1) It appears impossible to all but give away tickets to a Mets game in September, and that includes trying to all but give away tickets to people outside Citi Field who seem determined to go to the Mets game about to be played. Saturday afternoon was my annual Mets game with Jeff from Washington who, as a result of a communications snafu with another member of our game-going group, got stuck with two extras. First he just wanted face value for his trouble. Then he was willing to settle for two-for-one. Some guy on the gameday ticket line thought what Jeff was asking was too much, even though he was in line for tickets that would plainly cost more. Somebody else thought Jeff was trying to pull a fast one by making the same offer, leading to one of the great unintentional setups of all time from my friend the lawyer who works comedy clubs in his off hours:
“I’m not some sleazy guy — I’m an attorney!”
He got stuck with the extras.
2) How sad is it that every September since Citi Field opened reminds you how alone you are as a Mets fan who is excited to attend a Mets game at Citi Field? I still can’t get over how something that’s such a headline attraction on Opening Day devolves into a surefire punchline by September, and that’s with taking into account how perennially bad the Mets are by September. Yes, the Mets lost to the Braves, 11-3. Yes, they appear destined for a fourth consecutive sub-.500 finish and yes, it will likely be only the incompetence of the Marlins that clinches them a fourth consecutive fourth-place finish, but it’s still the Mets and it’s still the game of baseball and it’s still summer technically and the Mets offer deals and non-sleazy attorneys are practically giving away tickets…yet it seems laughable that anyone would actually want to go.
What also seemed laughable was how on Friday night, when Stephanie and I joined Jeff and a couple of friends for dinner after Jeff killed at his New York club date (that is to say he was very funny, not that he committed a felony), we had to go to extreme lengths in order to get a waiter to find a remote control for the restaurant’s TV and change the channel to SNY after repeated requests. Jeff thought our diehard attempts to watch the Mets swing and miss against Atlanta would make for a good story. I’ll bet the waiter had a better story:
“You’ll never guess what some customers kept asking for Friday night!”
3) In his killer act, Jeff tells jokes about being a dad. What he doesn’t mention is what a good dad he is…what a good Mets dad he is. We’re in the team store on his one and only trip to Citi Field this year, and we’re inspecting the player-number t-shirts. Jeff whips out one of his phones (he’s like Walter White carrying multiple cells) and calls his youngest son at college.
“You want a Matt Harvey t-shirt? No? OK, bye.”
After hanging up, I’m told he was told, “He has ‘enough Mets shirts.’” Then he grabs HARVEY 33 by the hanger. “I’m getting it for him anyway.”
Inspired — by both Jeff and HARVEY — I get off the fence and ante up for the very same shirt I’d been putting off purchasing for three homestands, deciding I wanted to have some skin (or fabric) in the game where future Mets success is concerned…though as soon as I brought it to the counter, I could feel myself investing in WILSON 32 in 1996 and not knowing what to do with it by 1998.
Except player-number Met t-shirts weren’t so readily available back then. But if I’d seen a WILSON 32, trust me, I would’ve gone for it.
4) The Mets’ second-half MVP of 2012 is clearly Pat LaFrieda. Just about every game I’ve gone to in the past five weeks has involved somebody asking, “Is the steak sandwich really that good?” Try for yourself is all I can advise. Jeff joined the club Saturday. He feared a long line. But this is September at Citi Field; the only lines in evidence are adjacent to first and third bases. No line for Pat. Too many onions for Jeff. Oh well.
5) It was Sterling Awards day, a good chance to get our eyes checked…oh wait, that’s Sterling Optical. Well, it was a good day to get our hopes unchecked as Howie Rose boomed with enthusiasm as the Future Stars of the Mets jumped from the back pages of the official yearbook to be recognized in a pregame ceremony that drew the riveted attention of absolutely nobody. Again, a paradox. Your hardcore Mets fan (and who the bleep else is at one of these September games?) salivates over “prospects” like they’re Pat LaFrieda steak sandwiches, but when a fistful are paraded before us for our perusal, nobody really looks. Granted, Zack Wheeler in a suit is less interesting than Zack Wheeler on a mound, but there he is, getting his award for being the best Binghamton Met of 2012 and it doesn’t cost any extra to pay him a little mind.
Yet the crowd went mild. Jeff and I clapped for our future. Few others did. They could have been handing Pat Cawley the State Farm Agent of the Day award for all the buzz that was being generated. No way a Wheeler could look at a stadium about one-tenth filled and one one-hundredth engaged and think, “Wow, this is the big leagues!” He said something to that effect in an interview, but how could their reception not be underwhelming to him or to overall Sterling Player of the Year Wilmer Flores or to whomever else they selected either on merit or out of a desire to pump up trade value.
In the minutes before a September Mets game at Citi Field, Flushing is little more than a big Binghamton.
