Late summer is the season of easy denial. If the atmospheric conditions are generous, there’s not a damn thing wrong when you step outside and obviously there never will be. Warmth is a given. Cool dribbles in as needed. It’s not at all hot. It’s surely not cold. It’s Baby Bear weather.
It’s just right.
What’s all wrong, of course, is late summer is over at approximately the instant you realize you’re in it. I’ve been feeling late summer for literally two days. I spent part of the first of those days staring at a reassuringly calm Atlantic Ocean. I spent part of the second of those days staring at the offensively comatose New York Mets. Nature’s been kinder of late in these parts than the Detroit Tigers. Good luck if you think you’re gonna sneak anything past the heart of either of their orders.
Maybe this flawless climate will last another week. A line of thunderstorms, a shot of humidity — never mind the slightest whisper of a tropical depression — and the idyll is pulled out from under you. Even if you’re lucky enough to make it to the end of August meteorologically unscathed, you can’t expect to extend your unbeaten streak. Late summer’s done once the sun sinks over Labor Day. You know what unfolds thereafter even if you don’t want to.
Your baseball team can ease you toward September or it can just remind you how fleeting the gentle breezes of these perfect days really are. You don’t quite dread the onset of autumn when the autumn promises possibilities. We used to have possibilities. Someday we will again. This September we will not.
So we are left with late August and you are advised to embrace its intangibles before they are unattainable. Stroll onto its boardwalk. Stroll into its ballpark. Mark down as victories the acts if not necessarily the outcomes. My boardwalk’s not yet complete, but it’s going the distance, block by block. My ballpark? On Saturday it provided me complimentary coasters and somebody else’s 19th win. A barrage of hits for the visitors: few of them sent far but nearly all of them struck hard. The Tigers scored three runs. Baserunning and umpiring cost them three more. They only needed one.
There was no beating the weather or Max Scherzer. You take what you can get.
The Mets ended Saturday 58-69. After exactly as many games a year ago, they were 58-69. Late August wasn’t going anywhere then, either, except away. The Mets stuck around for 35 more games because they were obliged. I trust they’ll live up to their obligations again this year. They’re mighty sporting that way.
This team hasn’t exactly unraveled the way it has in recent second halves, probably because there wasn’t much about them that was raveled to begin with. It’s awfully discouraging if one chooses to be discouraged — and to be perfectly blunt, I usually do. Today, however, I choose my chances; Tom Seaver’s second bobblehead in as many years; and however much late summer I can stuff into my soul for the inevitable rainy, windy, baseball-devoid days ahead. The Mets are again in the midst of pulling in the competitive patio furniture as September approaches. It’s not how we’d prefer to spend our late summer days with them. But I can’t stand the idea of spending my late summer days without them.
It wouldn’t be just right.