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

Just Another Game at Home

We want people to be able to watch sports, to the extent that people are still staying home. It gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy.
—Gov. Andrew Cuomo, May 24, 2020

On Sunday afternoon, August 7, 1994, the Mets lost to the Marlins, 2-0, at Shea Stadium. Had I known the outcome in advance, I wouldn’t have wanted to have been there to witness it. But bereft of inside dope, I sort of did want to be on hand because the deadline the Players Association set for a strike was later in the week, and absolutely nobody was optimistic that a work stoppage could be avoided. The Mets were going on the road the next day, so this Sunday game was, in all likelihood, the final opportunity to go see the Mets for quite a while. I mused out loud that morning that maybe I should get on a train and head out to Shea.

“Why don’t you?” my wife asked.

“I’m tired,” I said.

That’s my excuse for lots of things, though this particular invocation of my most reliable alibi came from a place of earned weariness. We had just three days earlier returned from a ballpark-laden jaunt to the Midwest: White Sox on Sunday; Brewers on Tuesday night; Cubs on Wednesday afternoon. It was a whirlwind. I couldn’t say I hadn’t had plenty of in-person baseball to see me through the upcoming void. Besides, the Mets were on TV. So, on August 7, 1994, I stayed home and watched what became the final home game of the season.

Last night, Wednesday, September 23, 2020, was the first time in 26 years I could say I did the same thing. In the interim, encompassing the final home games of the regular seasons from 1995 to 2019, I attended every single date at Shea Stadium and Citi Field that fit the description of final home game of the regular season [1]. It became a point of pride with me; if there was one game I was gonna be at, it was that game. Then again, it was never the one game I was gonna be at because there had been plenty of games preceding it. That was the beauty of what I came to call Closing Day before anybody else did. The season was leading me there. We’d been through this thing together, the Mets and me. We were one in April, we were one all summer, and now, on the day or night it was time for us to split off, we’d be one one more time.

Then came 2020, when the Mets and I (and everybody else) kept our distance by necessity and public health mandate. I haven’t been out to Citi Field to see them. Nobody has. Not even the “788,905” version of nobody that counted as the official attendance in 1979. The Mets of 2020 have been, by design of contingency, a television show. Not a great one in substance, but a steady one since July 24 — and always presented entertainingly. Same for the radio rendition.

Thus, when Closing Night 2020 rolled around, it was just another game to watch at home. None of the emotions attendant to a final visit to the ballpark. None of that sense that this is the last time I’m getting on the LIRR to change at Jamaica for Woodside…this is the last time I’m getting on the 7 to Flushing…this is the last time I stop by my brick, the last time I get felt up by security, the last time somebody hands me a nick-nack, the last time… There were no last times like the last 25 times to be had.

There were the Mets and Rays, in living color, courtesy of SNY and me paying my cable bill. There was Michael Wacha [2] looking kind of promising for a while until the promise broke. There were home runs from Andrés Giménez [3], who will keep getting better; and Dom Smith [4], who has gotten marvelous; and Todd Frazier [5], who’s from New Jersey. There were the Rays being far more able, as Met opponents have generally been, wherever the show is telecast from. The only twist to this episode is Tampa Bay got to pop a little confetti [6] when it was over because by defeating the Mets, 8-5, they had clinched their division, which is in another league, but that’s the 2020 schedule for ya.

The 2020 schedule for the Mets has been brief and unhelpful from a confetti-popping standpoint. Others pop. We don’t. We’re not eliminated, but we will be. We won’t be playing any more home games, but what’s the difference? It’s not like we get to go to any of them.