It’s November 2. I have a pile of orange rally towels as high as a couch cushion sitting in the hallway, my house is a disaster area, my cuticles look like I work with steel wool. I feel like I have been beaten with a large club, and my cat hates me.
I am a fan of the New York Mets, which, if you are a baseball fan, will explain the above to you. It has been weeks of playoff games, in New York or via television in Los Angeles, Chicago and then Kansas City. Things have been put on hold. Obligations have been deferred. The World Series came to New York this weekend, and very little outside of baseball existed.
Friday, 10/30, Game 3
With a little luck and planning, we were able to buy tickets for Game 3 at face value. They were standing room tickets, but we were in the door at the World Series. It seemed impossible. It felt incredible.
The only thing is, we had never done standing room at Citi Field before; there hadn’t exactly been a lot of demand for this kind of thing until now. So, as veterans of general admission concert going, we attacked it the same way we’d attack getting a good spot up front at Bruce Springsteen: we did our homework, we wore good shoes, we showed up early.
That meant that we walked out of the subway station around 3:30pm, when the gates opened at 5:30pm and festivities got underway around 8pm. That might have been a little on the early side, but we didn’t know, and it was the World Series, so we weren’t going to take any chances. So I was relieved as we approached the ballpark and the only line I could see was at the box office. There were some scattered folks camped at the various gates, but not very much at all.
If you haven’t been to Citi Field, unlike other city ballparks such as Wrigley or Fenway, it’s in the middle of a parking lot, 40 minutes east of Manhattan. It’s adjacent to what used to be the Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby. Its closest neighbors are the former grounds of the 1964 World’s Fair and the Unisphere (which you know from the inner photo of Licensed to Ill or Men In Black), and a block of auto body repair shops of dubious character. That said, the parking lot was as festive as I’ve ever seen it, with the multiple media stages, new banners commemorating the World Series on and around the ballpark, and various other trailers for beer and other sponsors, tents set up selling World Series merchandise.
The SO’s phone rang around 4:30pm. I heard him say, “Yes! BUY THEM,” and knew that someone in our family had been hitting ‘reload’ on the World Series ticket buying pages and something had dropped for Saturday or Sunday. It was the former, which was an unqualified relief. The rest of the wait was uneventful, except for the people who thought they could turn up and waltz in front of us because they were season ticket holders or had some other type of dubious status (like a known ‘ball hawk’ whose ‘job’ is to visit ballparks and collect balls and other memorabilia to resell). We were there first, and they did not know who they were dealing with.
At 5:30, the gates opened. The SO bounded up the escalator and down the concourse, out of my sight. I straggled behind him as quickly as I could, as people sent their small children out ahead of me. I have no idea where anyone else was headed, because by the time I arrived on the third base side of the field level, we still had our pick of locations. We favor the view from the third base side mostly because you can also see into the Mets dugout; our Shea season tickets were on that side of the field as well.
Have you ever been to Citi Field and noticed the railings at the back of the field level sections? There are even cup holders. That setup was for just this occasion: standing room spots for a big game. There’s an open concourse, not quite 360 but very close, and not that much different from the guys in the last row of the section who showed up minutes before the opening ceremony was about to begin.
One of the fathers takes one look at us and says, “Good, Mets fans, we had Cubs fans and Dodgers fans during the other series. But don’t spill beer on us, and be cool,” and noted that he had his 14-year-old son with him. He then proceeded to make loud, endless jokes about the fact that the Royals have staff with the last names of “Kuntz” and “Duplissea.” (The latter sounded a lot different than what it looks like. I’ll let you use your imaginations.)
One of my favorite things about the big baseball events is the pageantry. I love the player introductions. I love booing the second assistant travel secretary of the opposing team. I love yelling “SUCKS!” when the other team’s star player is announced (or hell, after each name of every player when it’s the Phillies). I love the handshakes and the fist bumps and am a sucker for the players who tip their caps in any fashion (bonus points if they actually take it off their head). I love the music and the fireworks. At the World Series, it was all of the above on steroids. I got a little misty. I sang along to the Star Spangled Banner with marked enthusiasm.
