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With All Deliberate Speed

“One night against San Antonio, we announced a crowd of eight hundred and six, and I sat there during halftime and I started counting the people in the stands, and my best guess is there were really about four hundred people at the game. And I went up to Rudy Martzke, who was then the Spirits’ director of operations, and I said, ‘Rudy, y’know, it’s bad enough we’ve got an announced crowd of about eight hundred; there’s really like four hundred people here.’ He says, ‘You little wiseass, why don’t you just go back over there and broadcast the game and mind your own business? Did it ever occur to you that maybe some of these people are in the restroom or at the concession stand?’ I said, ‘Rudy, let’s test your premise. Let’s suppose there were ten thousand people here. What are the odds that at any given moment five thousand are relieving themselves or buying a hot dog? There’s no chance of that! There’s four hundred people here!’ He says, ‘I’m gonna belt ya, get out of here!’”
—Spirits of St. Louis play-by-play announcer Bob Costas, Long Shots: The Life and Times of the American Basketball Association (HBO), 1997

When Banner Day was in its heyday, it took place not just between games of a doubleheader, but in the heart of high summer: June, July, maybe August. This year the Mets got it out of the way on May 11 (after originally scheduling it for today, May 26).

When Fireworks Night was truly blowing up, it was slated close to Independence Day, which makes all the sense in America. This year the Mets pinned it to their calendar for May 24, pushing it back one day so the skies could better accommodate the bombs bursting in air.

I realize these are merely promotions being positioned wherever somebody thinks they’ll attract an uptick in audience, but it almost seems as if the Mets are subconsciously just trying to get 2013 over with as quickly as possible…and they’re failing at that, too. If they were succeeding, why would almost every nine-inning game drag more than three hours — and why would it take two days to play ten innings?

And how can this endlessly miserable season be not yet even one-third over?

Friday’s game reached its inevitable conclusion [1] Saturday, though I held out hope that the Mets would surprise us, particularly as long as I decided to join the “32,325” who will forever be in the box score but were never anywhere near this game on either of its two days. My entrée to this affair came eight innings in via the unorthodox suspension of hostilities [2] and my acceptance of the Mets’ poorly executed offer of “two free tickets” to a home game in May. I was already committed to attend many of the Mets’ home games in May when a postcard arrived in my mailbox ostensibly appealing to my desire to see the All-Star Game at Citi Field by informing me it wasn’t too late to become a 2013 ticket plan holder. I assumed the “two free tickets” the postcard extended as a carrot would come attached to a sales pitch. But, what the hell, two free tickets are two free tickets.

I first called 718/507-TIXX two Fridays ago with an eye on the Cincinnati series. After being put on hold and transferred around the Mets’ ticket office (never being pitched season tickets, by the way), I was told I could  look forward to a code for use on mets.com arriving in my in-box by Monday…Tuesday at the latest.

Monday and Tuesday passed, and I didn’t catch a code. So I called again Wednesday morning. I spoke to somebody who apologetically informed me that there must have been a problem somewhere between “the e-mail blast” and “the postcard hit,” as if I had been to the same lack-of-communication seminar he’d been compelled to sit through. “Huh?” was my basic response, but I was assured again I’d be seeing a code by midday Friday, and if I didn’t receive it, then they could do a “workaround,” which sounded either pleasant or ghastly.

Well, Friday came and there was no code, so I called a third time. The person I reached sounded really rattled by the whole concept of customer service. The reason I hadn’t received my magic code yet was a combination of “the system has some problems,” “e-mail addresses got lost” and, I swear, “a lot of people called,” which perhaps overwhelmed those hired to take the calls.

Ohmigod, I thought, the Mets literally can’t give tickets away.

I gently explained that time was running out on your generous offer, that this was Friday and I don’t know how late you guys work, but I’d really like to go to Saturday’s game and it’s not like I’m calling out of the blue asking for free tickets. You invited me.

