Downstairs in our house you'll find a treadmill, and on one arm of that treadmill you'll find my iPod and headphones. The playlist I currently queue up for running is called MARCH 2007, which means very little beyond the fact that I created it then, thanks to months of adding a song here and subtracting one there. The songs are my typical fare — power pop and punk, indie noise and teenage crunch rock. A couple of exceptions aside, the common denominator is the songs have to move — they're for running, after all.
As you might guess, I listened to various incarnations of MARCH 2007 all season. Usually I'd get on the treadmill around 8:30, after Joshua had exhausted even his ability to forestall bedtime and I'd procrastinated for my own self-defeating reasons. 8:30 usually meant the middle innings, and running would usually take me into the 7th — I saw lots of Met innings triumphant and tragic and ordinary while sprinting in place, my iPod blasting loud enough for Emily to hear it in the next room. (Tinnitus? WHAT?)
After a rather Metsian collapse in September, I've been trying to whip myself back into shape this month. The treadmill schedule remains the same — except now there are no Mets. No Gary. No Keith. No badly lit, vaguely porno-looking actors and actresses saying they'd wished they'd had their teeth whitened years ago. Instead, there are Rockies and Diamondbacks, Indians and Red Sox, Chip Caray and Joe Buck and Dane Cook, the Miller High Life vigilante deliverymen and the Verizon techie mob.
In many of those Met innings I'd daydream about how some of these songs would work at Shea Stadium or CitiField — how, say, the get up get up part of “You Could Have It So Much Better” would work as a between-innings psyche-up on Diamondvision, or the leisurely crunch of the Hold Steady's “The Swish” would be awesome to start a big game. (This is a subject I've obsessed about before.) But all of a sudden, watching these strange teams and new ads, I've found myself paying attention to different songs. And I can't understand how this playlist ever seemed peppy, because the whole thing practically drips with tragedy and lyrical warnings I must have heard all summer and failed to heed.
Now you show in the ruins, ask me how I'm doin'
Baby can't you tell?
Stuck in Dogtown again….
If you're not in the postseason, it's always filled with ghosts — you see your team in the background of establishing shots for players still playing (Jimmy Rollins hit against the backdrop of the Mets dugout until Jimmy Rollins too went home), or mistake one uniform for another. (Oh hell, that's not Reyes — it's Soriano!) Ron Darling's been around, a welcome respite from TBS tomfoolery even when wedged between Charles Barkley and Frank Thomas. Masato Yoshii was the answer to a trivia question during Red Sox-Indians last night. These glimpses are what we get this year.
Then there are the alumni — except there really aren't, not in 2007. There's Paul Byrd on the Indians and Kaz Matsui on the Rockies. Peer in dugouts and you'll see Clint Hurdle and Luis Rivera and Dave Magadan. Provided you remember a) that Luis Rivera was a Met and b) what he looks like. Tony Clark went home last night, joining Cliff Floyd and Doug Mientkiewicz and Darren Oliver and quasi-Met Justin Speier. From the dugout ranks, Joe Torre and Larry Bowa and Orlando Mercado are home already, Torre maybe for good. I bear none of these former Mets any particular ill will — if anything, it's nice to hear a familiar name now and again. But of course it's not the same — it feels like some cruel part of a trick question. How will you feel about moving Reyes to second when Kaz Matsui's in the 2007 World Series? Um, great! Hey, wait a minute….
The sooner the better, you see me this way
We can't go on like this pretending it's OK
It's twisting and turning inside me again
We keep getting closer to the end
You keep raising the stakes I keep making mistakes
Like a lot of us, I had October blocked out and socially sacrosanct. I was going to Europe in September, but so what — I'd be home and ready in time for the main event. I was in for Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLDS — with “Game 5″ being one of those concepts you're not sure how to address with the baseball gods. I'd like to go but I'd rather not go if instead they can wrap it up in Game 3 or Game 4 but I'm not saying I wouldn't go or I'd be disappointed because if they need Game 5 of course I want to be there, etc. That didn't happen, but there are other reminders. Most every night Joshua looks out the window around 7 to see if the outdoor lights are on yet, which he learned means the Met game is on. (They're on a timer for 7:10 pm.) While he's adopted bandwagon teams (the D-Backs are out but the Red Sox are still alive), there's still that moment where I have to remind him that there are no more Met games this year. Not that I blame him — I keep monitoring the weather as if it were of import, as if I might find myself standing outside for four hours one of these nights. I keep forgetting it doesn't matter.
I can't stand to think about a heart so big it hurts like hell
Oh my God I gave my best but for three whole years to end like this
Well do you want to fall apart?
I can't stop if you can't start
Do you want to fall apart?
I could if you can try to fix what I've undone
Cause I hate what I've become
Was it really just over two weeks ago? It seems like about a million years, somehow. I suppose that's good — anything that takes us away from Tom Glavine's inability to pitch and Jose Reyes' inability to hit and Lastings Milledge's inability to shut up and the veteran Mets' inability to care is a much-needed shot of baseball morphine.
But numb is no way to go through October. (By the way, I'd really like to stop hearing that in my head as “ahk-TOE-bur.” Stupid Dane Cook.) Have you watched the Colorado Rockies play? The God squad thing kind of annoys me (to quote Ron Darling, I don't trust any player who doesn't drink beer), but Troy Tulowitzki might actually be able to fly and Matt Holliday is a Wrightian gladiator to be appreciated for the wonderful things he does with a bat in his hands. And the Rockies were sure jumping like merry pagans last night — I could root for them. Have you heard the Jacobs Field crowd? Any bunch of 40,000+ fans can be loud for three or four innings, but they're ear-splitting for all nine, a civic concentration of pure will and total adoration. I could get behind that. I'm least likely to clamber aboard the Red Sox bandwagon (done that, they're still bathed in the afterglow and the pink hats need their ranks thinned a little), but if you want to see a perfectly constructed baseball team, it's the Red Sox: a terrifyingly lethal, beautifully balanced collection of monsters and assassins and wild-eyed kids.
And then there's baseball itself, in all its beauty — and when it's played at the highest possible level by the best teams in the land it's astonishingly beautiful, even when it doesn't end until 1:30 in the morning. And thank goodness, because right now it's all we have and everything we need. Before you know it the leaves will be gone and the snow will be here and you'll be staying up an extra hour to see Anderson Hernandez ground out in some winter-league game. No, I can't let go quite yet. Please don't make me.
You're in my mind all the time
I know that's not enough
Well if the sky can crack there must be some way back
To love and only love
The 2007 Mets didn't deserve to go anywhere; it's right and proper that they aren't around any more. But they have given me some consolation nonetheless. In the days after the implosion, I wondered what their legacy would be for me as a fan. Would their shadow darken the happy hopes of, say, a seven-game lead with 17 to play in some future September? Would their complacency keep me from giving my heart to some deserving Met squad yet to be assembled? At first I was afraid it would. Now, I'm confident it won't. While I've kept myself busy around my own personal hot stove, I've already let the 2007 Mets go fuzzy in memory, to be forgotten and replaced by the 2008 Mets. That team will share much of the same roster yet be altogether different, as every year's team is. And every day takes us further from the one and closer to the other, and the chance to try again.