Perhaps with more indisputable zeniths, I wouldn’t be so quick to recall the transitory peaks of life as a New York Mets fan. Whether it’s a 9-6 record in 1978 or 42-42 in 1980 or 53-38 in 1991 or 59-37 in 1984, those instances when the Mets got as good as they were going to get in a given year tend to burn brightly for me. Sometimes they can be measured by the best winning percentage the Mets could calculate for themselves in the heart of a baseball season. Sometimes, though, it’s about a more intangible sensation.
In 2007, the Mets rose their highest in late May — 33-17 after Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado spooked Armando Benitez out of Shea Stadium — but there was another moment, exactly a month later, that I cling to just as much when I want to remember what was good about a year that wound up as historically dispiriting.
The Mets had been meandering through June for about three weeks when they reignited to what we considered their usual standards. They swept Oakland a three-game set at Shea, took two of three from St. Louis and then hit the road to Philly. I followed them there for the day-half win of a day-night doubleheader on a Friday, hauled ass back to Long Island that evening (the sweep secured as I arrived home) and then slept far too little before turning right around and back to Philadelphia. The Mets won my Saturday game, too. They won eight of nine at that point. I was 5-1 in this span.
Metwise, I felt on top of the world. You know the feeling, don’t you? The Mets are rolling and you’re sure they’re never going to stop. That’s how it was at 9-6 in 1978, when expectations were pretty darn low, and how it was at 59-37 in 1984, when expectations were shooting sky-high, and that’s how it was at 33-17 in 2007, when expectations were being met the way they were “supposed” to be post-2006. Then June fell into shambles for three weeks, and we all grew a little uneasy. Along came the 8-1 stretch, with two of the wins over the team we lost the pennant to the October before and another three versus the team making noises about taking our division away and, well, all was right with my world.
After boarding a northbound NJ Transit train near Princeton (thanks to my friends the Chapmans, who gave me a lift back in general direction of New York), I was giddy. I was too giddy to let go of 8-1, to let go of 5-1, to let go of just having watched the Mets win on “foreign” soil twice in a little more than 24 hours. So I didn’t let it go. I pulled out my iPod and listened to my Mets playlist, the first of many I’d go on to make via iTunes over the years. It was the most rudimentary, least imaginative of them, but it got the job done.
Doesn’t matter what the first fifteen tracks were; it was the sixteenth and final song that whipped me into a frenzy: “Takin’ Care Of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Shea victory anthem throughout 2006 and now 2007. I had pulled the iPod out of my bag so I could play it upon the last out in the bottom of the ninth, standing in the shadow of Harry the K’s. Pedro Feliciano grounded Carlos Ruiz into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game, and I pressed the appropriate button. I scolded myself briefly for being presumptuous to have the song cued up, but we were up five runs and it didn’t seem like a Mets win without BTO blasting “TCB” tidings.
On the train, I gave the song a double play of its own, which I regretted as soon as I did it. All the Mets had built this Saturday was a four-game lead over Atlanta and a six-game bulge over Philadelphia. I am, I thought, getting greedy. I’m gloating. As I allowed Randy Bachman and Fred Turner to finish their business and contemplated my the potential consequences of my actions.
No matter how much I am enjoying this, I have to stop playing “Takin’ Care of Business”. Any more triumphalism, and the gods will be angry at me for celebrating a single victory in the middle of the season far too heartily, with way too much smugness. Just get out of the Philadelphia market with another win and enjoy that. Do not screw with the Mets’ karma.
It’s true. I really do think in those types of terms.
Self-chastened, I twirled away from my “Amazin’” playlist and wheeled the iPod dial to a fairly new song of which I had been growing quite fond throughout June:
So I listened to “Rehab”. And I listened to it again. And again. And again. And by the time I pulled into Penn Station, I was completely in love with it. After one train ride, I had my favorite song of the new millennium. It exploded through my ears and into my soul, filling me with breathless excitement and unironic adrenaline. It was funny, it was defiant, it was ominous. It was as self-aware a pop song as I’d ever heard. She wasn’t going to rehab. Let the chips fall where they may.
Four years later, they fell rather predictably, and, of course, what a shame they did. There were many kudos for “Rehab,” but never a followup for the album it came from. Amy Winehouse was a brilliant singer and songwriter. Getting through life, however, proved too much for the lady.
Upon the announcement of her death Saturday, several hours before the Mets bowed to Gaby Sanchez and the Marlins, I was transported to that other Saturday when I was riding New Jersey’s rails in a mood that was anything but black. The more it sunk in that there’d never be any more Amy Winehouse, the more I was back on that train from Princeton Junction to Penn Station. I had just seen the Mets beat the Phillies, 8-3, to remain on the kind of roll that you couldn’t have convinced me would end anytime soon. You surely couldn’t have told me that the 2007 Mets would meet their definitive end exactly three months later…and that fanwise, I’d be the one who would need to go to rehab.
June 30, 2007. Amy Winehouse was singing and the Mets were winning. I’m pretty certain I haven’t loved a song or my baseball team quite so much since.