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Missing Out

The life of a freelance writer is by turns exciting and terrifying, but one of its undeniable benefits is that a weekday matinee is no big deal.

Well, except when you’ve taken a fairly intense temporary office gig.

And when you don’t check the schedule carefully enough during the process of dividing game duties with your blog partner.

I saw no live action from the Mets’ tilt with the Giants. Heard not a syllable of Howie and Josh. I saw the score a few times while flipping past my home page, with its normally superfluous live scoreboard, and I happened to be passing through Twitter in the aftermath of Juan Lagares [1] making a phenomenal throw. But that was it. The afternoon unfolded without me.

Well, until later. When the game became a welcome reminder of how much has changed.

I went to high school north of Boston, far out of pre-WFAN radio range and with no TV handy. As an embed in the heart of Red Sox Nation, I followed the Mets via box scores and the occasional AP recap boiled down to a single paragraph. If they were on the West Coast, I found out what they’d done two days after they did it. During trip to China in the summer of ’86 all I had was an occasional peek at the International Herald-Tribune, which ran the standings every couple of days. I was convinced the Herald-Tribune was getting bad information, because every time I looked the Mets seemed to have put another two games between themselves and everybody else.

After college I lived outside of Washington, D.C., and a couple of months into my time there the local cable company got rid of WOR. That left me reliant on SportsCenter (and, later, Baseball Tonight), though my real lifeline was CNN Headline News’s sports segment at 19 and 49 minutes past the hour. It was a great day when the Mets led the baseball roundup (often intoned by Van Earl Wright) and a lousy one when they were relegated to the screen of scores from humdrum games. I lived just too far south to get WFAN reliably — I spent stupid amounts of money on various crackpot devices, and would actually drive into Virginia and park my car by the Potomac River on weekends because I learned that the water amplified the signal.

New York changed … well, most of it. You couldn’t get radio reception in the core of the building I worked in during the late 1990s, and in my early career I didn’t rate a TV at my desk that I could quietly switch away from CNBC or CNN. Though come to think of it, after I gained seniority I do remember passing up a bigger desk for a seat near the window, where I knew my little yellow sports Walkman radio could get a signal. (My boss, a rabid Giants fan, knew perfectly well what I was up to.) Then WFAN got a web presence, complete with live audio from the booth between innings. (Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen didn’t chat much.) That vanished when MLB Advanced Media unleashed At Bat, which changed everything.

Oh, At Bat. Yeah, I missed the game. But then I got home and watched every significant play, with repeat viewings of Lagares’s surgical elimination of Gregor Blanco [2] at the plate. Then I watched the condensed game: every significant play and most of the not-so-significant ones collected into 20 minutes or so. (Unfortunately, MLB has figured out to mute the ambient audio when it deems it wise. To my disappointment, the Mets’ furious group denunciation of home-plate ump Ben May was a silent movie.) If I paid a little more money, I could have watched the archived version of the full game tonight. If I ever leave New York (hey, it could happen), I could continue to follow the Mets for $25 a month, which I would do in a heartbeat. (And would do here if not for the blackout rules that allow cable companies to keep being shitty.)

So yeah, I missed Lagares and Blanco taking turns throwing each other out, which was a shame. I’m less sad that I missed human waterbug Hunter Pence [3] tormenting us, or the scads of obnoxious Giants fans infesting Citi Field, or the Mets dressed in gag-inducing camo, or Travis d’Arnaud [4] continuing to play d’oh-no defense, or a rare double meltdown from Jeurys Familia [5] and Jenrry Mejia [6], or a Met loss [7].

I missed it, but what a world. I don’t have much more use for a flying car than I do for a rolling one, but I’ve got a fabulous high-def baseball machine in my pocket whenever I’m awake, and that’s Jetsons stuff enough for me. Particularly now that the times I can’t use this miracle device are the exceptions instead of the rule.