Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The 20th anniversary of when heartbreak hooked me

Hockey is a central factor in my life these days. If you know me, you know this. You know I watch an inordinate amount of games each season and that I work in the industry however small or ineffectual the capacity. When people meet me and find out what I do, the question I almost universally receive is, "Have you always been a hockey fan?"

Have I?

I suppose in a literal sense the answer is no. After all, I'm fairly certain that when I emerged from the womb the only things I was really a fan of were napping and breast milk. The team from which I draw the most central core aspects of my peculiar brand of optimistic pessimism didn't draw me in until a few weeks before my fifth birthday. The Giants didn't absorb me until the Leon Lett game in 1993, in which the team didn't even play. While I watched the 1994 NBA Finals, the Knicks didn't become my team until I was mesmerized by Latrell Sprewell and the '99 Bockers' unexpected run to a conference title.

As for the Devils, it seems foolhardy to imagine they pre-dated all of these teams, but I'm fairly certain that not only do I know the moment when I became a fan, but that it happened on this day 20 years ago.

I knew little of hockey as a child beyond the Mighty Ducks movies, though like so many American children, they certainly played a part. The earliest relic I have of any real Devils fandom came courtesy of a poster my sister got at a game featuring the 1992-93 squad, they of Dave Barr and Craig Billington. But this didn't suck me in, even if the black-and-white player photos and the pixellated Devils logo were dazzling. I hadn't yet attended a hockey game at this point and my first Devils game wouldn't even be until Dec. 7, 1995.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

That kid is back on the escalator again

One of the most alarming things I've found as I attend baseball games this season is the disturbing trend that time continues to move on. Humanity has tried to stop this many times, but unfortunately there are no ways to create a Picture of Dorian Gray for all of us or even a Benjamin Button. We're going to get old. That's the truth of it. Unfortunately, for me, this has become more and more apparent over the last week in which I endeavored on an irrational baseball spree and went to four Mets games in six days. This might have been a bad idea since they're the Mets and they went 1-3 over that stretch, but it is what it is.

The big running theme, however, was that children are coming to games and are smart enough now to actually engage with. I should have seen this coming since I recently became an uncle, which is its own kind of weird, but it came into sharp focus on Friday night when a six-year-old kid was asking me to teach him the history of the Mets and I realized he was born after I graduated college. Then the kicker came when his nine-year-old sister kept telling me I was old and asked, "Were you alive for 9/11?"

Seriously? Is that a question people ask now?

On Saturday a group of 12-year-olds joined in with me to mock a Phillies fan who was chanting of his love for the Eagles, which was fine until I realized none of them were alive when the Giants played the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. On Tuesday a group of teenagers at the Mets-Yankees game huddled over my shoulder to watch Game 7 between the Rangers and Penguins on my phone and they all made mention of the fact that none were old enough to remember the 2000 World Series (one wasn't born until 2002), and then there was last night, when I sat in the first row at Citi Field and faced a barrage of reminders that I'm a mere 14 months away from turning 30.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Well that was fun while it lasted

It seems every April I start to do the same dance. The Mets have average to low expectations, because they're scrappy and try oh-so-hard and Terry Collins is a pretty decent manager they end up having an ok first month of the season, and then my eyes start to widen.

Then, you know, the sample size grows.

Since the Mets were last legitimate postseason contenders in 2008 (let's not talk about how that ended), they were seven games over .500 as late as May 31 in 2009, five games over .500 on April 30 in 2010, actually rallied from six games under .500 to reach the even mark on May 20, 2011, were five games over .500 on May 9, 2012 and in first place (note I attended the game that brought them there in Philadelphia), and last year... well, last year didn't really go so well from start to finish. Meanwhilst, despite those strong starts, the Mets finished with an average record over the last five seasons of 75-87.

Because I know all this, and because I understand the Mets are taking a deliberate, patient approach to rebuilding their team, I had no expectations for this season in terms of final record. I made this patently clear in my season preview, and am concerned only with seeing the individual puzzle pieces the Mets need to succeed develop properly and successfully. I have no designs on the postseason or a division title of any sort. I am rational. I am patient. I am cool-headed.

So naturally, when the Mets finished April this year with a 15-11 record and general manager Sandy Alderson said in a private meeting he expected 90 wins this season, I kept everything in perspective and didn't get too excited.

Ha! Just kidding! I root for the Mets, remember?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ok, so this website was more or less made for me

I go to a lot of baseball games. This isn't exactly a secret to most of you out there, but perhaps some of you don't grasp the scale on which I do this. Perhaps I don't grasp it either. Some of you may recall back in 2009 when I was attending a Mets game at Citi Field and I came across an older gentleman who was seated in front of me and told me of his travels. I noticed how on that day he was attending the 6,226th game of his life.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's a lot of baseball. I have a hard time imagining I will ever reach that level of baseball attendance no matter how many games I make my way to -- and I plan on making my way to a lot of them -- but it might be nice if there was some way to keep track. In my life I've seen more baseball games than the average Joe, and keeping ticket stubs is a minor obsession, so a place to track and log it all without having to mark down my own home-made scorecard would be pretty sweet.

Wait, what's that? It exists now?

Last night I returned home from my third baseball game of the year after watching the Seattle Mariners double up the New York Yankees (I may have been more interested in my Lobel's Steak sandwich for a part of the evening), and I tooled around on the internet for a bit only to come across Hardball Passport on the Twitters. It's a website that enables you the check in and log every Major League Baseball game you've been to since 1975 (and every minor league game since 2002), which once filled provides you with a remarkable array of statistics regarding your baseball past.