The image above encapsulates my feelings about the Mets. They’re a bunch of choking dogs.
Keith asked me privately a few weeks ago – when the Mets first started to blow their lead – if I was going to post about baseball, and I replied that I was waiting for the collapse to be complete before posting anything. It was out of character for me to say that, because I’m the ultimate sports optimist, sometimes annoyingly so. But I could see it coming down the Grand Central Parkway, and so could every other real Met fan.
Now it’s come to pass. Again. And I can’t say I’m that surprised. Our history is littered with shit. It’s no coincidence that our two World Series championships were miracles, almost literally. The 1969 team is known as the Miracle Mets, for fucks sake! Know why? Because they SUCKED, and it was a miracle they won the title. And the 1986 club was clearly the best in baseball, but it took a miracle comeback for them to win it all. There’s a reason Game 6 of the ’86 World Series is one of the most memorable in all of baseball history. It happened on my 14th birthday, and I honestly don’t think I could have been happier if I had been given a box of blowjobs.
So I’m a fan of a loser franchise. Amateur hour. Mickey Mouse. A laughingstock. And I’m fucking proud of it. It’s the only honorable thing to do because rooting for the Yankees means selling your soul. My great grandfather settled in New York after coming over from Ireland – first in the Bronx, then in Brooklyn – and he raised his sons to be Brooklyn Dodgers fans. My grandfather raised my dad the same, and when the Dodgers left for Hollywood they were left with nothing to root for until the Mets came into existence. So they were both Mets fan literally from Day 1, and it rubbed off on me. I remember the two of them taking me to Shea when I was a little kid to watch immortals like John Stearns, Lee Mazzilli, John Matlack and Dave “Kong” Kingman. Sure, it was a form of child abuse, but it was the fucking 70’s so no one cared.
Those were great memories, and honestly, I was much, MUCH more sad yesterday about it being the last game at Shea Stadium than I was about this particular season ending so horribly. Much to my surprise, I actually got a little choked up watching the farewell ceremony on tv. Seasons come and go, and as a Mets fan you get used to bad endings, but the one constant through it all was Shea. Ugly, filthy, smelly, uncomfortable, cold, outdated Shea.
By any objective standards it was a horrible place to watch sports, but somehow it had charm and character. It wasn’t so much timeless as it was stuck in a particular time – 1975. It hasn’t changed much since then aesthetically, and it definitely FEELS the same as when I first went there as a kid. The guy three seats over could easily be Popeye Doyle, the detective played by Gene Hackman in “The French Connection.” And there are always some longhairs lighting a joint in the empty sections of the upper deck in the outfield. Everything reeks of stale, cheap beer, and you’d better believe someone’s starting a fight. What an atmosphere. They say it’s the people, not the place, and that’s true of Shea. Our gritty, surly, lowlife fans left their mark, and I’m happy to be one of the club.
My dad had season tickets for a couple of years in the late 80’s, so I’ve been there a lot in my time. I went to all three home games in the 1988 NLCS against L.A., when a clearly inferior Dodgers team caught lightning in a bottle and beat my boys in a close series. (Much like the 2006 Cardinals, now that I think about it.) Those games were great, but the real sentimental shit is the memory of a freezing cold Tuesday night in May against the Pirates when a skinny Barry Bonds jumps over the left field fence not once, but twice to steal home runs; or a Saturday afternoon doubleheader against the Phillies when young Dave Magadan fills in for Keith Hernandez and goes 5-5 in the first game and 4-5 in the second. (I can’t remember exactly, but at least one drunken idiot booed him for making an out in the second game.)
There are also the non-baseball Shea memories, like the handful of times I snuck in with my dad and brother to watch the Jets. We’re Giants fans, but who can turn down free football, right? My father had a good friend who was an usher at Shea, and he would call us Sunday morning and say, “Go to Gate C, last turnstile on the left. Tell the ticket taker with the gray hair ‘lemons’ and he’ll let you in.” This is actually a true story. We’d find seats somewhere in the upper deck, and one particularly memorable occasion when it was sold out because the arch rival Dolphins were in town, we sat on the stairs in the aisle. All to watch Richard Todd try to chuck the pigskin through the bitter, whipping winds coming off Flushing Bay. So maybe my father wasn’t so great after all.
What else… oh yeah – even though I wasn’t there for it, Shea had the Beatles. Twice. That easily trumps Yankee Stadium’s Papal visits. Suck it Catholics! I also saw the Rolling Stones there for the first and only time – Steel Wheels tour, October 1989, my 17th birthday – which was amazing; along with the best Springsteen show I’ve ever attended, which is saying a whole fucking lot.
So yeah, I’m rambling. Whatever. It was a traumatic day yesterday, and if I can’t vent and reminisce on my own blog, where can I? I’m sad that the 2008 Mets are done for the year, and that Shea is done forever. I guess the only good thing to come out of this is that now I don’t have to pay attention to fucking baseball for a good six months.