Overheard high atop 514 Thursday afternoon…
ROB EMPROTO: What’s the worst game you’ve ever been to?
ME: September 15, 2011, Mets versus Nationals.
To be fair, across two Logs that have tracked the 522 official Mets games I’ve attended, Collapse games have been worse. Johnny and Armando late-inning specials have been worse. Anything where “NY” won and it wasn’t us was worse. There was a Merengue Night in 1998 that forever ensured my disavowal of an entire musical genre. “Worst” is highly subjective, and when it comes to the Mets, it’s far too broad a category to plop on the table without being prepared to dissect it for hours on end.
Which was how long yesterday’s game took.
Nationals X Mets I — misery too epic to be left to Arabic numerals — will endure as especially horrendous because it had going for (or against) it something I don’t think any of the other 225 Mets losses I’ve witnessed in person could claim.
Gloom. It was the gloomiest day I’ve ever spent in the company of the New York Mets. And friends, I’ve spent some dark nights with my team.
But not in broad daylight I haven’t.
Rain I’ve sat through. Rain delays I’ve sat through. Severe chill I’ve sat through. The winds of Flushing Bay have annually whipped my psyche as they have my unprotected exterior. Yesterday, though, was an extraordinarily brutal afternoon of elements. Temperatures plunged. Precipitation spit. Skies darkened. Then darkened some more. Then turned as black as any three Mercury Mets jerseys. It was the kind of weather where if you sit through it, maybe the home team does you the solid of offering you tickets to another game.
Except after yesterday, that would have been cruel.
Yet it wasn’t just the sharp right turn into December.
Or the miserable score (Nationals X Mets I truly understates the intensity of the blowout).
Or the caliber of opponent that was kicking our ass.
Or how limply the once-feisty 2011 Mets are fading into oblivion.
Or my having been in the same stadium fewer than 24 hours earlier for what seemed like a heartbreaking 2-0 loss but was, by comparison, the last gasp of the feelgood phase of the Terry Collins Era.
Or the thought of the eager schoolkids I saw on the 7 whose field trip wasn’t likely to go down as a cherished childhood memory.
Or the fellow in the ATF cap who — before exiting to enjoy his stock of alcohol, tobacco and/or firearms — snorted that the Mets were a bunch of millionaires too scared to play in a little rain.
Or the fellow wrapped in orange and blue angrily informing all six of us in our section that the Nationals were running up the score so their agents could get them more money in the offseason.
Or the balks, the errors, the LOBs, the high fences and the centerfielder who could’ve sworn he’d seen a ghost.
Or the time of game, which broke three clocks and five calendars.
Or the nerve of the Mets putting two runners on in the bottom of the ninth when Rob and I were too stubborn or too stupid to turn our backs on them.
It was how incredibly private this game was that boosted this one’s status into Worst territory. It was how I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the seventh or eighth or fifty-fifth inning and, upon descending into the Promenade Food Court, I heard nothing. Not a sound. Not a soul. Almost everything was shuttered. Everything else could have been. And when I returned to my seat, it wasn’t any different…except a regulation baseball game was taking place below us.
In August of 1981, after a seven-week strike had been settled, the Mets invited people to attend their intrasquad games for free. Baseball-deprived since mid-June, I jumped on a Long Island Rail Road train or two (including one that wasn’t scheduled to stop at Shea, but the conductor was very nice to a clueless 18-year-old version of me) and practically ran to Gate C so I could be part of the first Mets baseball since June 11. This was the summer before I left for college, so I wanted every drop I could get. There were no tickets necessary. Just walk in and take a seat on the Field Level.
I figured it would be a festive afternoon in Flushing, but not really. The Mets basically chose up sides and played ball. I might be imagining this, but I kind of remember Lee Mazzilli serving as manager for one side of Mets and Doug Flynn managing the other. I also don’t think they bothered turning on the scoreboard. There were no concessions open. No public address announcements were made. It was just a bunch of guys in blue Mets warmup tops shaking off the rust and reacquainting themselves with the tools of their trade very, very quietly. There were maybe 500 of us taking in their maneuvers. We made a little noise, but after a while, not that much.
That’s basically what yesterday was like, except it was sunnier thirty years ago and I actually wanted to come back again.