It’s possible I’ve never been so tired.
The email came this morning: Two tickets for tonight’s game. $150 each. By the time it got to me it was a decent-length chain of emails, no guarantee the tickets were even still around. And then there was that shocking price tag.
Emily said she thought I should go. (I love my wife.) So I emailed Greg. I’ll go if you go, I waffled pathetically. Then I emailed my pal Bryan in Chicago, whose counsel is always wise. “If they lose,” he advised, “it’s only money. If they win, and you’re not there to see it, you’ll regret it for a long, long time.”
Only a lot of money, but I found myself nodding as I read that. If they win, I want to be there to see it. If they lose, well, it’ll hurt like hell. But the terror of losing already hurts pretty bad. And between this year and this crazy blog, don’t I want to see this all the way through? Shouldn’t I see them out, if that’s what the baseball gods have decreed?
So Greg and I bullied each other into going without admitting that was what we were doing, and a midtown meeting and three Ben Franklins later, there we were around 7:45 at Gate E. Same familiar place of umpteen games over the years, except everything was different, from the arty tickets to the extra security to the hordes of baying fans to the fear and hope and bravado and defiance flying around the stadium.
I don’t think I’ve had better neighbors at a big game. Everybody knew the lineups up and down, knew what to cheer for and paid attention throughout. Our seatmates were intense, funny and ready to high-five everyone in sight whenever called for. Which, happily, was a lot. John Maine pitched the game of his young life, with a huge crowd carrying him along whenever it looked like he might falter. Reyes’ opening shot over the wall got the fans going, and they stayed high-decibel all the way to Lo Duca’s two badly needed insurance runs. Which were just enough to survive Wagner’s rather terrifying high-wire act. (Goddamn, Billy.)
The terror was never gone until Eckstein’s grounder wound up safely in Delgado’s glove. Between Wagner and the random assassins up and down the Cardinals’ order and the sheer fickleness of postseason baseball, 1-0 and 2-0 and 4-0 felt like the decimal point needed to be slid over to the left. And when I wasn’t chattering nervously at Greg, I found myself doing something rather strange for me: I joined in each and every silly Shea entertainment and scoreboard exhortation. I clap, clap, clapped my hands when ordered to do so. I changed to the scoreboard’s “Jose Jose Jose” cadence even though we were doing just fine singing by ourselves. I went to the window, opened it, stuck my head out and yelled “LET’S GO METS!” I cheered for the Kiss Cam. I sang the anthem and “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Meet the Mets” and “Sweet Caroline” and “Enter Sandman.” I even offered the Pepsi Party Patrol a golf clap. If they’d had the pizza-delivery race, I would have cheered for the red truck. (OK, I ignored “Lazy Mary.” Even I have my limits.) I usually pay no attention to whatever Diamondvision is doing between innings, but if this were the last night of baseball at Shea in 2006, I was going to soak up every fun, terrifying, triumphant, goofy bit of it.
But of course it wouldn’t be the last night of baseball at Shea in 2006. Because half of the hard business has been done. Now, it’s Oliver Perez and a cast of everybody else, against Jeff Suppan, for all the marbles. Game 7. Winner goes to Detroit. Loser goes home.
None of us knows what will happen, except all of us know this: It’s another night of October baseball. Another day of tension, of worrying and waiting and wondering, followed by three or four hours of emotion blasting out of a fire hose, followed by being staggeringly exhausted but too keyed up to sleep. To be repeated as long as you’re allowed to do so.
For two weeks I’ve stumbled through my job, through mornings getting the kid to school, doing everything on autopilot until 8:19 comes within view. My eyeballs hurt, I’m grinding my teeth, my ears are ringing, and my voice is completely shredded, reduced to something between a croak and a bark. And the second you catch yourself wondering if you can do it anymore is the same second you find yourself desperately hoping, pleading and beseeching to be allowed another day of it.
Well, we got the day. And now the thing we want most is to be given another week of stumbling and staggering and worrying and waiting.
Sleep? Being able to talk? Being a decent employee? Dude. C’mon. That’s what November’s for.