Thursday, October 15, 2015

NFL Picks Week Six: Oh, right, so that's what it feels like

I remember this. The tension, the angst, the agita. It's all coming back to me. Nine years is quite a gap to go without being invested in October baseball, and the way it twists your stomach in knots was long forgotten and yet feels all too familiar. I often tell coworkers of a conversation I had in 2011, when the New Jersey Devils endured their first season without a playoff berth since 1996, when I was just shy of my 11th birthday. As I watched the postseason that spring I told my coworker how I experienced the most bizarre phenomenon during that first round.

I enjoyed it.

This is not unusual. Watching your team play a postseason game is a stressful, nerve-wracking affair, and when it comes to baseball, I had nearly forgotten just how stressful it can be. I was reminded of it this past Friday, when after a long day of hiking around Glacier National Park with two good friends and a heart dinner of grilled buffalo ribeyes in Kalispell, Montana, I settled in in my friends Dave and Caitlin's living room to watch the Mets play the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS with them, my friend Frankie and Dave and Caitlin's black lab mix Bergen. Almost instantaneously, stresses rippled through my body in a way I hadn't experienced since October 19, 2006, when the Mets lost Game 7 of the NLCS to St. Louis in what would be their last postseason game for almost a decade.

In this particular instance of course, I was lucky. It was a tiny bit of misfortune that the Mets' first postseason series in nine years happened to fall almost entirely throughout the course of a trip to Montana, but luckily they have technology out there now even if my friends there somehow don't have cable. That first game, a dominant strikeout-laden win for Jacob deGrom, though, was relatively stress free. Game 2, which I watched partially at a condo in Big Sky and partially at a nearby bar called The Broken Spoke, was a less pleasant experience and the night that will be singled out in this series if the Mets don't reach the NLCS because of the slide heard 'round the world. I may or may not have made a scene in front of several people I don't know, but on the plus side, the credit card minimum there was only $6 and you still needed to buy two drinks to reach it. Game 3, the most-enjoyable game of the series for obvious reasons, I watched at my friends' Sarah and Jeff's place in Missoula, along with their insanely adorable 18-month-old Marshall, who has a knack for industriousness and may or may not be a good luck charm.



And then there's Game 4.

It was a pretty massive issue for me that my flight home from Montana, via Denver, was almost exactly timed to cover the entire period between first pitch and final out, a realization that sent me through an emotional tailspin, which was only exacerbated when I found out Tuesday afternoon my plane was one of the few in the fleet to not have DirecTV available on it. There are few things as emotionally torturous as watching your favorite team in a postseason game. But the only thing worse might be not watching.

And so, as I boarded the plane, I constantly conjured up solutions to the problem. The best answer I came up with was to purchase United's mediocre in-flight wi-fi (yes, I know how obnoxious I sound), and try desperately to follow a pitch-by-pitch tracker or find a hacked stream that somehow circumvented the airline's firewall against streaming video sites. That isn't to say the solution was flawless. The limited bandwith and the fact that I was, you know, on a plane 37,000 feet in the air meant the connection was choppy at best and I would see 2-3-second bursts of video with very little fluid comprehension of what was happening. But I still did it, damnit. The ultimate trial came in the 7th inning when whomever was running the stream from their computer in some Spanish-speaking country had an error message pop up on their screen and refused to close it.

Finally, as we began our descent with the Mets trailing 3-1, I was forced to put my computer away in the eighth inning. The dark territory this represented was petrifying. As the plane landed I furiously sorted through text messages and twitter just in time to watch the final three outs on my MLB mobile app's gametracker. It was not pleasant.

That brings us to today. Tonight is my monthly poker night. Skipping it is not unheard of, but I have skipped it a few times recently. I will not do that this time, but this is largely because I won't be the only Mets fan there and we will have the game on. All that said, I am quickly realizing that betting on two low pairs while I'm distracted by the Mets' first winner-take-all postseason game in nine years is probably a bad recipe, particularly since I don't really know how I'll respond. I've only seen the Mets in this scenario twice, and I haven't seen them win in this scenario in 16 years. I am pretty sure I'll spend most of the night alternating between wheezing and curling in the fetal position, which I know sounds fun. Being a Mets fan means these situations are rare, and highly pressurized by the fear that they won't come again soon. It is, in short, not fun.

But as I said, the only thing less fun is not being there at all.


Last week: 4-10-0
Season: 38-38-1

Atlanta (-3) over NEW ORLEANS
BUFFALO (+3.5) over Cincinnati
Denver (-4) over CLEVELAND
DETROIT (-3) over Chicago
Miami (+2.5) over TENNESSEE
Kansas City (+4) over MINNESOTA
NY JETS (-6) over Washington
Arizona (-3) over PITTSBURGH
JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) over Houston
SEATTLE (-6.5) over Carolina
GREEN BAY (-10) over San Diego
Baltimore (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
New England (-7.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
NY Giants (+4) over PHILADELPHIA

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