I stumbled into work this morning a half hour late, unshaven, bleary-eyed and with a voice two octaves lower than normal. I blame Carlos Beltran. Had he been able to get a base hit last night, I might have been able to stumble into work triumphantly, still waving my "Let's Go Mets" towel above my head, and having no voice left at all.
Maude and I were able to get tickets to game 7 to watch our beloved Mets take on the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out quite the way we had hoped. We left for the game at 3:30 pm and didn't get home until 3:10 am, a sacrifice that would have seemed trifling had the Mets won, but turned out to be grueling in defeat.
We decided to park at the train station and take the train in to the game, having learned the hard way during the season that driving to and from Shea Stadium on game night is best left to sociopaths and masochists. In the train station parking lot, we rode on the elevator with a young couple. The man, noticing our Mets shirts, asked if we were going to the game. Then he said, "We're going to a Broadway play; want to switch tickets?"
"Hey!" his date objected. "What about me?"
Two hours and two trains later, we filed off the subway and walked towards the ballpark, as spontaneous chants of "Let's go Mets" erupted along with deep-throated growls. We neared the stadium in an electric stream of orange and blue, walking behind two red dots: man with his five-year old son, holding hands and wearing matching Pujols jerseys. I imagine that at some point in the game the kid looked up at his father and asked, "Daddy, why do all these people hate us?"
Shortly after we had taken our seats, the game began. I have never seen a more keyed-up crowd in my life. The entire first inning, not a single person sat down, and every strike pitched by Oliver Perez was greeted with a roar that sounded like a touchdown had been scored. 55,000 people screaming in unison and whipping the air with our complimentary white towels for a 1-1 pitch. It was incredible.
Our seats, of course, were not. It didn't bother us as we were just happy to be part of that crowd, but the Mets should really be ashamed to sell the seats we occupied. We were so far under the overhang that any fly ball was instantly out of view; we had to read the body language of the outfielders to tell if it was a pop-up or a homerun. To add insult to injury, there was bedraggled bunting hanging from the upper-deck that blocked our view even more. These seats only cost $20 during the season (which is fairly reasonable) but it's a bit harder to swallow when you're paying 80 bucks a pop for this at a playoff game. Hopefully, our $160 went directly into the new stadium fund to ensure only great sightlines.
As the game progressed, social barriers came down. After great defensive plays by the Mets, the crowd would yell in elation and high-five any stranger in slapping distance. It was like a Catholic mass when the priest invites you to shake the hands of people sitting around you. I didn't know any of the people in my section, but I slapped all of their hands. There is something oddly satisfying about this, especially in a city like New York.
Ultimately, though, it was not to be. The combined voice of 50,000 people cannot make a bat hit a ball. We were dejected because we had come so close. Sure, the Mets and the Cardinals were just playing for the honor of getting thumped by the Tigers in the World Series, but it would have been nice just to be invited. The entire trip home, strangers would ask if we had been at the game and commiserate with us.
Sitting on a commuter train at two in the morning is not most fun place to be when you're thinking about how you have to be at work the next morning. I was deflated. However, as we drove towards the exit of the train station parking garage, we saw the same couple from earlier in the evening. They must have been in a different car on the same train, returning from their Broadway play. I imagined that they were glad they hadn't traded tickets with us after all, but, despite it all, so was I.
There is camaraderie even in defeat.