An Afternoon in April


I went to one of the worst baseball games of my life yesterday.  I’m not going to get too excited.  I don’t think that game was typical of anything.  If I thought it was, I’d stop writing this blog right now and tell you all to find something else to do with your time.

It was a lot of fun when I got there.  The field level seats were filled with kids who all seemed genuinely happy to be in the stadium.   It was something called Cyberchase Day and there was a person and a purple character who looked suspiciously like the Phillie Phanatic.  They were on the field and the kids were shouting answers to questions they were asking.  When this little performance was over, the kids went way the hell upstairs without any apparent resentment.  They were what used to be called “Midget Mets.”  I was once a Midget Met, as I’m sure many of you were.  The name always made me think of the Munchkins.  I don’t think they call them Midget Mets anymore, but that’s still what they are, kids who can’t believe their luck to be at Shea stadium for an afternoon game for free.

The game was delayed by a water main break, of all things.  When it finally began, the Midget Mets greeted the Pirate batters in the top of the first with the most sustained unprompted chants of “Lets Go Mets!” I’ve heard in a long time.   I remembered my first baseball games and how hoarse I was by the end of them.  These kids gave Wright and Reyes the same unclouded love I gave to Jim Hickman and Tim Harkness.  I thought of how far this festival of children and cotton candy and foam fingers was from what I had been hearing about all week:  the crazed unhappy state of Mets fans, the frustrations of young men who, just beginning to feel stuck in stuff they hadn’t really bargained for, were booing men who made millions a year for not doing their job, not playing a game well enough to win it.

It was a perfect April afternoon:  bright, sunny, windy, and cool.  As I waited for the game to start, I had this April sense of nothing mattering much.  No mistakes could be fatal in this light.  No wrong turns were permanent.  No ruts were inescapable.  The Mets were in pretty good shape.  If they won today, they’d be 15-11 for April.  Not bad, even though they hadn’t really looked that good.  The kids contributed to the youthful feeling of the day.  They cheered and stayed hopeful, and they didn’t seem to be thinking at all about what they were demanding or about how disappointed they were going to be if they didn’t get it.  I found myself hoping that the Mets would give these kids over the next few decades something like what they had given me over the past few decades:  a sense of community, a sense of pride and hope, a sense that I was a little bit crazy for caring so much and hoping so much, a sense that I had to keep doing it because for all of the disappointments I had endured, the pleasure of the rarest sweetest reward would someday make it all worth it. 

You know all the rest.  The first boos I heard were when Castillo made his error.  The booing wasn’t as bad as I had feared, nor, to be honest were they as bad as the Mets might conceivably at a few points have deserved.  Very few people actually booed.  Very few ever do.  And for the most part it was like the guy a couple of seats over who booed because it was fun to be stupid and it made his girlfriend laugh.  When you finally saw the Pirates’ proud 13 balancing on our hapless, shameful 0, you heard more people booing, but it was exasperation, it wasn’t bitter or particularly cruel.

After a while, the only people left in the stadium were a few bemused thousands, friends talking to each other, enjoying the lazy absurdity you get at the tail end of a lost blowout.  It’s a weird state I’d seen before, festive in a backwards way.  The game is beside the point, the pain of loss is over, and the pleasure of being in the stadium is still there.  It was like some games I remember in the late ‘70s.  It was what the heck.  It was a rest from the pressure.

I don’t know what to tell you about the Mets after the first month.  I know they don’t look so hot, but they’re 14-12.  That projects to the familiar number of 88.  But surely some of our good players are going to wake up.  And really, anything can happen. 

Call me a loser.  Call me complacent.  Call me whatever you want.  I’m just going to watch and see what happens.  I’m cool.  I’m puzzled.  I’m okay.  You do what you want to do.  I’m going to have fun.

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