Some months ago I found myself watching Mask, the 1985 movie about the good-natured kid with the terminally misshapen face and Cher for a mother — a pill-popping mother, at that. Its relevance here is the lovable but doomed kid, Rocky (Eric Stoltz), is a big Dodgers fan, so it's a big deal when his grandparents show up and surprise him by producing tickets to that afternoon's game. A kid like Rocky, growing up amid unfortunate circumstances, doesn't get to Dodger Stadium every day, so it's a huge, huge thing that he's suddenly being whisked away to Chavez Ravine to see his favorite team. Other than serving as a device to get him out of the house so Cher can go on a binge, the Dodgers game has no significance in terms of the overall plot. But watching Rocky open the TV listings where his grandfather has cleverly hidden the tickets…it gave me the biggest vicarious thrill. There is nothing like being a kid and finding out you're going to a baseball game.
That's how I've been feeling this week for Dave Murray.
Dave is Mets Guy In Michigan. His circumstances are not at all unfortunate. He's got a grand life in Grand Rapids, writing for a living, raising a family, all, despite missing what he calls “the Homeland,” he could ask for. He doesn't, however, get to Shea Stadium every day. In fact, he hasn't been to Shea Stadium since 1991.
That changes this Saturday. Dave is returning, with his father and his cousin, to the Homeland. Dave is going to his first game at Shea in seventeen years. That it's a Subway Series game and that it's Shea's final season and that Dave, despite rendezvousing with the Mets on the road from time to time since the early '90s, hasn't seen the Mets win in person in any capacity since his previous trip to Shea makes the anticipation all the more tingly.
To me, that is. I know Dave is excited but I find myself excited on behalf of his excitement. I'm more worried about how the Mets will do on Saturday when Dave is going than I am about how they will do on Sunday when I'll be there.
Dave, in addition to being a heckuva human being, is my almost exact demographic contemporary: mid-40s, Nassau County upbringing, Mets fandom forged in the heyday of Tom Terrific, Yankees hater by nature and common sense. This weekend, however, he's a kid, no older than Rocky, whose trip to Dodger Stadium in Mask was a junior high graduation present. Dave, to use a phrase I found myself applying a few weeks ago as I critiqued the latest Mets debacle's effect on my well-being, is not made of cotton candy. He's been around, he knows his stuff, he's no ingénue about baseball or life. But he's not bothering with that on Saturday. He's not cynical or blasé about going to Shea Stadium for a Mets game. He's not 44 in the hours leading up to first pitch. He's 15 or 11 or 9. He's looking at the clock and then peering out the window and then watching the pot to see if it's started to boil and then maybe checking up the chimney. This is Christmas Eve for Dave. When's it gonna get here? When? WHEN?
All week long, Dave's blog has been a countdown to Christmas Morning, Christmas in June. He's making lists of things he's determined to do at Shea, and may Mrs. Payson's ghost have mercy on the overly officious usher or incredibly dopey Yankees fan who gets in his way. Dave's Shea is way better than the real thing. Dave's Shea isn't the Shea he left in 1991. It isn't the one his grandmother took him to on Opening Day in 1975. It's surely not the one the air has hung heavy over in 2008. Dave Murray's Shea Stadium is the one of Dave's wildest dreams. Only a Mets fan has wild dreams involving Shea. Maybe only a Mets Guy In Michigan, deprived of Shea's company for seventeen long years, is capable of truly appreciating and expressing how special a trip to Shea on a Saturday in June will be, regardless of what ensues after the first pitch is thrown.
I find myself so excited that Dave is breaking out of Michigan for the weekend that, like Red in The Shawshank Redemption, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a Mets fan can feel for another Mets fan. Or maybe it's just that there's nothing like being any age and finding out somebody who really relishes going to a baseball game is, in fact, going to a baseball game.