To my utter shock, a Mets representative called me a little while later and told me he’d do me the solid of sending me my code personally — I’m not sure if this constituted a blast or a workaround — and he really did. I entered it as directed and it resulted in two Excelsior left field tickets with a price of $0.00, two Department of Franco [3] bobbleheads if Stephanie and I were among the first “25,000” on hand and, once Friday got all tied up and rained on, two-ish Mets games for the price of none, provided we showed up a little extra early.

That we did. I don’t think Stephanie was as stoked as I was for the resumption of the fifth suspended game in Mets history, particularly when the forecast was loaded with high wind advisories, but I really sold the uniqueness aspect [4]. “We gotta see this!” I enthused. “They’re gonna play the ninth inning as soon as we get there!”

That they did. They even prefaced it with John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” on the PA, a song I last heard at a Mets game on Reopening Night in 1981, the first game after the strike. With that kind of cleverness, how could the Mets lose?

We stood on Field Level and watched Bobby Parnell warm up to his country song of choice [5] (we sure have a lot of players whose intro music implies they’d rather be back home where folks are real and life is simple) before keeping the Braves off the board in the top of the ninth. That’s when it dawned on my lovely wife that, “This could go into extra innings.”

I affirmed that possibility while ostensibly rooting for a quick Met run in the bottom of the ninth though secretly relishing Fox’s window being shattered by a 17-inning marathon. Either way, there was no immediate resolution, just the Mets not scoring. Given the stiff breeze and Stephanie’s desire to sit and eat like a person, we slipped into the Caesars Club and discovered at least one monitor that wasn’t tuned to a hockey game. It was there that we watched the Braves notch two off Brandon Lyon in the top of the tenth and the Mets mount their idea of a rally in the bottom of the tenth, which was John Buck being dinged by Craig Kimbrel and Ike Davis making his weekly contact with a baseball. There was a genuinely warm burst of applause in Caesars when Ike reached first. Nobody really wants to boo him. They just don’t want to tacitly approve of anybody’s sub-.150 average.

As we finished our takeout — Mama’s for me, Daruma for Stephanie — I wondered if we should sit tight. Perhaps Club Amenity was lucky for these Mets. Then again, we also saw them fall behind, 7-5, from the same table, so let’s get out to our seats already and enjoy the big comeback!

We got halfway down the Excelsior concourse when the game ended sans big comeback. So much for history.

Then there was a second game, which wasn’t yet terrible when Stephanie indicated the development of icicles along her extremities would necessitate her return to Caesars for a multiple-inning thaw. Seeing as how we’d gotten our Francos, experienced our two-inning extravaganza in the de facto opener and enjoyed a little sushi and such, I was having a tough time rationalizing subjecting her to a choice between an unseasonable climate or an oversized airport lounge crawling with similarly chilly people drawn from the announced crowd of “27,622”.

“Ya wanna just go?” I asked in the fourth. This get-out-of-Mets-free card was greeted with incredulity (just as it was when it was last issued [6], in 2008), but it wasn’t exactly waved off. We happened to be at a peak moment of train-schedule synergy and that’s no small thing when you have to change at Jamaica on the weekend.

So we left, six combined innings to our credit and, ultimately, two losses to the Braves [7] for me to reluctantly Log. Stephanie appreciated my rare act of selflessness, but honestly, I figured once the Mets didn’t win Friday’s game on Saturday, there wasn’t going to be much worth bundling up for during Saturday’s game on Saturday. Howie and Josh carried me through the ride home, describing each seam Dillon Gee came apart at, so it was like we were there…except we were warmer and less disgusted by our favorite team.

Summer is supposedly at hand. We should be warming to the possibilities that the baseball season holds in store for us. Instead, getting this one over with sounds more kind than cruel — and that’s no way for baseball fans to think with four months to go. Hence, you might say we beat it out of Citi Field before Citi Field could totally beat it out of us.