- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The New Old Normal

I’m getting old. It happens to everybody, to their astonishment. I’ll be 46 in a month — which isn’t ancient if you’re 56 or 66 or north of there but unfathomable at 16 or 26.

A funny thing about age, as I lean into it: Your frame of reference for time changes so thoroughly that you can barely believe it. I can recall being the same person I am now except that I thought a month was a long time and a year was unfathomable. Now a month is a blink, and when I think of some milestone a couple of years off I know it’ll be here very soon. It’s simultaneously comforting and scary, if such a thing is possible. The good part is you don’t get too worked up. The bad part is you don’t get too worked up.

Last year I went to Opening Day at Citi Field. You may remember it — Bobby Parnell [1] blew a save and a ligament, the Mets lost, and we got our first of 15 unwelcome looks at the big bad Nats.

It was a bummer, but Opening Day’s the one day your team can lose a game and you’re still reasonably happy. (Not true if you get waxed 10-0, as the Brewers did yesterday.) There were 161 to play, and I’d be back soon enough.

And so I went back … well, I didn’t.

That was it — Opening Day was the entirety of my Citi Field season.

This had never happened since I moved to New York 20 years ago. Heck, it had never happened in the years I lived in D.C., hours farther off.

I don’t know what happened exactly. I didn’t give up on the team and I wasn’t boycotting the Wilpons. But I think it has to do with the passage of time. I was busy, traveling a lot. April became June and I hadn’t been back for one reason or another, and then June became August and I hadn’t been back for one reason or another, and then it was mid-September and I realized I wasn’t going back, not in 2014.

It wasn’t like I was ignoring baseball. If the Mets were on TV I was watching, or at least keeping an eye on them, enjoying the ballgame like a loyal dog asleep at your feet while the night or afternoon winds along. I went to games elsewhere [2], adding Chicago and Oakland and Phoenix and Houston to my visited stadiums and checking in with the Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. (Here’s an oddity: I saw the Nationals three times live in ’14, compared with once for the Mets.)

I was busy over the winter too — I seem to be permanently busy these days, with one book deadline replacing another. And over the winter I didn’t think much about the current Mets, truth be told — largely because the current Mets didn’t give us much to chew on. (Even in these precincts, there’s only so much one can say about Michael Cuddyer [3] and John Mayberry [4], Jr.) And I have no use for the loud pointlessness of spring training any more — I noted Zack Wheeler [5]‘s busted elbow and Daniel Murphy [6]‘s musings on lifestyles [7] and other than that I waited for April.

But the Mets of bygone days were on my mind whether it was December or February. I spent the gaps in my winter schedule finding photos of obscure Mets who never got baseball cards and correcting those injustices. I’ve got tales that I’ll share one of these rainy days — cup-of-coffee guys like Bill Graham [8] and Shaun Fitzmaurice [9] and Joe Grzenda [10] turn out to be a lot more interesting than you might have thought. I made a card [11] for interim manager Salty Parker and another for tragic Met ghost Billy Cotton. It’s impossible to say the Mets aren’t on your mind when you’re proofreading how many doubles somebody collected at Pompano Beach in 1970.

The difference is that those Mets are now old or dead, swept along by the flow of time carrying us all along in ways I’m only beginning to understand. The young Mets? I didn’t worry why they occupied so little of my gray matter, but I certainly wondered about it.

Which is a big part of why Opening Day was such a pleasure for me, even with Jenrry Mejia [12] possibly playing the role of Bobby Parnell. It was a pleasure for the obvious reasons: once again there was baseball that counted, and three hours before the game I was wandering around happily thinking that life had its proper definition and rhythm back.

But Opening Day was also a pleasure because I could feel myself reconnecting with the current Mets, the ones whose deeds lie ahead of us instead of behind us. Lucas Duda [13] looked confident and aggressive and Travis d’Arnaud [14] started the day as if he was trying to grind his bat into sawdust but finished it with a key triple and Wilmer Flores [15] proved surer at shortstop than Ian Desmond [16] and Bartolo Colon [17] was his rotundly Zenlike self and Buddy Carlyle [18] was the unexpected hero.

Oh, and the Mets won [19].

The Mets won and I was happy. Sometimes baseball’s no more complicated than that. But there was something else too. I had to get on a plane this morning, and I’ll have to do it again next week. There are tons of deadlines as usual. But everything seemed better because baseball is back, writing new chapters in its history. And while relaxing into that, I had a welcome thought: It’ll be fun to go to a game and see the Mets again.