Thursday, June 12, 2008

"The Mets Win the Ballgame!"

On Tuesday, I believed* that a hand-held am/fm radio (and batteries) would set me back ten bucks less than MLB’s audio package (and would also be useful for getting instructions from the government in case of an extraterrestrial invasion or catastrophic earthquake). Shortly after making the purchase, I resolved that I would not allow myself of wander around the city with the archaic object next to my ear. This resolution was astonishingly short lived: approaching my subway stop last night, with Pelfry leading by three into the eighth, I felt compelled to find out what was going on, and managed to tune in as Pelfry went to bat to lead off the eighth inning. The crowed, chanting “Pelfry, Pelfry,” was audible over the announcers, the static, and the street noise, and as Pelfry struck out it was one of those moments that redeems several weeks of awful baseball; a wonderful and poignant reminder of the occasional rewards of obsessive fan-hood.

I was unable to help myself again when I got to Queens, and heard Billy Wagner’s blown save as I approached my apartment. I watched the rest of the game in stunned silence in my living room, as Gary Cohen kept on mumbling the phrase “punched in the solar plexus” and the cameras panned over a stadium full of people who looked as if they had just been told that the bank holding all of their savings had gone up in the same fire with the orphanage, until Beltran won it with a home run in the thirteenth.

Oddly, the comments on metsblog, and the couple of minutes of talk radio that I have forced myself to stomach this morning, seemed mainly negative. The feeling was still that the ball club was somehow not made up of winners, still doomed to mediocrity. (would the reaction have been different if David Wright had hit he dinger?)

I have to say that I don’t understand the negativity. Of course, in a hyper rational view of the thing the extra innings win seems fairly attributable to luck, and it is as easy to emphasize the chances that the Mets missed as it is to focus on the ones that they took. But even if you aren’t a fan, this is not a victory that looks bad for the Mets: the performance by Pelfry is a legitimate cause for optimism; the pitcher that the Mets scored their first three runs off of is probably the best in the National League; and the bullpen that followed him and shut the Mets down is also excellent.

And, if you are a fan, I don’t see how any win could be any better. In my mind, baseball will always be superior to other sports, simply because it can involve walk-off home runs. The image of the ball sailing over the fence, combined with the sudden reversal of the team’s fortunes are about the giddiest experience that a fan can have. I love that there is an actual second or two, between when the ball leaves the bat and when it lands, when the fate is literally suspended in the air. I love that there is a moment, at the apex of the parabola, when you can tell that it is leaving the yard and you say to yourself, “holly shit, we won this.” The fact that I had spent the proceeding innings mentally composing a post about how the Mets were all bums and would probably never win another ball game just made it all the sweeter.

When your team wins with a walk-off home run, I think you need to shut up and be happy. There comes a time when you have to examine why you follow baseball, and realize that you root for a team, not because you think it will win the World Series, but because rooting for that team is what you do. Sure, maybe if the players were less old, less injured, and better at baseball they would win more games: but if you can’t experience unqualified baseball joy after a walk-off home run, I think you need to sit down and figure out what the fuck is wrong with your life. (also, eight fucking scoreless innings from Mike fucking Pelfry and you want to talk about the Mets being just a .500 team, you treacherous fucks? Go root for the fucking Yankees if you want to be like that.)

*I just checked: my radio was actually four or five dollars more expensive. Well fuck.

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