My back to the wall, a victim of laughing chance
This is for me the essence of true romance
Sharing the things we know and love with those of my kind
Libations, sensations that stagger the mind
I've crossed that fine line from theoretical home stretch to the beginning of the end of the line. This is no longer a drill. This is no longer me thinking about what it will be like at the end of Shea Stadium. This one's for real, I already bought the dream. I can stop having little fits of emotion late at night and during the day and on the train listening to the wrong song on my iPod. I can quit wondering whether I am going to miss Shea as much as I say I will or if I'm just saying that because I think I should miss Shea that much.
It's too late for all that. It's hitting me hourly. And in the middle of it all, these Mets and their games. They're still playing. They're still alive. Oh, they're alive all right.
And there I am in the middle of it like I've never been before, an ornament, I'd like to think, to the pennant race, certainly a face in the crowd…every crowd, every night.
Even in the wind. Even in the rain. Even after Wednesday. Even down 6-3 in the seventh one pitch after Pedro Martinez has theatrically saluted us for saluting him, one uncomfortable beat after Ricardo Rincon has been nailed to a cross constructed of forMicah.
When Thursday night's game ended in absolute, overwhelming Met triumph. Laurie and I feverishly exchanged high-fives with the two guys directly behind us. Big deal, you're thinking, everybody does that when their team wins. Yes, but two innings earlier, I suspected there was going to be genuine violence between at least two of us four: Laurie and the guy who placed a little too much ignorant emphasis on Ricardo Rincon's Mexican heritage as he expressed frustration over Micah Hoffpauir's seemingly spine-crushing three-run homer. A little tense back-and-forth ensued, the guy saying he's entitled to express his opinion over his team any way he wants (while addressing Laurie as “ma'am”) and Laurie respectfully suggesting if he really hates his team as his steady and loud running diatribe implied, he ought to be doing something else. Despite the guy's friend insisting “we're all in this together,” it was truly bordering on the unpleasant when I threw in my two cents that let's calm down, this stadium's only got four more days, relax and enjoy it.
“Hey,” one of them said. “It's got more than four days!”
“That's the spirit,” I said, rather half-heartedly and a little sarcastically. It was 6-3, Pedro Martinez's Mets career was over, it was windy, it was raining, it wasn't 24 hours removed from the night before and it didn't seem the time for false hustle. But I was for anything that would keep the peace.
Who knew that sometimes the idiots sitting behind you know what they're talking about?
It was my last night in Mezzanine and my last game with Laurie, a cult figure among longstanding FAFIF readers for the way she leads with her heart and throws emotional elbows. I assure you it's not intentional on her part. She just doesn't understand how a person can support a team by telling its components how worthless they are. Nothing gets Laurie down like the fans who seem to come to Shea to boo the Mets. From the wrong angle, it sounds like she's harping. When you've shared as many Shea armrests over as many Shea seasons as I have with Laurie, you know it's her own strain of unconditional Met love. Some people who know her only from her comments here ask me “what's Laurie like?” I can truthfully respond, à la Choo Choo Coleman, Laurie likes the Mets, bub.
Likes them a lot, like I do. But neither of us is so blinded by our passion that we thought we were looking at anything but a drenching and a beating Thursday.
We determined early in the evening that the Mets were screwed, that every time Wright or Church did anything positive at bat we'd be driven to think “where was that last night?” We decided “last night” — Wednesday when Daniel Murphy was glued to third by three insidiously sticky unproductive outs — would become That Night in Metspeak, that in 2010 or 2015 or whenever a leadoff runner stood in serious scoring position and the heart of the lineup failed to lift as much as a sac fly, we'd instinctively say “it's just like That Night against the Cubs.” That Night would join the pantheon of pitiful patois: Pendleton, bases-loaded walk, devastated. That Night would require no explanation for anyone who lived through it.
That Night is now maybe nothing more than the night before whatever we wind up calling this one. Maybe it's when this night combines with That Night and they became Those Nights against the Cubs in late September 2008, the nights when first we were dead but then we weren't.
Then again, something else could take hold.
The Comeback Game?
The Best Rain Game Since Ventura?
The Last Pedro Game?
The Dreaded Micah Hoffpauir Game?
The Ryan Church Slide Game?
The Robinson Cancel/Ramon Martinez Game?
The Beltran Walkoff Single Game?
The game that set the stage for Shea Stadium to continue its life beyond what it was originally allotted or what seemed remotely possible?
For me right now, it goes down as the night we were all in this together; another night when I was right in the middle of it; the top of the stretch run of the month when I couldn't resist the temptation to inhabit a world of my own and make it my home sweet home; a night when I couldn't have received a better ending not just to a crucial contest in the standings but to the Shea segment of one of my foundation Met relationships. Or it could be that it's simply the night the winning hit spurred me to lift my diminutive friend Laurie several feet in the air for the last time at Shea Stadium — the first time I'd acted on such uninhibited instinct since Benny Agbayani let the dogs out against Aaron Fultz.
I only do things like that on extraordinarily special occasions.