interference is. But somehow I got one. (If you're thinking my luck is Emily's utter lack of it, well, hush. Don't blow this for me.) One summer evening before Joshua was born, I suffered through some 7 train mishap and didn't arrive at Shea until about the third inning. Emily had broken out her full complement of baseball knowledge and was chatting amiably but a trifle coolly with a drunk guy in Jets regalia who was now clearly lovestruck.
“If only you didn't like the Giants,” he sighed, “you'd be perfect.”
No, Emily doesn't watch every pitch of every game — a three-year-old bolluxes up your schedule something fierce, and she takes the early shift, so the sixth inning is often the end for her. She doesn't pore over Hagerstown stats or moon over the enigmatic career of Rich Sauveur  or wonder if there's a decent picture of Al Schmelz on the Net. But that kind of thing doesn't make you a fan, it makes you a lunatic — and one lunatic per marriage is enough.
All of this is preamble for tonight's game: Emily attended it with her dad, while I tried to convince Joshua to eat chicken fingers and apologized for repeatedly breaking the unwritten laws of how to color dinosaurs. After four innings, I had a wild hope blooming in my chest: Sure, I got to see the clincher, but she could see history. An end to the Curse of Nolan Ryan. The disbanding of that stupid club . Why not? Didn't David Cone flirt with a no-hitter after his aneurysm? Wouldn't that be a perfect chapter to add to the legend of Pedro Martinez?
Of course, it wasn't to be  — the count stalled at 15 to go. (Nowhere near, but hey, we're Met fans.) Then Pedro lost a little something, got a little unlucky, and before you could blink it was 4-1. Not a bad outing by any means, though it was another Rorschach in how to view Pedro. I think Pedro is incredibly smart not only about the game but also about himself — he wasn't going to do something foolish out of pride or stubbornness in a meaningless late-September game, but when there's bunting on the stands and October in the air, the artist will look at the baseball in his hand and find a way. Maybe I'm right. Or maybe even Pedro can't outfox Father Time.
Still, it wasn't a meaningless late-September game for Emily.
Over the years my wife's had to put up with innumerable Met-related rages, a smaller but not insignificant number of bursts of overexuberance, impromptu lessons for our son in spectacularly foul profanity, black depressions, winter muttering, complaining that spring training's too long, complaining that spring training's too short, moaning that it's an off-day, moaning that it isn't a double-header, moaning about the All-Star break, hours spent on obsessive Internet searches, hours upon hours of blogging, hours spent on online and offline baseball-card hunts, half-assed conversation because the other husbandly ear is listening to a game on a headphone, and various and sundry other annoyances and offenses.
There have been rewards. She was there for the 10-run inning, for the wild pitch that allowed Game 163, for Pratt hitting it over the fence, for the Grand Slam Single, for Agbayani's homer, for the game of Bobby Jones's life, for Timo leaping into the air to make the pennant arrive earlier. But in recent years she's had too few chances to go to the park. Saturday-night games are rare, the Mets' schedule hasn't meshed well with Joshua's grandparent visits, and the price of being a Met fan instead of a Met lunatic is the lunatic goes to more games. Tonight was different. Nice evening. Pedro pitched. The only thing wrong was the score.
Sorry, sweetie — I wanted this one for you. Here's hoping the Mets and I can make it up to you in October.