Friday, May 31, 2013

This is as close as the 2013 Mets are getting to winning the World Series

The Mets are not a good baseball team. I don't want anyone that knows me to think I'm under some sort of bizarre illusion regarding just how "competitive" an outfit they are. But there was one thing this team promised when the season started which it hadn't promised the fan base in years.

"Hope."

New York's National League club is a far cry from a contender right now, and probably will remain that way until abou 2015 or so, but after the offseason acquisitions of Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, the buzz surrounded pitching prospect Zack Wheeler and the mildly impressive (and now unbelievably impressive start to Matt Harvey's career we Mets fans are starting to think maybe the light at the end of that tunnel is approaching sooner than we had initally feared.

But even though Harvey has been stellar this season -- and he really has -- this was still a team with a ludicrously bad bullpen and a sluggish offense that didn't quite know when it was supposed to show up. We had hints the team was on the upswing, but we were without strong evidence. There was no obvious manifestation of the team's improvement.

And then this week, we got it.



Now I'm not naive enough to assume this will be the spark plug that completely turns the season around. It won't be. But there is still some vague joy and some unique satisfaction to be found in these ragtag inferior Mets pulling off a feat that had never been achieved before against the mighty Yanks. It's an event that could make even the most skeptical and sardonic of Mets fans burst with just a little more glee than they're used to bursting with, and even if the Yankees are widely expected to compete for a postseason berth this fall while the Mets are almost certainly going to be playing for 2014 starting, well, three months ago, this is still something extremely positive for the fan base to hang its hat on.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Weddings and the New York Knicks simply do not mix

There are few things in life that are quite as fun as a wedding. Trust me on that one and take my word for it now since I may feel differently in December when I'll be attending my sixth wedding of 2013. The whole sequence started this past weekend when I flew to Charlotte and then drove 2.5 hours left to beautiful Banner Elk, North Carolina for the nuptials of my good friends Isabel and Joe. You might remember that couple from past adventures such as "Dave ventures to the deep south for the first time and watches the Mets actually win a game in Turner Field" and "Let's watch the Giants forget how to play football in Cincinnati."

Isabel and Joe have been enthusiastic supporters of my sports journeys even though they don't particularly care about it themselves. They've given me a free place to stay more than once and even traveled to meet me with free Skyline Chili in hand. You can't ask for much better than that, and so it was the least I could do to trek to a tiny mountain town near the Tennessee border where everyone is convinced Obama is trying to steal their guns, and stay in a hotel with limited wireless, a bar that closes at 10 pm and literally no cell phone service. But, and I mean this in all seriousness, it was my pleasure to go. All of those technological insufficiencies lent a certain charm and relaxation to where we were staying, and I couldn't have been happier to make the journey. Like I said. Weddings are fun.

You know what's not fun, though? Being a Knicks fan.

Worse still is when the Knicks happen to be choking away their season in the midst of a wedding you've been super excited to attend for months. And wouldn't you know it? The Knicks just happened to be playing the Pacers in Game 6 while facing elimination Saturday night. And guess where I was. You know it. The wedding.

Friday, May 10, 2013

After 23 years, it all comes full circle on the scoreboard

Some of you might remember some time back when I wrote what just might be my favorite post that I've ever written here. This is not because it is particularly clever or particularly well-written. It provides no clever social commentary or particularly astute observations about myself, sports, the world or the social causes of the Haymarket Square Riot or any other historic incident. No, this was a very important, very necessary journey of self-discovery that brought with it a number of revelations of the life-changing variety. I speak, of course, of when I did the necessary investigative reporting to uncover my very first New York Mets game.

As you may recall, for years I had known little of the origin of my Mets fandom beyond a picture of the scoreboard and had long assumed my first game was, in fact, not my actual first game. This all came to light when I decided one morning to actually look at the picture. The evidence was fairly obvious and soon the mystery was unspooled, but the gist of it -- that my fandom was spurred on by having my name on the scoreboard -- was clear.

Last night, nearly 23 years later, my fandom returned to light in the same fashion in which it had started.

Yes, there are some differences that are telling. For one, last night the Mets game was at Citi Field while at the time of the first picture they would still be 18 years away from leaving Shea Stadium. For another, this was a trivia contest (which I answered perhaps too enthusiastically), whereas the last mention was a birthday notice. For yet one more, the contest was organized via Twitter, a tool that wouldn't exist for 17 years after the last time I reached the scoreboard. For obvious reasons, I suppose I should note that last night I was mentioned on the scoreboard not so much by name, but by Twitter handle, a remarkable yet subtle sign of how the world has changed.

As a result of all of this, I also got mentioned by the Mets' official Twitter feed, which, of course, means I can cross one of the major achievements I had long sought off of my to-do list.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Ladies and gentlemen, at long last, we have reached that most exciting stretch of spring. No, I'm not talking about those magical nights when the New York Mets seemingly invent new unbelievable ways to lose to what are essentially minor league teams on consecutive nights, though that is typically around this time, too. I am talking about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, two magical months in which athleticism, drama and excitement all coalesce into a display that just about the safest bet to deliver in all of pro sports.

Sure, in the course of a 16-team postseason tournament, every game can't be a gem. But by and large most of them are, and the haphazard zaniness that annually ensues in the first round is unmatched by anything short of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

Need evidence?

Look no further than last night, when the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues opened the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs with overtime-winners that happened more or less simultaneously. There is almost nothing in any major sport that captures the same kind of edge-of-your-seat tension and punctuated explosion of energy that results from overtime playoff hockey. I am saying this not merely because it pays my bills, but because it is, as anyone who watches sports can tell you, absolutely true. Those moments have littered my own fandom over the years be they produced by journeymen like Grant Marshall, entrenched stars like Jason Arnott or potential stars of the future like Adam Henrique. One of the things that made last season's postseason run by the Devils so exciting -- or perhaps exasperating -- is just how many times their season had hung on the knife edge. I should note, of course, that my team is far from the only one to experience this.