6) Add to those things that seem larger in theory than September Citi Field reality the reception accorded Chipper Jones amid the second part of his final Sheatropolitan Area visit. First AB: light applause, playful booing, one Laaarrryyy!!! (mine). Second AB: same, except less so and I didn’t bother with the Laaarrryyy!!! And so on. Nobody cares about anything when your team is losing and you’re struck by the sensation of being an oddball at a Mets game versus being a “normal person” anywhere else.
Of course when I overheard two guys on the inbound 7 train mention they were going to the U.S. Open and, implicitly, not the Mets game, I grumbled what I always grumble to myself whenever I learn somebody could be at a Mets game but isn’t:
“WHO CARES ABOUT TENNIS/FOOTBALL/LIFE? THE METS ARE PLAYING!”
True, I’m reaching the point where I don’t believe I’m grumbling such things, but I still do it anyway.
7) One of the incessant, bleating, between-innings announcements that finally drove me to comment after hearing it 20 times previously this season was that we should come to McFadden’s later for the “legendary” postgame party.
The postgame party at McFadden’s qualifies as “legendary”? You mean the stuff of legend? Like generations gathered around campfires recalling in trembling voices the time that dude ordered that Coors Light? How cut-rate have our legends become?
1969 is a legend. 1986 is a legend. McFadden’s is a bar from which you can’t re-enter the ballpark.
8) Inevitably, it rained. Common sense came pouring down in buckets over Section 526 (where there had been plenty of good seats available). The annual game dissolved. Our party of eight — including two children who seem to understand the Mets aren’t very good but, bless their adorable souls, aren’t much moved by that unpleasant fact — scattered. After a round of goodbyes to Jeff and everybody else, I actually lingered at Citi Field for the first 15 or 20 minutes of the rain delay. At first it was to time my escape optimally between the briefly torrential precipitation and my train at Woodside, but then, as the rain slackened, it was to wonder whether I should stick around and soak up the final three innings by myself, whenever they were to be presented.
I walked the perimeter of the covered portion of Field Level, stepped around small knots of Tomahawking Braves fans (dopes, obviously, but oh to be fired up about something besides steak sandwiches), ruminated on how there aren’t many innings left, how I’d yearn to be here in winter, how it’s the Mets and baseball and all that…and I made an executive decision to get the fudge out of Dodge. Losing 8-2, about to be 19-35 between July 8 and September 8, carrying no hint of a promising immediate future except for the HARVEY 33 in my bag, that sentimental crap wasn’t going to cut it.
I left through the Rotunda, checked Twitter and saw an approximate (if ultimately overly optimistic) restart time listed. “Damn,” I thought. “Did I do the right thing?”
Yeah. Sometimes ya just gotta accept it’s not quite your day at the ballpark. Just ask the team that’s lost 35 of 54.
9) What should appear on the TV at the Jamaica station Air Bar (an oasis of civility designed to serve Air Train customers yet they let mere LIRR types like me loiter) but a resumption of the game I left? It was the top of the seventh and there was Jeurys Familia and I was ever so slightly kicking myself for missing his Citi Field debut despite the ticket in my pocket that indicated I was there. The satellite feed delivered a jumpy picture and Familia surrendered three straight hits, but I — and nobody else — watched him just about get out of his mess. I was so immersed in Familia meeting his challenge that I almost forgot I had a train to catch.
By the time I was on the train, with my earbuds plugged into my trusty, low-tech pocket radio, I learned Familia gave up a key hit and now it was 10-2. I stopped kicking myself.
10) I was home in time for the ninth inning, which was about as discouraging as the previous eight. Terry Collins used six relievers behind the spectacularly ineffective Jeremy Hefner. With Chris Young pitching Sunday, I worried for three seconds that the bullpen wouldn’t be well-rested enough to pick up for Young when he bails after five. Then I stopped worrying and began laughing internally as much I laughed externally at Jeff’s act Friday night, because with the Mets nine games under .500 and 21 games out of first place, WHO CARES who pitches after Chris Young tomorrow?!?!?!?
Still, I watched down to the final out on Fox and then flipped to SNY for the postgame show because I so hoped Terry would tear his team a new a-hole — or any hole, really. But Terry did no such thing. He just sat with his arms folded and fielded softballs about how not terrible Lucas Duda looks lately. I guess the manager figures his team has enough holes as is.
11) I’m going to Sunday’s game to acknowledge Chipper from Atlanta and to hang with Kevin from Flushing and to be the creature of habit that four consecutive hollow Septembers haven’t prevented me from remaining. And I could turn my rain-soaked ticket from Saturday in for a complimentary admission for Monday because the Mets are just that gracious and, one presumes, Citi Field looms as just that empty. The sad, sick part is I’m kind of thinking about it.
I mean if the Mets can’t give away a Mets ticket to me, what’s the point of there being Mets games the rest of this year?