Legend has it that after Jesse Orosco fanned Marty Barrett and tossed his glove to the heavens it never came down. But on the evening of October 27, 1986, something else went even higher: My dad and me jumping up and down in the living room.
At that frozen moment in time my dad was not my dad. He wasn’t the one who taught me to ride a bike and drive a car. He wasn’t the one who showed me how to use a razor and knot a tie. He wasn’t the one who made me cover my ears when George Carlin launched into ‘The 7 Words You Can’t Say on TV.’ He wasn’t the one who snuck into my bedroom on Saturday nights and, unbeknownst to my mom, woke me up to watch wrestling. He wasn’t the one who explained to me that Baseball “is a business” after the Mets traded Tug McGraw. He wasn’t the one who once advised me, “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Baseball.” He wasn’t the one who told me, “The Mets never lose. Sometimes we just run out of innings.” On that unforgettable Monday evening there was not 23 years between us.
We were two little kids. We were celebrating the fact that OUR TEAM was World Champions. We were Mets fans.
My mom eventually went to sleep but not my dad and me. We stayed up until dawn–drinking coffee, sharing some munchies, reminiscing. My dad smoked and although I, too, had picked up that habit and despite the fact I’d be turning 21 in 2 weeks, I still felt awkward smoking in front of him. We didn’t want to close the door on the ‘86 season. We discussed what the Mets would do with the logjam of Strawberry, Wilson, Dykstra and Mitchell in the outfield. We agreed that Cashen damn well better sign Series MVP Ray Knight. We fretted about Gary and Keith getting older but Gregg Jefferies would surely fill their shoes.
As the tentacles of sunrise began slithering through the curtains and the first day in eight months without baseball was upon us, my dad and I hugged again. With a smile displaying pride, dad casually mentioned, “That’s three.” The three he referred to was the number of championships he’d won in his life: one with Brooklyn in 1955. And now two with the Mets.
My dad passed away three years ago, just 2 weeks before Opening Day 2011. He never got to see a fourth.
Over the past several years I’d guestimate that more than half the blogs I’ve written for MMO have been extremely critical of Sandy Alderson, his “plan” and his request to be patient. Part of me–deep down inside–agrees with him. To a certain point, with the financial handcuffs ownership has placed on him, he has little flexibility. We’re not the Yankees who are battling for a pennant year in and year out. In all fairness to the GM, perhaps it’s me. I came of age in the 80’s, the decade of instant gratification and quick edits in music videos.
To quote Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part. On the other hand, if small market clubs with small payrolls such as Atlanta or Oakland can compete year after year, why can’t we? I take umbrage with Alderson’s call for patience. I have 41 years under my belt as a Mets fan and over that time, I’ve got just one championship. In 41 years my team has only made the post-season 6 times. 6 for 41: A 146 average. And I’m tired of waiting.
To anyone reading this, STOP! Take a moment and think back to where you were, what your life was like in 1986. How much has changed? How much have you changed? Where you were then? Where are you now?
Me? I’ve lived an entire adult life since 1986 as have many of you. I watched girls I had crushes on marry other guys. Then have kids. In some cases, now having grandkids. I fell in love, got married. I fell out of love, got divorced. I’ve had good paying jobs. I’ve had bad paying jobs. I once was hired on the spot during an interview. I once was fired on the spot when my employer reduced staff by 35%. I’ve gone from standing outside a stadium all night to get Springsteen tickets to still seeing Springsteen, but now, with the exception of the first few songs and last few songs, I sit for most of the 3 hour concerts. I’ve gone from a plethora of speeding tickets to…hell, I can’t even remember the last time I got pulled over. I’ve gone from a really bad-ass silver and black Chevy to a nice, conservative four door sedan. I’ve gone from spending hours on a Saturday waxing and washing my car by hand to expelling less energy and going to a drive-thru. I’ve gone from being able to eat an abundance of fast food to avoiding spicy foods so I don’t aggravate my ulcer. I’ve gone from watching MTV and The Cosby Show to watching my cholesterol and my blood pressure. I’ve visited my parents in the hospital several occasions since 1986. And I’ve seen my parents standing at my bedside in a hospital. I once volunteered on a presidential campaign and four years later found myself on the opposite end of the political spectrum, voting against the man I’d fought so hard for. I’ve lost grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins. I’ve had one of my best friends die in a car accident, another succumb to cancer at 31.
Not too different from things you’ve also probably encountered. Just…well, just life. And through all of this, I’m still waiting.
Some of you reading this may be too young to remember 1986. Me, and those around my age, can still see in our mind Gary Carter’s fist-pumping curtain calls after going deep, the majestic swing of Darryl Strawberry, Ray Knight clobbering Eric Davis in the head and the cat-like quickness and elegance of Keith Hernandez at 1B. But for those who are too young you only know these images from YouTube. They don’t pull at your heartstrings unless you witnessed it first-hand. Unless you lived it. Same for me who is too young to personally recall 1969 with Agee’s catches, Swoboda’s dive, Seaver’s imperfect game or Cleon Jones dropping to one knee for the final out, something my dad recreated for me dozens of times in our living room in Queens.
And some of you reading this were not even born the last time the Mets won. Hearing about or reading about ground balls to Buckner or the euphoria and feeling of invincibility that filled Shea whenever Doc Gooden took the mound carries little significance. Same goes for me when my dad told me stories about Jackie Robinson stealing home, Sandy Amoros’ catch or Johnny Podres shutting down the mighty Yankees in Game 7 of the ’55 World Series.
There are several excellent bloggers on this site who are hopeful, positive and have no qualms about waiting. They’re young. They’re in college. And I’m actually a touch envious of their optimism when they look into the future. Sadly, they’ve never experienced the jubilation, the exhilaration, the sheer joy of being able to say my Mets are Champions.
It seems like just yesterday I, too, was in college. In October 1986, I was a senior, seven months away from entering the real world. I had my whole life ahead of me, my dreams and hopes still intact. I was certain ’86 would only be the beginning of Mets dominance. Now, nearly thirty years later, I’m still waiting for that encore.
The last time the Mets were presented a World Series trophy I wasn’t even of legal age. And suddenly, somehow, someway, without even realizing, next year I’ll be…gasp…50. I went through my 20’s, my 30’s, and my 40’s waiting. And, per Sandy Alderson, I should wait just a wee bit longer.
One more time, STOP! No matter what your current age is, think of yourself fifteen years from now. Try to picture yourself fifteen years older. Pretty hard to do. But that’s how old we’ll approximately be if David Wright is a first ballot Hall of Famer.
The thing is that we all have only X amount of seasons in us. There’s no clock in Baseball, but there is one in life.
So, I’ll continue to grumble about Alderson, the Wilpons, Terry Collins. As I enter my 42nd year rooting for this team I’ve seen a lot. Over these four plus decades, I’ve gone through 8 GM’s and 16 managers. And after Alderson is gone, after Collins is gone, after the Wilpons are gone (soon, I hope), I’ll still be here, cheering for the Mets into my 50’s just as I’ve been doing since I was 7. I’ll write plenty more blogs critical of the ‘plan.’ But what choice do I really have? I’m not going to switch my allegiance. I’ve got too much time invested in the Mets. I’ve spent my entire life rooting for this team.
I’ll wait. I’ll keep waiting. I’ll keep waiting and hoping. Just like my dad kept waiting to see a fourth championship in his life, I’ll keep waiting for my second.