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On This Strange and Mournful Day

We come to bury the 2009 season this afternoon. We’re not ever going to praise it, no way, no how.

It saddens me nonetheless that the baseball season is ending. Not this season, but the season. I left Saturday’s Mets game after forty of so minutes of the rain delay, despite having a hunch they’d resume play eventually. I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I hadn’t exited a game early all year, yet it felt right to abandon ship. Besides, I’d be back Sunday, per usual, for Closing Day.

Hours later, however, I was saddened. No, not that I didn’t stick around. Content to tap my phone’s browser to confirm that the Mets indeed held on for my 25th win of the year, I wasn’t even motivated enough to find FAN reception. I had gone into the city to meet Stephanie who was finishing up some work. In past years it would drive me crazy to leave as many as four innings on the table. Not this year. I needed an out more than Frankie Rodriguez.

My sadness materialized after the game was over, after she was done working, while we were walking down Second Avenue in search of a noodle house. With the rain gone, it had become a warm October evening in Manhattan. Lots of pedestrians, lots of cars, lots of life.

And no Mets, I thought: The Mets barely exist right now and by this time tomorrow, they won’t exist at all. None of these people care about the Mets. Life is about to go on without my favorite team.

I contrasted that sense of the situation with another evening a few years ago [1] in the same neighborhood. Stephanie and I had chaperoned a group from her senior center to Shea Stadium. It was June 2006 and the Mets were as hot as the weather. We had beaten the Reds, we had had a great time and, having dropped off our charges, we were looking for a place for dinner. All I could think about and talk about was the Mets…

• how great they were playing;

• how far ahead they were in their division;

• how many wonderful players they had;

• how excited the fans were that afternoon;

• how jammed Shea was;

• how we kept running into people on the street wearing Mets gear as we strolled;

• how the world and the city were falling into place as we always wanted it to.

How long ago it seemed Saturday night. Now we were a lousy team nobody cared about, a lousy team I couldn’t be bothered to stick around through some raindrops to watch. I didn’t care enough to tune in their game if it was going to inconvenience me. If I didn’t care, why would anybody else out here on Second Avenue?

The murky sky reminded me of yet another night when Stephanie and I walked through Manhattan, over on the West Side. It was just over twenty years ago, the night we got engaged, also a Saturday. I gave her an engagement ring hours after giving her a Mets jacket of her very own (which would make the ring an anticlimax, you’d assume). I thought of how that night in 1989 became so many baseball moments together, particularly that afternoon game in 2006, and how the highest highlight of my 2009 at Citi Field was not any of the 35 official games I’ve attended, but the afternoon before the season started [2]. It was the workout the Mets opened up to ticket plan holders — which we’re not, but a friend is, and the friend couldn’t make it, so he passed his admission onto us.

My big moment that day was when we wandered through the Caesars/Excelsior level (they uncharacteristically let everybody look at everything) and we plopped ourselves down in seats in front of the press box to take in our new stadium. Stephanie doesn’t immerse herself in baseball as I do, but she is a keen observer of ballparks. We’d sat in so many of them across this continent and analyzed them thoroughly. Now, suddenly, we had this one that would be the one we’d call home. As wary as I was of Citi Field, I was so happy to be there with the woman I loved, opening up the next chapter of our baseball life together.

We return almost to the scene of that high point of 2009 today. With StubHub’s help, we’re in Excelsior this afternoon, a few sections to the left of where we absorbed Citi Field’s panorama and promise for the first time. In early April, we didn’t know what would play out on the diamond below. In early October, we know too much. But Saturday night, on Second Avenue, I was just grateful to anticipate one more day in the sun with my wife and the Mets. Even these Mets.

For those who are relatively new to Faith and Fear and wonder what it is we do when the season ends, besides stare out the window and wait for spring, we do pretty much what we do throughout the season: we blog about the Mets. So when you need a Mets fix, even a Mets tangent (especially a Mets tangent), we’ll be here. We’ll be here for you, we’ll be here for us, we’ll be here for the Mets. Starting tomorrow, I hope to not have to add the caveat “even these Mets” ever again.

Before the season ends, please take the Faith and Fear readership survey here [3].