Thursday, July 14, 2016

Entering my Mike Piazza year

Every year around this time -- and by this time I mean, "on July 14th" -- I complete another trip around the sun and begin to get more and more confused by how high the number gets. After all, in a practical sense you always know you're going to age. You know one day you'll grow older, you'll have gray hairs if you have any at all, you know one day you will no longer by young.

You know that one day, you'll turn 31.

Then again, if you look at my lifestyle, you might question that I've actually gotten this old, but that's an entirely different discussion. I still live in the same apartment as when I was 22 and the growing collection of bobbleheads on my window sill remains a testament to my refusal to grow up completely, but I suppose I'm trying. On that window sill is one bobblehead that may stand out the most, a bobblehead of Mike Piazza acquired a few years ago and long pursued because in the salad days of 2002, bobblehead dolls were limited to those 13 and under, and I was denied a Piazza giveaway at the gates of Shea Stadium.

This is a fact I expect to earn interest from almost none of you and sympathy from even fewer, but I bring this up because when I think of 31, the first -- only -- thing I think of is Mike Piazza. As sports fans, we are most malleable in our youth, most prone to developing loyalties and emotionally connecting with favorite players. We have not yet realized that there is a business side to the game and that players often jump from team to team because rather than aiming to fulfill the emotional bonds you imagine they are often just professionals looking for a job. In my youth, there were very few that entered that exclusive club. Phil Simms, Martin Brodeur, Claude Lemieux and Mike Piazza. And of that group, Piazza stands above them all.

As a result, I have come to playfully calling 31 my "Mike Piazza year". Indeed, in two weeks I will be at Citi Field when Piazza's 31 becomes the fourth number retired in Mets franchise history, and I've insisted to friends that I'm only turning 31 out of tribute and deference to my childhood hero and his fantastic, always-evolving facial hair. Otherwise, I would just make time stop.