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

A Trial Separation

After 45 years as a baseball fan, I’m pretty much fully formed: I have my habits as a fan, a few rituals (for instance, if you’re at the stadium, you get food or hit the john while the Mets are up, not while they’re in the field), and I’m set.

But I’m not completely formed. For instance, in recent years I’ve allowed myself an indulgence that would once have been unthinkable: When I’m truly disgusted with the Mets, I can walk away from them.

Not forever — that would hurt me a lot more than them. But for a day, or a series, or even a week? Sure.

These walkabouts are reserved for dire circumstances — if they look a little flat, I’ll be tuning in to see if they unflatten. Same with a run of bad luck, disastrous relief, and other maladies that can trip up a team. And I have to have other plans to contemplate a brief divorce — a vacation, a long weekend with friends, a work trip, something like that.

It’s a combination that doesn’t happen too often. But starting last weekend it did: The Mets came apart like a street-corner watch while I was up here in Maine with my old college friends and their wives for our annual summer get-together. I watched the disasters against the Phillies on my phone or on Gameday, grimacing and occasionally swearing but not otherwise particularly engaged. By Tuesday my family and I had moved on to our own vacation at my folks’ summer house up the coast, and so the first game against the Nats was glimpsed briefly via score updates.

Which weren’t exactly encouraging after the horrors that had come in Miami and Philadelphia: My first glance showed me the Mets were somehow down 3-0 after a bare handful of pitches; my next one delivered the news that they’d cut that deficit to 3-1 but further hostilities would be held in abeyance because of bad weather down in New York. It wasn’t my recap [1] anyway, so I got on with vacationing.

Wednesday’s duty was mine, though — instead of the originally scheduled evening game, I’d drawn the afternoon conclusion of that suspended game and one of baseball’s curtailed specials (do we have a name for these yet?) as a nightcap.

To which I said, No thanks.

I’d rather go to the botanical gardens down by Boothbay, or to the outlets in Freeport, or to one of approximately 50,000 lobster docks to watch Emily and Joshua chow down. (I’m allergic to shellfish so it’s fish-n-chips or grilled cheese for me.) Or, given the state of the 2021 Mets, perhaps I’d clean out more gutters, cut down the saplings that sprung up last year when COVID kept us all home, or take a scythe to a new part of the now overgrown bit of hilltop meadow in front of the house.

I had a lot of things I could do that sounded a lot more appealing than spending two hours being pissed off at a baseball team. I thought about it for about two seconds and decided, fuck them. I’d be derelict in my duty and recap the evening game.

And you know what? It felt great.

Cell service is spotty in Freeport, but I did get periodic updates, because divorce doesn’t preclude occasional check-ins, particularly if you’re using them to remind yourself why you’re boycotting the whole relationship. I saw that the Mets were now down 4-1, registered mild surprise when the game was somehow 4-4, then registered an utter lack of surprise when the game was almost immediately 6-4 again.

(My reaction, to steal the bit from the Coen brothers’ marvelous Hail, Caesar!, was best described as a mirthless chuckle. Jace, on the street in Freeport: Haw!)

We got done with our trying-on and shopping and bag-schlepping and escaped the famed Freeport cellular dead zone to discover that the Mets were down in the eighth, but it was 7-6. Well, I am still a Mets fan, so up came the radio feed on MLB.

J.D. Davis [2] welcomed me back with a double into the corner, at which point I became irrationally angry.

“No, Mets! Fuck you! Fuck every last one of you! You are full of shit and I am not falling for this! FUCK YOU!”

My kid thought I was having some kind of fit, which I suppose I was, and for which I wasn’t inclined to apologize. It’s the kind of fit you have at a team that hasn’t led for a goddamn week; that has looked like a parachute-less base jumper in tumbling out of first place and second place too; that has played baseball lifelessly or ineptly or both; and that now has the unmitigated fucking gall to be standing at your door with one of those convenience-store bunches of daisies dyed a color not found in nature, a wan expression and a promise that they can change.

Fuck you, Mets. I am not falling for this.

Jonathan Villar [3] bunted, not my favorite play in that situation but an understandable adaptation to the general horrors of the last week. Some imported National named Mason Thompson [4] alligator-armed the throw, sending the ball down the right-field line and allowing J.D. to trundle home with the tying run. James McCann [5] grounded out but Villar was able to advance to third. Brandon Drury [6] stepped in and worked the count, finally hitting a little ducksnort that might or might not be over the drawn-in infield.

It was — barely — and the Mets improbably if not impossibly had the lead.

At which point a contractor called from Brooklyn, and the game went away, and there was a fascinating conversation in a gas-station parking lot about circuit breakers and 220 lines while I tried not to think about Edwin Diaz [7] pitching to Juan Soto [8] and two of his friends.

The fascinating conversation about household electricity ended and I fumbled with my phone’s controls, only to have Joshua speak up from the back seat: “They won.”

Really? With Diaz at the helm and Soto at bat and a host of horrors ready to be unleashed? Really [9].

The nightcap was washed away by another round of rain, so that was it — an actual Met win. Which was followed by the Dodgers mauling the Phillies and a Braves win, leaving the Mets a game behind their two rivals.

It’s a one-game deficit. The smart thing would be to erase the last week or so mentally and try to think of the Mets as a plucky band that’s just a game off the division lead with 50 games to go and two seriously flawed competitors in their sights. Because that would sound exciting and even hopeful.

And that’s probably what I’ll do, because I am a Mets fan, which is to say I am a sucker. The kind of guy who keeps buying unseen swampland and wiring money to Nigeria and stretching out a finger to report that ow that stove is hot and ow that stove is hot and ow that stove is hot and ow that stove is hot.

But I’m a sucker with a memory, and seeing these Mets back at my door doesn’t inspire selective amnesia, let alone forgiveness. Those electric-blue daisies, really? That crooked collar? The pathetic knot in that tie? And all the other promises I’ve heard that this time things will change?

I guess we’ll see.