And then, the game began. The crowd roared, and that roar swelled and echoed and seemed like a living, breathing entity, rolling, echoing through the concourse. Noah Syndergaard is, I think, my favorite of the new pitchers, and he was on the hill tonight. I am very fond of Jacob deGrom and appreciate Matt Harvey, but there’s something about Noah’s approach and attitude. I approved of everyone who arrived at Citi Field wearing some kind of plastic Viking helmet (his nickname is “Thor”), and that security let them in; there were a lot of them in the field level, as well as many handmade hammers. Noah was on point and I loved watching him pitch. David Wright’s HR was a giant party. But by the third inning, everything ached, and I was freezing, despite wool socks and multiple layers and a huge sweatshirt over all of it. The Mets were also not hitting. You feel the cold a lot less if the team is hitting; this is a scientific fact.
Then David Wright came to the plate, scoring himself and Curtis Granderson with a fly ball to left center field, and I suddenly felt a whole lot better. The SO went and got me coffee.
I thought I wouldn’t mind standing room for the game because I was going to be standing as much as possible for the actual game. But standing in the seats is different, because you can sit down when you get there, and you can sit down at the half inning or breaks between innings. I found myself dancing to any between-innings music I favored, just to get some movement in my body, to keep it from locking up. And the railings are not even waist high, so there’s not really any respite if you try to lean on them.
There were, not unexpectedly, a lot of drunk dudes in standing room. Drunk dudes have no concept of personal space. Luckily, the drunk dudes were not assholes; they were just drunk, and a gentle nudge gave you room again. But when the team did something good, you were in the middle of the celebrations; they were raucous, and more physical. You had to high five absolutely everyone, dudes jumped up and down in circles, yelling and screaming. There was no standing and politely clapping–you were part of it, and everyone was your best friend.
Insurance runs in the sixth inning made me forget the drunk guys and my aching feet. I held my breath through the last three innings, to be honest, because these are the Mets, and anything could happen, and has enough times for even a six run lead to not be sufficient. But it was a happy ending, and we clattered out of Citi Field, the stairwells vibrating with LET’S GO METS, chants taking you out across the plaza and up the stairs to the subway and onto the train. The connecting train to Brooklyn was full of fans in the orange and blue, everyone with smiles on their faces.
Saturday, 10/31, Game 4
The 7 train to Citi was crowded with Mets and Royals fans, Mets fans crowding on at Woodside and already chanting LET’S GO METS. We arrived around 7pm and navigated our way through the packed concourses to the escalators upstairs.
Tonight I was in 526 in the Promenade, aka “The People’s Seats.” It’s not quite as vast as the upper deck at Shea, but you’re sitting with the same folks for the most part. So it’s the families and 20-somethings and gray-haired grandmas and the drunk bros yelling at you to STAND UP, STAND UP. The guy behind me, the loudest in the section, insisted that he’d spent $7k on tickets and only made $9k a year, and he had yet to find a ticket for Sunday yet.
There were a couple of Royals fans too, which only became obvious because one of them insisted on doing the most annoying “WHOoooOOO” every time something good happened for his team. I have been the visiting fan at a ballpark when my team has put a whooping on the home team; there is a fine line between being a loyal fan and being a dick. These Royals fans were the latter; they were widely advised to vacate before the game’s end, and wisely did.
Game 4 was a World Series game, but it was also a typical rowdy Saturday night game at Citi Field. It was loud. It was loud on Friday but it was louder on Saturday, everyone wanting to let Moustakas and Zobrist and most of all, Escobar, know exactly what we thought of them. It remained loud up until the eighth inning, when Clippard kept walking batters and then when—FINALLY—we heard the comforting sounds of “Danza Kuduro” and on came Jeurys Familia. I don’t know why they play “Danza Kuduro” with the great scoreboard graphics and then stop all of that so that Alex Anthony can announce him over “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” Trust me, the white people are plenty happy to see our closer without some outdated 90s anthem accompanying his arrival.
