Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I thought I had turned down a ticket to history this week. I guess not.

Back in the halcyon days of 2008, a horse named Big Brown became the 11th horse since Affirmed won the 1978 Triple Crown to take both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. With the potential for the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years -- Big Brown was an absolutely enormous favorite to win -- my good friend Adam and I decided with history in the offing, we had best make a trip to Belmont Park to see it in person. What followed was a crowded, sweaty, disgusting mess that involved 94,000 people, the vast majority of them drunk, an interminable hours-long bottleneck to get home and a number of young men so drunk and impatient that they didn't bother waiting on bathroom lines and instead chose to urinate down the stairwells of the grandstand.

Oh, and Big Brown became the first horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and finish dead last in the third. Whoops.

I vowed that day never to return to the Belmont, which, given my tortured relationship with horses, didn't seem like a terrible sacrifice. However, I nearly recanted on that promise last week, when my college roommate Abe informed me he would be in town and had an extra ticket to the Belmont, should I so desire to see American Pharoah become the latest thoroughbred to take a stab at glory. Much as I love that horse's name, I was torn by a few factors. Most important among those was that this past Saturday was a sports bonanza rarely seen in modern times. At 9 a.m. the Women's French Open Final would make way for the 2:45 kickoff of the UEFA Champions League Final, which in turn served as a segue to the opening match of the Women's World Cup at 6 p.m., the Belmont Stakes at 6:50 and then Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at 7:15, with the Mets playing at 10 p.m. just for kicks.

I had already invited friends over for a day of watching and barbecuing, and making the last-minute move to Belmont Park would not only ruin my social plans for the day, but also likely rob me of the seeing the end of the Champions League Final and most of the Stanley Cup Final. Also, Belmont Park is repulsive.

Wary of disappointing my arriving friends and weary from spending too many hot days in drunk crowds in my 20s, I decided to pass up the tickets and spend the day watching sports and slaving over the grill with my friends. After all, 13 other horses had nabbed the first two legs of the Triple Crown over the past 37 years only to come up short, including six over an eight-year span in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The length of the Belmont track, the pressure on the jockeys and the relative exhaustion the horse feels against a field of fresher competition makes the feat a near impossibility. Surely there was no way American Pharoah would actually make me look like a dunce by, say, running away with the race in a wire-to-wire victory.

Oh? What's that you say? Well shit.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why aren't more people talking about how crazy this is?

I enjoy when the Mets are on the west coast. Don't get me wrong, late-night starts are pretty horrendous for east coasters, particularly considering each game of the NBA Finals (Cavs in 7, by the way) doesn't start until about 11:30 p.m. That kind of schedule can make it tough to get a full night's sleep and be alert at work the next day, but something about those May and June nights where you can go out for dinner after work, come home at 10 and turn on the TV to see the Mets in San Diego or L.A. has a pleasantly calming effect on me. I have no reason why, but there's just something nice about the deliberate pacing of a baseball game you probably won't see the conclusion of if you're getting ready for bed.

All that being said, I'm probably one of the few people who feels this way, and as a result, I would venture a guess that SNY's ratings for the Mets' current series with the Padres aren't exactly setting the world on fire. If that's the case, and none of you spent the two days this week that won't have something sports-crazy happening on them watching the Mets, you might have missed something.

On Monday night, San Diego pitcher Andrew Cashner absolutely lit up the Mets with 12 strikeouts and no walks over 4 2/3 innings. What's curious, though, is that he didn't pitch beyond that, and the reason is because the Mets lit Cashner up, too, knocking him around for five earned runs on 11 hits. Giving up double-digit hits while racking up double-digit strikeouts in less than five innings is quite the feat -- one that you don't hear about all that often.

In fact, the reason you don't hear about it too often is because before Monday night in San Diego it had never happened before in modern Major League Baseball history.