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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Time Just Gets Away From Us

Time just gets away from us.

Mattie Ross says that at the end of Charles Portis’ sublime True Grit, a benediction so flat and matter of fact that it comes all the way around and serves as an elegy in spite of itself. Those words keep creeping into my mind as the Mets continue their freefall out of contention and interest and eventually awareness — a plunge that continued Friday night against the shell of the Nationals. The latest bead on this thoroughly depressing string was a 2-1 loss that I’ll sum up as “once again, they didn’t hit at all,” because that fact makes anything else that happened superfluous.

The Mets were in their black uniforms again, a get-up that was once trendy (or at least enough to make the cash registers ring) and is now somehow nostalgic (or at least enough to do the same). The idea of bringing back the black was to channel the Mike Piazza Mets of ’99 and ’00, but unfortunately the current Mets resemble a less celebrated Piazza squad — the 2002 team.

In fact, they’re eerily similar.

The 2002 Mets entered August having won 55 games and were in second place albeit hopelessly behind the Braves, yet within shouting distance of the wild card. When September came, they were in last place and we all knew our October calendars were clear. That’s what going 6-21 will do to you.

The 2021 Mets entered August having won 55 games and were leading their division. They’ve gone 6-19 since then, with three games to go before September, plus a chance to technically lose another game in April thanks to a suspended game against the Marlins. And once again, we’re all more than available for October.

Time has smeared 2002’s August plummet into a vaguely unpleasant blur, but I do remember how it felt, and that it felt pretty much like this horrible month has felt. First pitch came not with happy anticipation but with a tightening of the gut and a throb at the temple, and even if something good happened you braced for impact rather than celebrating. The 2002 club got blown out of some games and just fell short in others, but the details stopped mattering — losing ceased to be an “if” and became a “how.” It’s the same thing 19 years later, except we also get to enjoy about a billion extra strikeouts and the prospect of getting screwed by replay.

The 2002 Mets are long gone, of course, unless you count Tony Tarasco standing in the first-base coach’s box — he’s the guy shrouded in cobwebs and loneliness. So’s the stadium where those Mets played — it’s a parking lot. In fact, only one person who played for the Mets at Shea still has a spot on a big-league roster. (That would be Joe Smith, though Oliver Perez is still hurling balls in anger for the Toros de Tijuana.)

That seems wrong, but it’s not. It never is. Because that’s what time does — it marches, and then it jogs, and then it sprints. Players morph into coaches and into visiting dignitaries in golf shirts and finally into old men, stadiums get knocked down and hauled away and remembered only on plaques, seasons recede and grow indistinct and are encased in the amber of trivia.

Except sometimes a memory emerges, sharp and startling — and just as quickly revealed as impossibly long ago.

You probably noted the death this week of Charlie Watts, who was the rock upon which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards rolled. When I heard the news, I flashed back to October 1989 and the one time I saw the Stones.

It was at Shea — the only show I ever saw there. (Not yet born when the Beatles got outscreamed; a couple of years too young for the Clash or the Police; missed Bruce Springsteen; Billy Joel’s not my cup of tea.) That October I was in college but elsewhere for reasons now lost, friends of mine got tickets but couldn’t get mine to me ahead of time, and because we were young idiots, the entirety of our plan was to “meet up at Shea.”

It went about as well as you’d guess. Living Colour opened for the Stones, and I was actually more excited to see them than the headliners — they had just become MTV darlings behind the incandescent stomp of “Cult of Personality.” But I didn’t get to see Living Colour play a note, because I was circling Shea Stadium in increasing dismay, hoping forlornly to spot one of my friends among a crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands.

Somehow, after Living Colour finished playing, I was lucky enough to run into my people and so got to actually attend the show, which was fun but also oversized and distant. Still, it was a kick to register that yes, that little figure doing that cocksure strut down there was Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards was clearly and obviously Keith Richards even from 300 feet away, and the guy who wasn’t Keith Richards was Ron Wood, and the one standing still was Bill Wyman, and the head and moving arms behind those drums belonged to the incomparable Charlie Watts.

The rest? Eric Clapton came out to jam on a blues number, which excited other people a lot more than it did me. We were in the mezzanine, and during “Sympathy for the Devil” I realized that the stands were actually swaying and flexing beneath our feet, which seemed bad, and then the upper deck was doing the same thing right above our heads, which seemed worse. Alarming, but when the same thing happened years later during the playoffs, I shrugged and assured my wife that if Shea had survived the Stones it would also survive lunatics jumping up and down about baseball.

I remember two moments from that show more clearly, though.

The first is that Jagger took advantage of some hidden stairwell and emerged atop the scoreboard, doing his bantam-rooster pirouette amid the black metal skyscrapers at its crown — a strange place to see anyone, let alone him.

The second moment was when Jagger sized up his surroundings and snarked, “So the Mets didn’t make the playoffs this year — too bad.”

It’s hard to be anything but anonymous in a crowd watching the Rolling Stones, but I found a way — booing Mick Jagger will get you noticed.

The other night I was waiting for fancy tacos at Citi Field, and saw that same chunk of metal skyline where it now adorns Shake Shack and Blue Smoke, and I thought of the Stones and Charlie Watts and that moment, and then I did the math.

Thirty-two years. Time just gets away from us. Charlie Watts is gone and so is Shea, or at least most of it, but the Stones continue, at least in some form, and so do the Mets. Though they’re not going to make the playoffs this year. Too bad.

4 comments to Time Just Gets Away From Us

  • JoeNunz

    I was at that show as well…after Jagger dissed the Mets, he said “we’ll have our own World Series of Love”

  • Flynn23

    As Mets fans, we can’t always get what we want from our team, but we CAN always get exquisite and thoughtful writing in this space. Every single time. Another wonderful read, Jason.

    “Players morph into coaches and into visiting dignitaries in golf shirts and finally into old men …” Beautiful and haunting line. And one I will think of watching the Koosman ceremony tonight.

    Oh, and your Tarasco “shrouded in cobwebs and loneliness” quip made me do a literal LOL. Which is always better than crying I suppose.

    I will never begin to comprehend how you and Greg consistently crank out such quality work day after day after day … on deadline no less.

    On behalf of all your readers, heartfelt thanks for being our emotional rescue.

  • Eric

    If Tarasco is lonely, imagine how DiSarcina feels.

    So now we know: It’s not just the top teams. The Mets can’t score against anyone anymore. Once again the pitchers did their part and the offense wasted it.

    An early 1 or 2 run deficit looks like an ice wall, even when the pitchers hold the opponent in check the rest of the game.

    The Braves and Phillies both came back to win their games in a way that the Mets seem incapable of anymore.

    I’m still holding onto some hope the Mets take this last shot at contention, but they’re now as far from the Braves are they are from the Marlins … and the Marlins are losing as much as the Mets. If the Mets keep sliding then I’ll soon be wondering not how many games they can climb versus the Nationals and Marlins but how much the Mets will drop down to them over this stretch.