"Every poseur wants to be at Opening Day. Closing Day is a rite for the secret society of baseball fanatics." - Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing
I don't know why it was so hard this year. To say goodbye, that is. By all accounts, I should have been miserable, been willing to take 2010, slap it on it's ass and send it on the way through the door, leading to the offseason, 2011 New Year's and ultimately, Port St. Lucie, where all sins of previous teams are collectively washed away.
Lose a World Series Game 7? Who cares? It's pitchers and catchers! Trade away a young phenom for a questionable guy? Let's see what you've got there, old sport! Star centerfielder gets surgery in a clandestine fashion? We've got another guy who can take his place, we'll be fine!!
Lose on "Closing Day," as some in the "society" call it? Eh, that was last year. What's important is that this year is starting.
But what is it that makes Closing Day so very hard? I have to admit, it's never a been a favorite of mine to attend.
Because it's not so much of a "see ya later" kind of game. It doesn't matter who wins or loses (well, unless you are the Mets, circa 2007 and 2008). All that matters is that we, the fans, lose something, a collective loss.
The sun sets differently in October. It sets earlier and differently and there's a feeling in the air that change is on the horizon, for better or worse but it's coming so you better prepare.
Perhaps fellow English literature major Angelo Bartlett Giamatti said it best when he claimed that the game of baseball is designed to break your heart. It has nothing to do with who wins or loses on the last day of the season. It has everything to do with once the Closing Day game is over, you don't have it any more. There is no, "hey, I'll see you guys at the next homestand" or "when is your next game" to the guys next to you. Because their answers are the same as yours: in April.
April isn't around the corner right now. There is no "We'll get 'em tomorrow" because "tomorrow" is next year.
So "get 'em tomorrow" turns into the phrase most Mets fans are familiar with and it's "Wait till next year." Someone asked me if I'm optimistic about next year. And I'm not, but probably for reasons you don't think.
I already know that 2011 is a rebuild year. I know that it won't matter whoever the new General Manager will be (because clearly Omar Minaya will not be in the long-term plans), he will have his work cut out for him. And as long as there are blogs, there will be loudmouths who think they know better than anyone else and start fights with everyone else as to why THIS guy should go, and what THIS lineup would like with THAT guy, etc. The infighting and finger pointing coupled with worrying whether this new dude will indeed have "full autonomy" is enough to give me odge till pitchers and catchers report.
Today was interesting though. Actually the weekend was. Although we were celebrating Chap's early birthday, the conversations were wake-like. Saturday was the wake, where people share memories of the departed with heavy hearts but optimism. Then Sunday comes the funeral. Except in the comedy of errors that is the Mets, they can't even get THAT much right.
A game that goes for 14 innings. A game where Oliver F. Perez not only comes in, but ultimately is the losing pitcher. It was fitting, however. In a funeral gone awry, I would say that one of the pallbearers would have tripped, the body would have fallen out of the casket and the hearse would have run over one of the guests.
And the saddest part was, I couldn't even leave if I wanted to.
Not that I would have. I swear, my husband would have made us stay 20 innings if the game went that long. Any other day of the year, I'd have done it. Closing day is supposed to be the bare minimum, nine innings, especially for two teams who realistically had nothing to play for after July. This was maximum capacity right here for the nostalgic who wanted to wish the 2010 team well, but wanted to get home for the afternoon football games.
I had a complimentary post-game drink at McFadden's to capitalize on, which meant theoretically I had to wait till post-game to redeem said drink. But something else happened.
I had the opportunity to win a game-worn player's jersey, just by dumb luck.
You will probably never see me get rid of my Twitter account. I happened to catch a random tweet to "re-tweet" the Mets, and get a game-worn jersey. So for shits and giggles I responded to it. To which someone came to my seat in the 6th or 7th inning asking me if I was who I claimed I was.
My first thought was...uh, what'd I do? Then he said, that I had the opportunity to join the Mets (not the players, just the "Mets" organization) after the game (operative term) to get a jersey.
I don't know if I could have handled the endings of '07 or '08 better if I had that opportunity. I maybe could have stomached the 20o9 season too. However, it meant I also had to acknowledge that by the game ending, the season ended and well, denial isn't just a river in Egypt.
Then the 10th inning came. And the 11th. Wash, rinse, repeat three more times. Till the 14th when the Mets waved their own version of the white flag in surrendering Oliver Perez to the Nationals, saying, okay guys...we're not finishing in 3rd place anyway, you can totally have this game.
