Friday, May 20, 2011

It's a Subway Series!

So yeah, the Mets and Yankes play tonight. For those of you who don't know or care much for New York baseball perhaps you can understand that these are incredibly fun games to watch or attend, even if they are all a painful reminder of the dark angst that can happen when you're 15 years old. Still, with that fateful series some 11 years in my rear view mirror, I'm willing to take these biannual matchups as what they are.

Baseball games.

That's really all they are, and people can talk about "bragging rights" all they want, but all things considered, they're really no more significant on the calendar than any other.

Why is this?

Well, to be completely blunt, as much as people want the Yankees and Mets to be rivals, they really aren't. They play six times a year, a whopping 3.7% of their 162-game schedule. They don't play after early July, they don't compete directly against each other in their divisions, or or any playoff spot at all for that matter, and for the most part, at least for me, once these games are over it's out of sight and out of mind.

But like I said, that doesn't mean they aren't fun, and it's certainly enjoyable to have one of those rare times during the baseball season when a Mets fan and a Yankees fan can go to a game together and each have a vested interest in the outcome. And so it is with that in mind that I'm particularly keen to be headed up to the Bronx tonight for the opener of the 2011 renewal of the rivalry. This was made possible yesterday when I noticed that tickets had dropped precipitously on stubhub and decided, "What the hell? I'll pay $28 to sit behind home plate in the upper deck."

It'll be interesting to see if tonight becomes one of those great memories I have of Subway Series games past that I've attended, memories that include:

1) Being taken out of school by my mother to attend the rubber match of the first ever Subway Series in 1997.
2) Seeing Mike Piazza hit a massive grand slam to dead center field off Roger Clemens at Yankee Stadium in 2000 in an eventual 12-2 win.
3) Seeing numerous fights break out in the upper deck during that game, as well as seeing one Met fan stand up and repeatedly smack his ass because the Mets were winning by such a large margin.
4) Seeing Shawn Estes miss his opportunity to bean Clemens in 2002 in misguided vengeance for beaning Piazza in July of 2000.
5) Seeing both Estes and Piazza hit home runs off of Clemens anyway.

Indeed, even the Subway Series games I haven't attended have had a whole host of memories. Whether or not there are some new ones created tonight remains to be seen, but either way I'm looking forward to the evening, provided the weather holds out.

Another thing that should make this series interesting is that despite profound differences in payroll, expectations and, well, talent, the Mets and Yankees aren't actually too far apart in the standings this year -- not right now anyway. I'm not fool and I suspect that come September the Yankees will be battling Boston and Tampa Bay for the AL East title while the Mets are at least 10 games back, but for now the Amazins have played quite well of late, going 16-9 since a 9-1 win over the Astros on April 21, a game I should note, was the first I attended this season. As a result, the Mets are just one game under .500 after a miserable start, sitting five games back of first with a 21-22 record, and just 2 1/2 games back in the overall standings of the 23-19 Yankees, who have been slogging through a brutal month.

What that means for this weekend, well, I can't really say, but I'm somewhat optimistic of the Mets' chances. This is probably irrational of me, but as I've learned recently, optimism is necessary to truck on sometimes, and I will do just that. Multiple times. With photographic evidence, no less.

Lastly, even if the Mets lose tonight, I am somewhat excited about getting to go to Yankee Stadium for the second time this season -- and second time in 10 days. This is odd considering I hadn't gone to the Bronx for a game all last season, but I remembered last week what I miss so much about the new Yankee Stadium, and to be quite honest, it is not the building itself. Yankee Stadium does not impress me for a few reasons. While I enjoy that they brought the frieze back around the top of the stadium and I can see what they're going for with the limestone walls intended to evoke the original Yankee Stadium facade from the 20s, but this building makes me feel like Hal Steinbrenner is sitting on my shoulder everywhere I go reminding me how good his building is.

The other thing I can't help but think of when I see Yankee Stadium is that it must be the most Republican stadium in the Majors. Allow me to explain. I acknowledge that Republicans, by and large are probably nice people and have great senses of humor even if I don't agree with them on politics, but one moment that has always stuck out in my mind as representative of the party was this horror show from the 2004 RNC when the Bush twins came on and told a series of absolutely terribly unfunny jokes with poor delivery.

What that moment showed, at least to me, was a desperate attempt to show Americans how Republicans actually had a great sense of humor, but the execution in fact proved the exact opposite. The New Yankee Stadium, to me, is a building that intends to show you it's sense of class, distinction and grandeur, and while the franchise that plays there does, in fact, have all of those things, the building's falseness indicates that as a structure, it has the opposite.

It's a distended metaphor, I know, but it makes sense when you think about it. Really, I swear it does.

However, I am still happy to go to the Bronx tonight, and there are two big reasons. The first, obvious one, is that I just like going to baseball games. The second one is that for all of its faults as a building (the phony exterior, the disappointing museum) the new Yankee Stadium does have my absolute favorite ballpark food item that I've come across yet, barely beating out the Gilroy Garlic Fries at AT&T Park in San Francisco. That, my friends, is the Lobel's steak sandwich, available on the field level near Sec. 131 at the left field foul pole. I know that with this delicious pile of fresh sliced prime rib, au jus and optional horse radish sauce on a brioche bun I will leave Yankee Stadium tonight feeling like a winner.

Frankly, being a Mets fan these days makes that a rare thing. But being a winner at the Subway Series will always be a little sweeter.

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