I wanted to get to bed early last night. I was hoping to get to bed around 11 and wake up around 7. It looked as if I was going to be able to do that. But then poor R.A. Dickey, pitching yet another magnificent game, gave up a home run and the score was tied and it was off into extra innings. Extra innings in Houston, as I know in my gut, can last a very long time. Sure enough, it took 14 innings before Ike Davis could lift a sacrifice fly to right, and Manny Acosta could close it down. I went to bed after midnight, and woke up later than I wanted to.
Why did I do this, I thought, as I was watching the game itself? How much difference would it make if I turned the TV off after 9 innings, went to bed, and looked at the box score and recap tomorrow morning? Why did I need to know right now, in real time? It’s not as if this was such an important game. Even I have little hope left, with Atlanta and Philadelphia playing as they are. What perverse, compulsive instinct is this? All it reminds me of was the way a few months ago, when my daughter was finishing up her first year of college and was depressed about some stuff, I would sometimes stay up late to check her Facebook status to see if she posted something that would suggest that she was in a better mood. Something similar was happening with me and the Mets. I was staying up after midnight because I needed to know, in real time, if they were happy. Why did I need to know this? I needed to know for the same reason I needed to know about my daughter’s state of mind. I love them.
What kind of insanity is this? Everybody knows by now that nobody loves the current Mets. They are a mess and a disaster. They’re chokers and they lack leadership, guts, spunk, and talent. If somebody doesn’t know this, they should read the papers and learn the truth. But for some reason I am incapable of feeling this way about them. And the reason is that I have, over the years, given them a specific special place in my world. They feel to me as if they’re my children. And I’ve been feeling this way since I was seven, when I was young enough to be a grandchild to several of them. I have never cared all that much whether they were winning or losing. What has mattered to me is that they were doing some good things, experiencing some triumphs, however small. It has mattered to me that they were pleased with what they were doing, that they knew I was cheering for them. I felt towards them the way I felt towards my own kid, a very indifferent softball player, who would every once in a while work out a walk (good eye!) or bounce a ball past the hapless little girl playing third.
This is probably not the right attitude to have towards a multi-million dollar business that manages to get a fair amount of money out of me. But I can’t help it. Smarter, more serious bloggers than I urge us all to be angry. Somehow I can’t manage it. If I didn’t do it in the sixties or the late seventies, why should I do it now? Days like that will never come back, nor should they. But one of the constants in my life is the unconditional, encouraging, excessive, and compassionate love I have always felt for anyone who takes the field with an NY on his hat, in a bold and vivid orange.
I value this innocence. I love loving them, however much they may not always deserve it. Your own kids won’t always deserve the love you feel for them, let me tell you. I know they’re not the best. David is the kid who tries too hard. Jose isn’t always paying attention. Frenchie is always doing something wrong and however often people tell him, he still can’t help but feel that high fastball is a present somebody is giving him. I want to protect the young ones, and have serious respectful talks with the older ones. I know they’re trying even if their teachers aren’t always convinced. I know that they want to make me happy and I appreciate it. I feel so badly for them when people are mean to them, when people say they’re no good, when people don’t want to come to the ballgames anymore and sit in the foldable chairs in foul territory and cheer them.
I hope to see a lot of you at the world premiere of Billy Joel’s movie “Last Play at Shea” at Citi Field on Saturday. You can order tickets here and you can read my review here. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a great film and I make a few appearances in it. Look for me when people start talking about the 1969 Mets. If you want to say hi, I’ll be in Section 114, row 19.