Saturday, October 21, 2006

Belated Game Seven Story.

I spent most of Game Seven stuffed into a Fung Wa bus somewhere between Boston and Chinatown, clutching at a dying ipod and smiling in disbelief at the delightfull chaos of twice-recommended The Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Luckily kept updated by the text messages of a resourceful Duker, I stumbled out onto a deserted midnight street with the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the eighth. Reasoning that a midnight Chinatown was no place to find a sympathetic television, I flew into the subway and half-ran through the rain from Byrant Park to Grand Central, finally locating the game, now in the bottom of ninth, in a bar in the corner of the basement food floor.
I can't imagine what compells a man, or more accurately six drunken, bejerseyed men, to watch the biggest game their team has played in six years in a tiny bar shunted into the corner of the busiest place on the Eastern seaboard. Nor can I imagine what compells the bartender of said establishment to close his place despite a growing crowd outside, looking through the bars at the thankfully visible television. My fellow congregators would surely have been glad to patronize the tiny place. I myself thirsted for a Guinness or some such sturdy refreshment, but settled for sipping out of the waterbottle I'd been nursing since leaving Brandeis.
Apparently the Mets had blown it during my time underground; the score was now 3-1. However, to my surprise, noted non-hitters Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez were on base, with no outs: this had the potential to become a thing. 'What if this is a thing?' I thought, clutching at my backpack and straining to see over shoulders and through the bars encasing the bar. It was evident to me from Cliff Floyd's first swing-and-miss that this rookie closer Adam Wainwright was the real thing, and through with no real rooting interest I quickly compelled and drawn in to what had clearly been a hell of a game (I would not even see the replay of Endy's catch until returning home).
While muttering with my fellow commuters about the excellence of Wainwright's curveball, and the train we were all about to miss, something else became clear to me, namely, how god damn awesome it was to walk into such a scene of frenzied fandom. We who were huddled outside represented a more sober, analytical view of the game, while the six men inside were in the throes of fully drunken prayer. It wasn't just their all-out applause on every taken pitch, or the screams at a strike, or the 'just this once' extorsions to Floyd and later, Reyes, Lo Duca and Beltran. They paced and brayed and stomped around in hopefull terror. Upon Floyd's strikeout, the drunkest of the lot and the most vocal bellowed the insult of insults with a word one hopes to hear only in textbooks and rap songs, then tried to apologise for it but got caught up in starting a 'Jose, Jose!' chant. Even the suited black man standing next to me had to laugh it off, forgetting it moments later anyway: the winning run was at the plate, after all.
I felt that I had witnessed a real New York moment, not the sentimental dreck that was everywhere after September 11th, but something worthy of The French Connection, something that made me a proud denizen, even if only of the suburbs, and a prouder still baseball fan. Where else do they care more, I thought? No Nascar results or Terrell Owens controversy could pierce this scene tonight, this scene of intimate sporting agony. It is impossible to describe the sound a passerby must have heard while Reyes' flare fluttered in the air. Off the bat, it was a game-tying, impossibly joyous double, but it dropped to a shocked, stuttering wail in Edmond's glove. Somewhere else in the city, Will Leitch's insides shot in all directions and he died a little, then broke into a cheer that reminded him he was still alive. Here, Paul Lo Duca was up, and the fear was tangible. I told the man next to me who had just missed his train that a HBP was the best case scenairo here, and we watched more deadly curveballs just miss.
The thing had nearly come to pass, and everyone knew that this was the moment, that impossible bases loaded ninth inning situation of everyone's deepest childhood dreams. We prayed for a hanging curveball, and Beltran hit one foul. It was 0-2 too quickly, maybe Beltran should have stepped out to drag it out a little, hell, maybe he did, but either way no one was ready for it to be 0-2, for the thing's possiblities to stretch so close and so immenently to nothing. It had to be another curveball, almost musically beautiful and destructive, and afterwards I quickly fled to await the next train upstairs, fearing the drunken aftermath of that curveball, frozen and gorgeous, which seemed to travel so slowly that we could see the exact last possible moment for Beltran to swing go by, just perceptable before it was over. The howl went up behind me and I left, stunned and proud and happy, to have seen even the end of such a game.


Anonymous Harry said...

You <3 NY

Sun Oct 22, 11:28:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Major Kong said...

Good article.

One Mistake: Jose Valentin, while nothing special, is a good enough hitter to have enjoyed a 12 year career with nearly 250 HRs and .772 career OPS. Acceptable for a middle infielder. Don't pool him in with Endy Chavez, who in a fluke year was still a very marginal player.

Sun Oct 22, 02:38:00 PM EDT  

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