When we went downstairs to claim our prize after Ruben Tejada made the last out of this miserable often painful-to-watch season, I was kind of like, nothing to see here, please disperse. Yet, I realized at one point that any moment I could be in the stadium after the game meant that baseball season was not over for me. I got a second chance, a do-over, much like the Mets could have had several times over this year.
Then I started to wax poetic about whose jersey I wanted. For example, it would have just been cruel and unusual punishment to not only subject Mets fans to Oliver Perez on the last home game of the season, it would have been C&UP for the fans who won this raffle to get a used Ollie P jersey. Had that fan been me, I would have done my best imitation of a Phillies fan, with the jersey doing its best impression of a 12 year old child.
I told my partner in crime, I hope that I get Reyes. Or Wright. Or Pelfrey. Not necessarily in that order. And for no other reason but the fact that I figured these guys would still be around in some capacity in 2011. Not that they had spectacular games or anything (well, except for Big Pelf but as we've found out, he too cannot give up one measly run to the other team if he ever wants to win another game).
We are shuttled into the Mets press conference room where the marketing and communications people made an announcement, thanking us for our support and their hopes that we all come out to the ballpark in 2011. Nice gesture, but since they only had about 20+ "winners" to this exclusive club, and some of them had about 3 or 4 people with them (mostly kids, and husbands and wives), there were easily 60 people in there, out of what appeared to be about 75 total fans left behind after the initial people came and bid their farewell to CitiField and the Mets this year.
I was Number Nine. I had a feeling I was going to get someone good after Reyes, Pagan and Perpetual Pedro were chosen.
I got David Wright.
Now most of you would never characterize me as a "David Wright chick," and I admit that I'm the furthest thing from it. But I was so thrilled that finally, I won something as a Mets fan, and it wasn't a sack of sadness. It was a game-used jersey, and it was by our "superstar" (I won't call him "Captain" or "Face of the Franchise" simply because I don't agree with either label). But I do have to admit I squealed like a little school girl at a Jonas Brothers concert when I picked out his name from the Mets helmet. I won something dammit. And it was a guy I love having on my team.
This was the second day in a row that I willingly stayed at Willets Point after the game. I had spent Saturday running the bases as part of a kids and big kids (like me) Mr. Met Dash, and for a big kids' drink with some friends.
Then Sunday came, I had to stay mostly against my will but the payoff was there.
It's a parable really, for why I am a baseball fan but most importantly, a Mets fan. We have to go through the down times to really appreciate the good and great times. The bad years puts things in perspective. It makes you think about what's really important, not just in terms of baseball but in terms of life.
The end of baseball season means that summer is indeed over, and as wise man said, it leaves you to face the fall (and winter) alone.
Yet, I'm not alone. It took me a while to get back home tonight, and walking back a few blocks, I still wasn't looking forward to getting home. TBH asked why. I said, because then it's truly over. We won't be doing this walk anymore till next year, at the very least. It means we won't be going to another baseball game for six months. Sure, I might be having a birthday party at McFadden's CitiField, but it's not the same. I might take the 7 train out to Woodside...it's not the same. Being a football and hockey fan, I like both but I don't LOVE them. My buddy Whit once said it best when he said there's baseball season...and there's the offseason. Whatever I do in the offseason is just filler till when it can start up again.
When we walked in the door, the feeling in the air was different. The sun set earlier than it did yesterday. It was chillier than it had been all week.
The calendar told me it was autumn for a few weeks now, but we all know that for baseball fans, it's when your team is done playing for the season. And I was sad about it. Again, not about 2010 ending, but that it has to ever end. But I guess that's what makes it special, so there IS an Opening Day.
Kind of like my special someone. Most of you know that I tied the knot a few months ago, but I never really publicized it here because I wanted to keep it special and between us. Yet we knew we were meant to be together after spending a weekend together just completing each others sentences back in the spring. And we still do that.
When we got home, I said, "I'm sad." And then we both completed my thought.
I said, "And I have no reason to be." And he said, "And you have no reason to be."
But I did have a slight reason to be. It was over. Baseball season is over. It will be born again come spring. Till then, I have to face the winter. Not alone in the biblical sense, like I had been all those years before I got married.
It will mean though that I have to wait till everything is new again.