I don’t know where I was yesterday. Technically, I was at a baseball game. But it felt like I was at a picnic. Several things contributed to this.
First of all, I was sitting with lots of people wearing Gary, Keith, and Ron t-shirts (for great pictures of this day, including a rare really nice picture of me, click here). There were people of all ages and sizes but only one baseball loyalty and only one kind of shirt, which definitely made it feel like a family affair. There were actual families and there were school groups to whom Gary, Keith, and Ron had given free tickets. In the middle of it all was Gary’s wife Lynn Cohen, who has not only organized garykeithandron.com but continues to run it virtually by herself. There were also Gary’s mother Joyce, his son Zach, the Burkhardts: Kevin and Rachel, Mr. Met, (Mrs. Met couldn’t make it, neither could my wife or daughter), Zoe Rice (a smart and sociable novelist-blogger who helps to make the society of Mets bloggers feel like a family and to whom I am grateful for taking great pictures because absented-minded professor-moron forgot his camera again, anyway you can see even more pictures that can accompany this piece on Zoe’s site), Kathy Foronjy and Joe Coburn, whose brilliant film Mathematically Alive defines Mets family feeling for all time. You see what I mean. There was the good lazy fun feeling of a daytime ballgame. Yeah, it was hot in the sun. Zoe and Lynn had a formidable array of mechanical fans and schpritzers and anti-schvitzing devices. But, hey, it was the height of midsummer. Ideal for picnics, for an old-fashioned day game. It was the opposite of work and obligation. No competition, nothing sad or mean or even necessary. Just the kind of good feelings that community and family and shared enthusiasm can bring.
I felt once again the way this whole GaryKeithandRon thing exemplifies the way in which Mets fans can merge into a family: by giving us the opportunity to connect, in a human, loving way with the one aspect of the New York Mets about which we never have any complaint. There are ways in which the New York Mets franchise can sometimes seem like a confused corporate machine. But by remembering that we’re all family, and that we all connect through the voices and, as in GKR, the spirit of the announcers, from Ralph to Kevin, we somehow remember why, after all of our disappointments, we love to be Mets fans.
The picnic-y spirit of the day went to my head, somehow. I kept missing things. I got there 45 minutes before the game, but just in time to have missed Gary and Ron, who had come to schmooze with the t-shirt crowd. I had to give a radio interview on “The Locker Room with Kevin Williams” at 3:25 and just as I started to head back to my seat from the one place I had found in the bowels of the stadium where I could do a radio phone interview, I heard the whole structure tremble as Fernando Tatis hit his home run. Whatever. I missed it but I still felt good. At least I got to see what it’s like to be deep in Shea’s innards when a Met hits an important home run. There was something pre-natal about the experience, and there has been something pre-natal about this whole week.
I probably don’t need to tell you that this current high summer moment is unreal. You could feel the unreal in the whole stadium, and not just in our happy section, to which SNY cameras gave a couple of seconds of fame (but to which they should have given a Kevin Burkhardt feature).
(Photo taken by Zoe Rice off of a TV screen)
We have been bitching and moaning and complaining for a year now. We have not been a particularly happy family. Look at the archives of all of the blogs from before just last weekend. In between a few little desperate eruptions of hope, there was the steady stench of the expectation of defeat.
Now suddenly everything is different. We seem to be different people in a different universe. And I felt this powerfully in the crowd at Thursday’s ballgame. We didn’t feel desperate. We felt glad. We’re not sure yet exactly what we’re glad about. But we’re glad in the way that a six-game winning streak and a climb up the standings can make people feel. We’re glad in the way we felt thirty-nine years ago during the big monster Cub series that was a kind of birth or passage to adulthood or whatever metaphor of bright new beginnings you want to use. I’m not forgetting the bottom of last September. I’m not forgetting Adam Wainwright’s curveball. I’m not forgetting any of the other things Mets fans never forget (Scioscia’s homer, Rogers’ walk, Templeton’s homer, Piazza’s ball caught at the wall). I’m just remembering that eternal Mets thing, that losing of the mind and raising of the spirit: that sense that bright blue cotton candy good fortune is promised in the sunlight of a summer afternoon.