The Day After the Day After

I wish I was at the seventh game, because from what I hear from people who were there, the consoling solidarity of the crowd after it was over, on the ramps and in the train cars, was beautiful.  There was that gentleness and kindness of the big crowd that surprised the world on 9/11, but didn’t surprise New Yorkers.   Alone in my suburban living room with my weeping daughter, I missed the crowd.

I understand how upset a lot of people are right now.  And I respect everyone’s sense of loss.  I even respect people choosing to give up baseball when something like this happens.  As I wrote in “Marrying the Red Sox,” my wife, a devout Red Sox fan, never came back to baseball after the ball went through Buckner’s legs.  But this is someone who, when we were in Pompei this summer, cried when she saw the plaster casts of people killed in the eruption.  Someone who cries in sympathy for people who died 2000 years ago in a volcanic eruption should not be a baseball fan. 

Most Mets fans, including me, are recovering by thinking about the wonderful things we have seen this year.  Yes there are some who feel anger and bitterness.  That’s okay, as long as they get past that.  They have to realize that if disappointment always led to anger and bitterness, the fans of the New York Mets would be one sick and scary bunch of people by now.  They would not know how to console each other on the trains back to Manhattan or Manhasset. 

Chris Russo, of course, said he was upset with the Mets for not being more upset with their loss.  Chris would say this.  He lives in a kind of failure-free zone, so he doesn’t know how to deal with failure.  He can be wrong about anything, he can know nothing about nothing, he can be the world’s biggest jerk, but as long as people listen to him, he has not failed.  Carlos Beltran and David Wright live in a more complex world.  So do the rest of us.  You can be great and gutsy and not a jerk and still take a called third strike, when someone has thrown you a great curve ball that looks high as it’s coming in.  All of us do stuff like this all the time. 

Sure I thought Willie Randolph should have sent Chris Woodward up to bunt the runners over instead of sending up Cliff.  On the face of it, that seemed to me to be a dumb move, since Cliff couldn’t run and the last thing you wanted was a double play.  But one of the things I love about Willie is that he doesn’t manage as if he’s a card counter in Vegas, always going with the statistical probabilities.  He’s playing with human beings.  And who knows what was in his mind?  Maybe he just sensed a Bobby Thompson moment in Cliff, in what would probably have been his last turn at bat as a Met.  I don’t know.  What the hell difference does it make?  Would those of us who criticize him bitterly have praised him for being a genius if Cliff had hit a home run? 

Mets fans don’t settle for mediocrity.  Or, well, maybe we do sometimes (he says as he remembers his hopes for Steve Henderson and Mo Vaughn).  But there is nothing mediocre about this magnificent ball club.  Nothing in me believes they choked.  I feel nothing for them but love and hope for the future.  I am glad they are not kicking steps and water coolers to make Chris happy.  Bravely hopeful people who accept their failures accomplish more than people who kick and throw things.  This is the way I’d want my daughter to react if she loses something.  This is the way I want to react.  And this is the way most Mets fans react because we don’t have some Steinbrenner leading us, fat and stupid on the beach waving his arms and telling  the waves to stop and that their disobedience is unacceptable.

My life would be poorer without the Mets.  But do you want to know how much richer my life would have been if the Mets had won the seventh game of the ’73 Series, if Scioscia had not hit his home run, and if Kenny Rogers had not walked home the Braves winning run in 1999?  It wouldn’t have been richer or better at all.  Not even by one little bit.

This isn’t a war.  It’s a show.  It’s a great show and I will watch it until I die and it means a lot to me.  It was particularly wonderful to watch this year and the best is yet to come.


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