They advertise that you can’t script October. But don’t tell me we didn’t submit this treatment.
Would you have it any other way? Could you ask for a better 300-minute span, one in which the team we hate — along with its final abhorrent remnant of overblown aura and phony mystique — is destroyed and the team we love advances? But never mind Them from here on out. Now it is only about Us, baby.
Just Us and October.
I come to you from under the adjustable mesh cap the Mets promised those of us who forgave them and their union brethren for striking out most of the summer of 1981. It was Re-Opening Night, August 14. So many of the regruntled walked up to watch the Mets and Phillies that the Mets ran out of caps. So they gave us rainchecks. In a couple of weeks I’d be heading to Florida to start college and wouldn’t be able to lay my hands on what was coming to me. Fortunately, my sister’s fiancé lived on Melbourne Avenue in Flushing, so she agreed to swing by Shea’s advance ticket window when she was in the neighborhood and exchange my slip for my cap. She did it, but said she found it a depressing chore.
Her effort wasn’t for naught. She sent the cap to me in Tampa and I wore it for years. Even though I thought the NY was a bit too big, I wore it. I wore it as the Mets sucked and I wore it as the Mets improved. I wore it in my Corolla driving home from school in the summer of ’84. I made a point of putting it on when I got out to get gas in Delaware. This, as the Eastern Division had been, was Phillies country. My cap sent a message: the Mets were taking over.
This is the cap I wore as 1984 came close and 1985 came closer and 1986 exploded. This is the cap I wore the last time I watched the Mets win a postseason series on television, the night the Mets beat the Red Sox. (It was my great good fortune to be at Shea for their three subsequent clinches: two NLDS, one NLCS.) By the early ’90s, I had moved on to other caps. When we moved into a new place in 1992, I found a hook on the living room ceiling, the kind people use to hang plants. I used it to hang my hat. Somewhere along the way, the sun bleached the mesh to purple. Except for rare cameos, the Cap Night cap has been retired.
Saturday evening, after the Tigers won their first round, I fished around my box of caps to find the appropriate headgear for a potential clinching. Particularly after what happened in Detroit, I decided it was important to be true to my Met self. Nothing symbolic, nothing subtle, nothing strategic…just the blue cap with the oversized orange NY that I rode from obscurity in 1981 to euphoria in 1986 and, I suppose, back to obscurity by the beginning of the next decade. It’s the cap I wore when the Mets were the only New York team that got to play into the heart of October.
After wearing it tonight, it still is. And the Mets still are.
I wore it while I watched the bottom of the ninth inning and I thought back to that aforementioned clinching night 20 years ago, the last time I hoped I’d see something that great on TV and actually did. I thought about how I had the sound turned down then so I could hear Bob Murphy, not some stranger, give me the best news possible. I thought about how when Marty Barrett swung and missed, I celebrated with my mother, no longer with us, and my father, no longer interested.
But I also thought about where I am now. All week, I’ve found great warmth in knowing that everything about my life is being Met-baptized anew. This was the first playoff game I watched on television with Stephanie in our current home. May sound like I’m creating a an overly discrete subset, but I don’t think so. As Billy Wagner and the final Dodger batters made the wait for the third out interminable, I paced anxiously behind our couch. Whenever I do that during a game, it brings me back to the night Cliff Floyd launched that Monsta bomb against the Angels last year. From here on out, pending whatever comes next, it’s where I stood waiting for the first postseason series win since 2000, something I got to see a couple of pitches later.
This place has now been truly Met-consecrated, with the blessings of a blue and orange October.
The living room is where I was when Billy Wagner induced a fly ball from Ramon Martinez to Shawn Green.
The stereo speakers in the corner are where I heard Howie Rose, Murph’s successor, put it in the books.
That spot over there by the recliner is where Stephanie and I hugged long and hard.
To the left of the television is where I picked up Avery and danced with him as long as he’d let me while I belted out a verse or two of Takin’ Care of Business, a tune I’ve grown mighty fond of lately. Just after we moved in here in the summer of 2004, I lured Bernie into my arms for an impromptu tango when Shane Spencer dribbled home Kaz Matsui for a Subway Series win. Back then the team song was The Way You Move. Back then the Yankees were involved. Back then beating them was the most we could hope for out of life.
Me, my cats and our Mets have come a long way in two years.
The kitchen, incidentally, is where our atomic clock that keeps precise time via some satellite technology I don’t understand mysteriously reset itself to Pacific Daylight Saturday morning. It’s been running on what amounts to Mets time ever since. Not unlike New York going forward.
I don’t know what’s up with the clock, but it’s good to know my 25-year-old cap still works perfectly.