When Did I Become the “Elder?”

Today is the 25th anniversary of the last championship the Mets won.  Today, the Mets blogosphere is saturated with stories of Game Seven, summaries, “What-Was-I-Doing-When…” stories, among others.

As Mets fans, we appreciate the history of this team, albeit quirky and riddled with more ennui than excitement.  While I think we tend to romanticize the “down years” a little too much, this date reminds us of how we can all look back with fondness and glee, remembering where you were exactly when the Mets last won a World Series.

Unless, of course, you weren’t born by then or were alive, but do not have vivid memories of their last bombastic year.

When the Mets won in 1986, I was 10 years old.  I was one of the youngest people at the game that night (although I do remember a little boy sitting next to me, who had to have been six).  Now, I’m one of the elders.

How the Hell did that happen?

A lot can happen in 25 years.  A person who was born in 1986 could be a pitcher for the Mets now (as Jonathon Niese is, as well as Pedro Beato), someone who was born after could be married and have children (like Josh Thole)…at the very least, has a license and a Joe Schmoe job like the rest of us if he was not lucky enough to have a talent for baseball and couldn’t get drafted by the Mets.  Yet, in 25 years, I have become a sage, a wise fan who can share the old war stories about 1986.

Again, I ask, how did that happen?

When I was 10, I looked to people like my dad and his friends who all went to games together to tell me about the past, what it was like to see a game at the Polo Grounds (my dad and his best friend were usually taken to the games by their respective older brothers), to tell me about 1969 (my dad skipped school so he could watch it that day), when Tom Seaver was traded (I was in my crib, my dad crying at the television during the evening news), the Hendu Can-Do Walk-Off (which reminds us that even in darkness, there is a light at the end), and then when Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets (I decided that if my dad liked those guys, then I would like them too).

Over the years, I’ve made lots of my own memories, mostly good, even in the down years.  One of my favorite Mets teams in my older years was in 1999, which defied all logic to go on to the National League Championship Series by sheer determination.  Sometimes, I appreciate that team more than 1986 because we all knew they would win in 1986; 1999 was a lovely surprise.  On the other end of the spectrum, 2006 raised our expectations so high, that we still have not recovered from the disappointing end to that season.

In some ways, 1986 is all we have for our bragging rights, the team that didn’t give a damn about anyone and made New York proud.

So for Mike, and Matt, and the rest of you whipper snappers over at the Stache, I know I have to regale you with stories from Game Seven in ’86.  My dad was in attendance at Game Six, and met some folks who drove from Rhode Island to see what could have potentially been the clinching game for their Red Sox.  Of course, we all know what happened Game Six.  Turns out, these folks had four tickets to a deciding Game Seven, which they could no longer attend (bear in mind, Game Six was on a Saturday, and Game Seven was supposed to be on Sunday…the original “Game Seven” was rained out and scheduled for Monday).  My dad offered to buy the tickets, and went home $400 lighter, but richer in four field level box seats.

I still to this day wonder how my dad pulled that one off.  But if Karma does indeed exist, perhaps we’ve been paying for that ticket in more ways than one today.

I remember the night was one of those humid nights, where there’s a chill in the air but it had rained all day the previous day, so there was haze.  I remember having my palms sweaty, and even crying at one point because the Mets weren’t doing anything (Hey, I was 10…leave me alone).

I remember a nice lady sitting behind me, telling me that they would turn it on the sixth inning. I had to believe her, because I knew, even at 10, that the Mets were not going to lose that game, even when they were losing.  Sid Fernandez saved the day, then Keith Hernandez drove in two runs in the sixth inning.  She was right, and the Mets were on their way.

I remember not sitting THE ENTIRE GAME.  AT. ALL.  No schmoes were yelling at us to sit “down in front” or anything like that.  I don’t remember any Red Sox fans in the area, but I’m sure there had to be some there.  I do remember, however, walking around the concourse in the old field level at Shea, where I saw effigies of burned red socks laying around the corridor (get it??).  I remember the couple next to us singing vulgar songs about how “Boston Sucks.”  I remember trying to look for Bo Fields, the “rolling arms lady” who was featured behind home plate rolling her arms around like a mad woman (I also met her a few years later, I want to say in 1989 or 1990).  I remember a little kid sitting next to me (the six year old boy I referenced earlier) with a WatchMan, and I remember us looking at each other when Darryl Strawberry tried to catch what I believe to became a Dwight Evans home run.  This is where my 25-year old memory as a 10-year old might have tricked me.

I remember not being quiet for the last three innings of the game.  I remember that I didn’t see that lady who warned me about the sixth inning till the end of the game, which may have made her some kind of oracle, a vision who was reassuring me that the Mets would be all right.

The same night that Pedro Beato and Jonathon Niese were born, I was chanting “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!” after the game had ended, when Rick Aguilera, Bobby Ojeda, Tim Teufel (I think…) and Lenny Dykstra were drinking booze on the mound.  Also, keep in mind that three of those four guys were arrested in Houston for a bar room brawl earlier in the season.

These guys didn’t care about what ANYONE thought of them.  Bobby O even said in Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won that these guys would have died in battle with the other, and that’s what made the team so special.  This is the team that has held my heart for so many years, yet has set the standard for disappointment or fallen just short since then.

What is the difference between that team and today’s teams, plural?  This team had the luxury of waiting a few years, getting good draft picks, using picks to get established talent to build up the team and they went on for success, though they only won ONE World Championship.  In some ways, that team also fell short, but there were also outside demons we later found out about, especially with the hopes of the future Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry addictions.  Good luck getting anyone to wait or exercise patience for that.  We certainly see that in today’s “I-Want-It-NOW” fans, no matter the fan base.

Many people knew I was in attendance at Game Seven at Shea Stadium in 1986.  This is one of the first times I’ve shared my stories and memories with a blog in the time I’ve been writing about the team.  I’ve made allusions to it, but I never discussed that night.  There are some nights that I still wish Shea existed, that I could walk around the corridors again, much like that night in October 1986, to get that same feeling washed over me again and I could bask in the glory one more time.

Until we make new memories at CitiField, this will be all we have till then.  So celebrate it and acknowledge it, but I’m looking forward to the day where some kid who was born in 1986 or afterwards can say 25 years after the fact, “Hey, remember when we won in X-year?”  It will be their turn to pass on the memories to the next generation.  I just hope that is sooner rather than later.

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