But I’m mainly crabby about Lenny Kravitz because I would have brought Familia in earlier, because I don’t understand why Terry Collins used him at all Friday night, and because all the Clippy jokes in the world won’t change the mess Tyler Clippard made. And of course this has to be the moment that Daniel Murphy decided to be the Daniel Murphy Mets fans actually know, displaying to the rest of the country see why many of us were #NotWith28 up until this particular postseason run.
When Citi gets quiet, it is like the feeling of having all of the blood run out of your head. It hits you in the pit of your stomach. Tonight, at least upstairs, people kept trying to elevate the energy. There was a guy on Friday night in standing room that kept lecturing the field boxes, “GET UP! GET UP ! YOU PAID SO MUCH MONEY FOR THESE SEATS!” I fervently agreed with him tonight, and got up at every second strike, every moment I could get up, no matter how much my left knee hurt at this point.
It was a very long shuffle out of the Promenade, past the grey-haired grandmother waiting for the rush to die down, admonishing us: “EVERYBODY! GO TO CHURCH TOMORROW MORNING! ALL OF YOUSE!” And then down the staircases, where people to their credit kept trying to keep the ‘LET’S GO METS’ chants going, keep the energy echoing off the walls. We went to the team store; I wanted something that said World Series on it no matter what happened next, and urged the SO to make his sweatshirt purchase. “It took you so long to get here,” I insisted. “What if it never happens again? In 10 years you’ll be all, ‘Gosh I wish I’d bought that sweatshirt.’”
When we got home that night, seats for the next day were already on Stubhub, and the market was trending downward. Oh ye of little faith, but we will absolutely take that discount.
Sunday, 11/1, Game 5
In the morning, I walked from the house to the coffee shop half a block away, wearing a Mets shirt, and had half a dozen honks and yells at me from across the street: “GO METS.” “Gotta win it tonight!”
Wearing a Mets hat around New York City for the past few weeks was a transformative experience. Suddenly, everyone wants to talk to you, from the bus driver to the guy making your sandwich at the deli to random people on the street or on the subway platform. This is very different than the rest of the time, where any claim to dominance or even excellence in baseball activities is met with “27!!!!!!111111111111” That’s not entirely fair, since I count as friends many Yankees fans that are not at all like that, but it is the louder narrative, and it’s certainly the media narrative. Unless you live in a two-team city, it might be hard to really get that aspect of being a Mets fan.
When we arrived at Citi Field around 6pm, we strolled up to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to find no line at security. I panicked.
“What if they don’t show up? What if people sold their seats? We can’t have empty seats for the playoffs! We’re not the Braves!”
“Don’t worry. They’ll show up.”
They showed up.
The SO acquired tickets to the game on his dime; I was not allowed to ask what they cost. While this was a big deal to me, this was sacred ground for him. He has been a fan since he was three years old, while my dad ignored baseball because the Dodgers left Brooklyn and he is still, at age 83, angry about that in a very real way. There is no way I could match the SO’s diligence, his enthusiasm, his fervor. He never ever made me feel like that, but I just felt undeserving of being handed World Series tickets without having to do much for them, except sign up for lotteries and help with the on-sales. I was more stunned I was there than excited until halfway through Game 3. It just didn’t feel real.
And I felt lucky beyond all measure that I could share all of this with him, this moment that meant so much, the most important game the Mets had played in a very long time, and sit in these incredible seats perched just to the left of home plate, with the expanse of Citi Field before me like never before. We sat in the Hyundai Club, which was one of only three locations we have not yet watched a game from. The view was breathtaking. It was a beautiful night, temperatures in the 60s, no need to wrestle a coat or extra layers. The echo of the fans in the stands was magnificent, rolling from one side to the other and then the outfield. I fought back tears multiple times before the game even started.
The vantage into the dugout was perfect; I could see Curtis Granderson dancing to “Barracuda,” I could see others joining in with him, the high-fives, the handshakes, and the positive energy. The energy was crackling in the air. We were all so sure they were going to win tonight. We were all so sure the series was going back to Kansas City. I was hearing this even from beat writers of my acquaintance, who shared the same with me, privately; these were people who studied this, people who had no horse in the race, people who would know.
