Monday, January 08, 2007

My entry into the MetsGeek essay contest

(I know this isn't the Texans thing. I haven't forgotten it, I'll post it in the near future, probably Wednesday.)


I finally made it to Geno’s at about fifteen till nine. Knowing FOX as well as I did, I knew the game wouldn’t start until ten as they had recently decided that sporting events needed more Joe Buck, and had taken to flying him to every sporting event they could; the ones that he couldn’t make were put on a delay so that he could add commentary to them. Then there were the Miller Lite, Coors, Verizon, and Nana’s Natural Grain Bread commercials that he starred in. Sports were taking an even smaller niche in society, due mostly to the presentation. I accidentally slammed my tan pinkie in the similarly tan Yaris door in the rush to get in, but luckily there was no noticeable mark, just a sore sort of thing.

Mark caught up with me at the noticeably smoke-free counter, and we ordered some Flaming Piazza’s. Geno’s at forty-first had become the pre-eminent spot for Mets gameday if you didn’t have tickets, or if you were a Yankee fan looking to start shit. We were there to watch Game 5 of the World Series. The Mets were up 3-1 on the Texas Rangers, who were carried by Ahmed Al-Jorabi and his Triple Crown year. Al-Jorabi was the first international anybody could remember who didn’t play for the Mets that had made any sort of lasting impact, as the Mets had spent much money overseas developing academies in untapped regions for baseball like Africa and Europe. This had created such stars as three-time Cy Young Award winner Geert Van’t Klooster and centerfielder Ndumbu Mintsa-Nga, who many thought was the best defensive center fielder ever; teams were only finally catching on and scouting other regions.

We had a few, got settled in with the rest of the crowd in blue, and watched the TV screens and heard the radio waves; the Mets had just gone up 1-0 in the fourth inning on a surprising homer by speedy leadoffman Ryuichi Fuji. The bar was building in anticipation for the Mets eighth World Title in the last twelve years. Along with the Atlanta Braves of the nineteen nineties, or the Brewers of the twenty tens, they were the only teams in baseball history to have more than eleven consecutive division titles.

In walked these three old men, not in Mets colors, but in formal attire that you normally don’t see at Geno’s. They sat down at the only three stools left and ordered the same drink, one was a chubby-cheeked Asian, one was solemn and had the same tan skin I had, and one was a white guy with a goofy chin and obviously dyed brown hair. They all had the same expressionless look on their face. I sat there, lost in time, feeling there was something important about the men until Mark’s huge white hand clapped me on the back.

Mintsa-Nga had just launched a massive two-run shot that reached the Citifield upper deck in left, he pumped his fist while rounding the bases, stopping only after he reached home and compelled the fans to rise. I high-fived Mark and immediately thought “Shit!” as my grip on my drink loosened and it spilled all over the new Japanese patron.

“Goddamnit it was OVER twenty years ago, why can’t you people LEAVE ME ALONE!” he shouted at me in firm accent.

I stared at him trying to figure out why he would say such an odd thing, when it clicked into my head. “Wait,” I said, stunned. “You’re Kaz Matsui!”

He just nodded as the bar turned to face him, the wrath of the past rising again to a career long buried. The crowd cascaded boos on him, and the man with the goofy jaw finally got up and put his hands up. “Boys, we’re just here to watch the game and converse in peace.”

He had almost bored the crowd into a silence before a elderly man in the back called out to him: “FUCK YOU TRACHSEL! YOU KEPT US FROM WINNING IN 2006!” The crowd got riled up again and started shouting more profanities at the two men. A new figure jumped between the crowd and the two beleaguered old men, and to my surprise, it was Mark.

“Hold up there fanboys, these are just ordinary men like us now.” He paused, recomposed himself, and grabbed a random person in the front row by the shoulder. “I don’t know how many of you remember them actually playing, as there seems to be an awful lot of bandwagonism, but these men gave it all they had for our club on the field. They aren’t to be cursed at. We have a little something called ‘class’ here.”

Geno himself yelled “HERE! HERE!” at the mini-speech, but Mark wasn’t through yet. “As a group, we’re as obnoxious as Yankee fans were during their mini-dynasty in the late 90’s. Yeah, these guys stunk it up on the field. That doesn’t mean anything now. If anything, we should remember that they gave us a reason to enjoy what we have now much more. Having high expectations for our guys is great, but sometimes things just won’t go our way. Who here remembers 2018?”

More general acknowledgement was voiced through murmurs in the crowd. “Without these Mets, without the early sixties Mets, the early nineties Mets, we never would have anything to realize how lucky we are to have these guys on the field now. I remember loving the 2006 team so much, even though they fell short, because they were a reward for my faith in the franchise. Lets not take out our anger on Trachsel and Matsui, but instead lets be happy they were here, to make our good times feel sweeter.”

The crowd stood in awe, or drunken stupor, depending on the person. Geno had never been so moved by an in-door speech, drunken or not, and declared that it’d all be on the house that night if the Mets won the game. So we went back to our real job, cheering, believing, embracing. The only real pause was when the yet undiscovered Hispanic that was with Trachsel and Matsui tried to slide a beer across the table, breaking the mug into pieces, and making it abundantly to anyone who hadn’t figured it out yet that he was Victor Zambrano.

The Mets had brought on closer Per-Olaf Soderling, with their 3-0 lead still intact, and the tension mounted as the first two Rangers to face him reached. He was tired after pitching two innings last night, and it was obvious to everyone in the room.

He got a weak pop-up from Trey Tuloski, but walked the next hitter to set-up a climactic matchup with Al-Jorabi and his impressively long beard. The first two pitches were down and away, putting him in a 2-0 hole, and his third pitch was delivered right down the middle.

The ball was crushed, you really couldn’t hit a ball any harder than Al-Jorabi hit it, but it was right into the glove of thirty-eight year old David Wright, who stepped on third and ended the game, the season, and the playoffs.

Tears and cheers started, the beer flowed happily, and we dumped the champagne everywhere. And we even let Trachsel, Matsui, and Zambrano get showered in it. They were just one of us, after all. We were a family. No matter how bad things got for one another, we had to stick together.

Except for Roberto Alomar. Everyone agreed that he was terrible, and that wasn’t the beer talking.

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