While our fearless editor was at this afternoon’s dispiriting Mets loss to the Texas Rangers, I was in New Jersey, spending father’s day with my father doing, probably, what GC and Co. were doing: remembering the old times and looking at my baby photos. Which is a kind of a confusing euphemism for, “wondering when or if the Mets bullpen would ever stop giving up homers.”
GC and the boyz might’ve cursed more; they certainly paid more for their beers. Generally, though, the high-intensity bum-out of both our experiences probably matched up pretty well. Despite a near-comeback from the Mets in their 8-7 defeat — a comeback keyed by such all-time Metropolitan greats as Trot Nixon and Fernando Tatis — the Mets were unable to push across the winning run against C.J. “Vegan Action” Wilson in the 9th.
While paunchy sportswriters began timely-ing up their Willie Randolph obituaries, I helped my father light the barbecue in the back yard. The yard was over-run with flora and fauna (his stupid impulse buys are, at least, less damaging to the kidneys and liver than mine), and a fat rabbit stared at us, chewing idly on a leaf from one of my father’s ornamental plants, as he and I (my father and I, not the rabbit and I) tried to figure out my father’s new chimney-start grill-related charcoal-burning device. It took two Jews with a book of matches about 10 minutes, if you must know. The bunny did not stick around to watch us finish.
There was some chopping and such that followed, but while the CSTB Good Time Crue was riding the 7 Super Express back to Manhattan, I for the most part stayed riding my parents couch. There was a brief break for some other stuff, but my father wanted to watch the second Mets game and also the headed-for-a-playoff U.S. Open, which was actually (post mocking comments below) pretty exciting for golf, and also led my dad to compare Tiger Woods to Ray Lewis for what was probably the first time in human history. I dug deep within and found that I was also willing to watch the second Mets game. It’s my father’s day, after all. He wanted to watch Pedro pitch, what am I going to do, tell him I wanted to see if there were “Intervention” re-runs on A&E?
Also, I’m aware that this is now basically a Bill Simmons mailbag without people named “Futz” writing in demanding that I anoint the Jabar Gaffney Face as An Official Face or something. So I’ll cut this short-er. The second game of the Mets’ double-header made me very happy; in large part because I’m a Mets fan and hadn’t seen them win since maybe May, but also because it was just the sort of game I wanted to see. Both teams played fairly well; Pedro Martinez acted like Pedro Martinez, yapping with a pissed-seeming Marlon Byrd, striking out Josh Hamilton, and generally seeming like the guy on the Mets who seemed to enjoy beating other teams at baseball. When the Mets pulled him for a pinch-hitter in the sixth, with two out and the bases loaded, I was sad. When the player who would be pinch-hitting for him was announced, I was more sad. A bit angry. Because it was this guy.
Robinson Cancel, most recently mentioned in this space for being compared to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle by someone not on the CSTB staff, has one MLB plate appearance since 1999; he hit .182 with the Brewers during his brief Big League stint a decade ago, and has not really distinguished himself with various AA, AAA and Independent League teams since (although he did back up Mitch Meluskey on the 2003 Atlantic League Champion Somerset Patriots). The idea that he’d pinch-hit for Pedro, or anyone, was depressing. Yes, he was the only right-handed hitter on the Mets bench; he also looked like a character from RBI Baseball. The crowd was chanting “We Want Pedro.” Willie Randolph was suddenly wearing street clothes in the dugout and shaking everyone’s hand and looking really sad. And then Cancel singled to center, and two runs scored. I didn’t watch another minute of the game, and it didn’t matter: the Mets won 4-2.
And that’s a game recap distinguished from the Sportsline one only by a bunch of ad hominem jokes about a paunchy minor-league lifer and the outright admission that I didn’t watch much of the game because I was eating meat with my family. (It’s also probably not as Mets-meaty as this bit from Faith and Fear in Flushing) But it comes with an addendum, because this post wasn’t long enough already and it needs…well, wait.
The train ride back to New York City from my native corner New Jersey goes through the dirty backyards of the state’s northeastern part, first those of the vine-reclaimed swingset variety and then onto the crumbling loading dock or downcast tavern or twisted pile of scrap metal sort of yard, the places no kid would ever play. And then a switch to another, faster train in the middle of the swamp heading into the city, and then under the river and the west side and into Penn Station and its permanent reek of bloaty hot dogs and pretzels and people sweating in their lateness or destinationless-ness.
It’s not necessarily a nice ride, although there are little bits of bright life everywhere, in it as in everything else. A little kid sitting on his mother’s lap, on the ride back, pulled his thumb from his mouth to ask if she thought the fish in the aquarium were asleep at home. She didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t, either, but was glad he asked.
And in Penn Station, the crowd from the Iron Maiden show that was held tonight (seriously) was diffusing into the subways. I’ve never seen Houlihan’s so full, and I’ve never seen so many black t-shirts — the newer ones bearing the names of shows in venues of ever-dwindling recognizability — on people waiting for the E train. Mustaches, mullets, sunburned 13-year-old heshers: there was a Heavy Metal Subway Station joke going on all around me, but I was too weirdly blissed-out to laugh at it. There was nothing aggro about the metal dudes, just a kind of glazed bonhomie and happiness; whatever they were seeking upstairs, they’d found, and seemed glad to have it.
While I hadn’t watched a bunch of guys in their 50s attempt to play The Trooper, I think I can probably say the same. I saw my parents — both of whom have had a very difficult last year, and who at the risk of disclosing too much, I was going to see because they could not come see me — and I saw that smirking rabbit in their backyard, and I saw Robinson Cancel finally cash in a career goal decades after he first wished it. The Mets may or may not be any good, going forward, and I doubt this game will change that; Willie Randolph may be fired by the time you read this, and I doubt that will change anything for the team, either. Iron Maiden, I’m sure, has lost a few MPH off the old solos, but it seemed like the fans didn’t mind that. For whatever reason, I didn’t mind anything.
I felt part of a collective realization and acceptance, albeit as part of a collective of downtrodden Mets fans and aging, if agreeable, metalheads — everyone realizing that they could live in a world that was not as exciting as they hoped it to be, and yet still getting excited, somehow, by the beauty in it. It was, for me, a welcome moment in a recent stretch of my life that I had made needlessly melancholic, when I felt like it was all pretty much all right. From what I overheard waiting for the train, the heshers enjoyed the show. I did, too.