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Fantasies & Delusions

What was farther out of the realm of possibility: that the Mets would make a stand against the Braves or that I’d be there to see them attempt it?

Not long ago both happenstances seemed reasonably reasonable. My part should have been a breeze: I made plans to see Friday night’s game with a friend who happens to possess one of the greatest Mets minds ever [1]; I picked up the tickets the other night; we set a meeting time by the Apple; and…ohmigod I am in such pain.

My merry way to Citi Field was interrupted by the return of that early 2000s sensation, the cluster headache, something I used to contract all too regularly [2] but in recent years has faded from my recurring concerns. For whatever reason, el diablo that used to periodically invade mi cabeza chose this afternoon to rematerialize — perhaps it knew Fiesta Latina was at hand.

I tried to delude myself that this wasn’t a cluster headache, a.k.a. a suicide headache. For all I know, it was something else altogether. It felt as if a nail was being drilled into my left sinus, it was accompanied by simmering nausea and, in an unprecedented twist, it came with a steady stream of perspiration dripping from my forehead (which was, for the record, as pale as any three members of ABBA). Yet I wasn’t fevered and I didn’t have any kind of stomach virus that I could detect. All told, it was awful, but I had those tickets, I was meeting my friend to go to a game with him for the first time all season, there was a Jose Reyes banner with my (or Jose Reyes’s) name on it, thus I went into self-delusion mode.

I’m fine…

I’ll be fine…

I’ll take a later train and maybe I’ll leave the game early if I absolutely have to…

I won’t eat anything, obviously…

And when I get home, I’ll take that special migraine pill my doctor gave me a sample of a few months ago if I’m still feeling in as much pain as I am right now and have been all day…

Yes, I’m fine. I can go to the game.

Suitably self-deluded, I stood up to leave for the LIRR — and I realized I had as much chance of getting to the Apple as the Mets did of getting back in the Wild Card race they were never really in. Hence, I communicated my regrets to my friend via voice mail, text message and e-mail and gave into reality.

I took the special pill [3].

Boy, was it special.

It, like LL Cool J’s mama, circa 1991 [4], all but knocked me out from roughly the second to the seventh inning. I have to say “roughly” because I had no concept of time as expressed by innings. And I say “all but knocked me out” because I was intermittently alert enough to absorb three elements of the broadcast on my television:

1) The Los Mets uniform tops [5], which were a definite improvement over past editions but not necessarily something I want to see again, lest I recall the Friday evening my forehead was soaked and I had to place an unexpected call to Ralph Milliard [6] on the big white phone.

2) “Major medical!” Oy, with the CGI duck and pigeons already. Like I didn’t already know from major medical in my state.

3) Constanza. I just kept hearing the name Constanza. Every time I managed to open one eye, I kept seeing Constanza. Thought about my friend Mark whom I left to his own devices at the Apple and how he more than anybody [7] I know was likely making hay with Constanza. If we have to ditch the blue and orange softball tops, the Braves have to ditch Jose Constanza. He will also always remind me of how low I was feeling.

As will the final score, something I saw come together as I emerged from my vapors and comprehended what was and wasn’t going on.

What was going on was a Braves victory [8].

What wasn’t going on was the post-Beltran 2011 Mets, to whom I apologize for recently placing unrealistic if modest expectations upon [9] as much as I apologize (again) to Mark for standing him up at the Apple. The Mets were fun while they lasted, but they stopped lasting once they noticed Carlos was missing from their ranks. I drank the same Alderson-enhanced Kool-Aid as everyone else and signed off on the deal for business reasons, yet as I made like a less Balabusta version of Johnny Cammareri’s mother in Moonstruck

The breath had almost totally left her body. She was as white as snow. And then she completely pulled back from death and stood up and put on her clothes and began to cook for everyone in the house. The mourners. And me. And herself! She ate a meal that would choke a pig!

…and focused on the potential rally in the bottom of the eighth rather than my rapidly receding headache, I couldn’t help but think a team with any kind of playoff aspiration doesn’t trade its veteran slugger who, his San Franciscan incarnation notwithstanding, can still slug. It keeps him and keeps going and gives you as a Mets fan something worth watching besides novelty jerseys and ubiquitous AFLAC commercials.

I know, I know, it had to be done, all hail Alderson and his forward-thinking genius, but damn I miss having an extraordinarily dangerous hitter in the middle of the lineup. My playoff fantasies were pretty limited to begin with, but now they’ve utterly vanished. When Murphy was on second and Wright was on first in the eighth, and Pagan flied out and Bay grounded out while Beltran was taking BP or stretching or whatever he was doing on the other side of the continent, I had my moments of clarity:

• Our season, save for 51 games in which baseball will be played — and will be kind of fun because it’s baseball but will be less fun because there will be less to play for — is over. (Throw the impending non-returns of Davis and Santana onto that conclusion as well.)

• I hope the Alderson-enhanced Kool-Aid is spiked with something as strong as Maxalt and that it’s time-released so that in a couple of Augusts, instead of congratulating our GM for cleverly giving up on a longshot season, we’re intensely invested in a contending team that includes Zack Wheeler pitching and Jose Reyes playing shortstop — and I also hope the proceeds from the crisp pair of bookmarks that my Friday night tickets became go to the Re-Sign Jose fund, no matter how many triples Jose Can’t-Stand-Ya robbed him of while I, if not my team, rallied from the depths of despair.

This was one of those headaches (and then some) from which you’re sure you’ll never recover. That’s why they’re known as suicide headaches. But hours later, I’m feeling better physically if not Met-aphysically. I really couldn’t have gone to this game, no matter how much I wanted. I wondered if it was a postseason game if I could have or would have pushed myself to the train no matter the headache, the sweating, the nausea and the paleness. How sick would a Mets fan have to be to miss a playoff game?

Then I stopped wondering about it because, in 2011, that’s a purely hypothetical problem.