The SO totally called that Curtis Granderson home run in the first inning. It was the greatest tonic for frayed nerves on a night when everyone in the ballpark was nervous, unsure, vibrating. We made the most of our seats, and of the night. We sang along to at-bat songs (including, and especially, Yoenis Cespedes’ custom hiphop track); I reveled in the Mets AV team making more wins with new montages and new songs and keeping the energy up. We made jokes and high fived every out with each other and the people around us.
But the truth is, the game was tight, and I just kept praying for runs, praying for hits, praying for walks, praying for base runners. There was just no margin of error. I have mixed feelings about Harvey, but the things I do not like about him are the very aspects that were likely to make him pitch the hell out of this game. I think I was right about that. And unfortunately, I was right about my fears about the lack of bats, about the Mets’ ability to make the worst mistake at the worst time.
I don’t know how I sat there at the end, watching what felt like a cartoon revolving door of Royals crossing home plate. I guess I understood why people left, because it hurt like hell to sit there and watch it, but I also absolutely did not. There was no way I was leaving until it was over, until the last out. Who leaves a World Series game? The last time we were close was 15 years ago. What if you never get to do this again? I have left regular season games early twice, both because of migraines, when I could no longer see. I have sat through regular season 14 inning games when the Mets have won, and when the Mets have been utterly shelled. I didn’t care that it went to extra innings. I was not leaving.
Instead, I yelled at an usher that was standing and blocking my view, that the game wasn’t over yet and I paid for this ticket. I yelled at the Royals fan who snuck into the section to take photographs, and then tried to stand in front of me, that I couldn’t see and I didn’t care that we were losing, get out of my goddamn way.
What I also could not take, and was horrified by my inability to change, was the Royals fans being louder than we were. I can get angry at the Mets AV team for not doing more by putting as many animations and sounds through the PA system (and they were so great in this post-season run, the music was well chosen and raised energy and was interesting, my hat is off to you, as someone who cares very much about music and what it can do to set tone and raise energy), but ultimately the fault lies with the fans, the ones who were devastated, the ones who were dumbfounded, the ones who could not face that we had come so far but we were not going back to Kansas City, the Mets were not going to win the World Series, we were not going to need a day off work for the Victory Parade down the Canyon of Heroes. But I can’t blame them for giving up, or losing energy, or just sitting there in stunned disbelief. I sat there in my seat, yelling, “LET’S GO METS! LET’S GO METS!” People would hear, and join in; I could hear echoes in the left field landing and out in the Big Apple Seats. But it wasn’t enough, it wouldn’t be enough, and then it didn’t matter any more.
At the end, at the very end, as the Royals rushed onto the field and the fans in baby blue burst into cheers, we sat there, numb, watching in disbelief. The SO took photos, even; he said he wanted to see what it was like, and what the Mets would do. I heard fans up in the Promenade start a “Let’s Go Mets” chant, and tried to join in, because it was still a great run, and I was sitting AT THE WORLD SERIES. But then the ushers shooed us out of the section, and it never occurred to me to try to go down behind the Mets dugout, or that they would come out to thank the fans; I should have known better; I should have had more faith in the 2015 Mets. But I didn’t want to end my season arguing with Mets security to let me into the section, either.
We walked to the 7 train, grateful all the Royals fans were still in the stadium. Beyond the platform, the lights still glowed over Citi Field, and it seemed impossible that it was over, just like that. The train pulled in, we stepped on, and sat there staring at the floor for the ride back towards the city. It was the opposite of all the other nights we came back from the games, even when the team lost, people in the bodega or in the station or waiting for the bus wanted to stop and talk about it and offer their opinions on strategy and Terry Collins and Matt Harvey and David Wright or something, anything.
The only consolation was the Empire State Building, tonight switched to blue and orange in pride instead of triumph, glowing in the distance as we drove over the Pulaski Bridge back to Brooklyn. For a little while, this was our city. And next year, with Zach Wheeler back in the rotation, and maybe if we can fix the infield, get a bat or two, maybe a low dollar figure offer to Cespedes…hey, it could happen again.
Pitchers and catchers report in 108 days.