Thanks, Baseball, for the Diversion
With absolutely no regrets, I faced the end of the “regular” baseball season, not that anything has been regular about it. The Mets lost Saturday afternoon, and were eliminated, but I have no complaints. . Baseball has done well enough by me this summer.
In a terrible time, baseball kept me reasonably sane, in a baseball-fan kind of way – that is, stomping upstairs at 10 PM, gritting the words, “It’s over. They stink.”
The “season” came at just the right time – when I figured out we weren’t going to take a drive or visit our grown children or hug our grandkids or go out for dinner or return to the city, my home town, until this poor bungled country figured it out.
For entertainment, for escapism, I would watch nearly 60 games’ worth of overmatched pitchers, erratic hitters, outfielders turning the wrong way on fly balls, base runners stumbling into outs, a catcher who couldn’t catch -- and that was only the Mets, the only team I follow.
I don’t watch the Yankees (nothing personal, I’ve gotten over my tormented youth, plus Aaron Judge is one of my favorite players), and I cannot stand network baseball, with its overload of gimmicks and just-learned drivel and bland “experts.” I watch only the Mets, or listen to them, and it got me through two months.
Besides, what were the alternatives?
--Following the smokescreens of a crooked and deranged President?
--Obsessing over a pandemic that remains unchecked in an inept "administration?"
--Keeping up with merciless hurricanes and fires?
I kept to the high road the first few months of the pandemic – reading good books, listening to classical music, watching National Theatre re-runs from London, keeping up with family and friends.
But when baseball gave it a try in mid-summer, I devoted myself to the Mets my team since 1962 (even if I had to feign neutrality while covering baseball.)
In a sick way, the Mets were fun this year, even as their pitching crumbled and Pete Alonso had a sophomore jinx for the ages.
As a fan, I enjoyed Jacob deGrom, the master, and somebody named David Peterson who finished with a 6-2 record Thursday night, as a rookie. I watched Jeff McNeil embarrass the analytics wizards who do not value a fiery throwback, a contact hitter who plays four positions.
It was a joy to watch Andrés Giménez, 22, show speed and savvy and great hands whenever they would let him play. Time is on his side.
It was also delightful to watch Dominic Smith blossom into a clutch hitter and get to use his glove at first base, and he learned to be a decent left fielder. But most of all, in a time of social awareness, as Blacks kept getting knocked off, Smith knelt to express his concerns, and wept with emotion.
. enjoyed watching the calm eyes above the mask of Luis Rojas, the accidental manager -- he's Felipe Alou’s son; that told me a lot.
I tried to ignore the counter philosophy that said we should avoid this goofus version of a season – 60 games, a tie-breaker gimmick in extra innings, 7-inning games in doubleheaders, no pitchers hitting in the National League, and, worst of all, no fans.
I heard baseball people say they are just beginning to appreciate the fans. Really? Just now?
The other day, I read an article by Tim Kurkjian of ESPN, the writer-commentator who knows the sport, lamenting a baseball season without “fun.” Tim is terrific, but I want to say that in my masochist world, “fun” involves suffering.
Fun? I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan in 1950 when Richie Ashburn threw out Cal Abrams at home, and in 1951 when Bobby Thomson hit the home run, and 1956 when Don Larsen no-hit the Dodgers. Was any of that fun? I missed it.
The real “fun” of baseball is thinking along with the participants and the commentators. I know more about the game since I retired and have been able to watch and listen to Gary and Keith and Ron, plus Howie on the radio, even though this year they did not travel with the team but made their calls, as well as possible, off the TV in an empty Mets’ ballpark. Hard for them and the audience, but it was still a game.
With the Mets not qualifying for the playoffs, I don’t plan to watch the long 16-team slog to a “World Series” but I might be a backslider I’m liable to catch the occasional soccer game in the winter months but I stopped watching football and basketball and hockey years ago. College football? I never had respect for the ugly alliance between colleges and football, and now the Pac-12 has joined the other major conferences in risking the health of the so-called students who will play during Trump's pandemic.
I think voters will get rid of this vile and ignorant President, and maybe more Americans will wise up about how to slow down this pandemic even before a legitimate vaccine arrives.
Speaking of change, prospective buyer Steve Cohen says he will bring back Sandy Alderson to run the Mets. This must mean Alderson's health is stable. But what does it mean for Brodie Van Wagenen, the agent who has been running the Mets the last two years?
In the meantime, the Mets got me through a long hot summer, and that is something.
Tim Kurkjian’s knowledgeable view of this weird season:
9/25/2020 09:01:36 am
I planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my first Mets game at Shea by flying out to Denver to see the Mets play on August 4. We all know how that turned out.
9/25/2020 11:17:12 am
Hillel, I was going to take the LIRR to New Shea a few times this year and just sit in the outback somewhere. The empty ball parks are sad.
9/26/2020 01:15:45 pm
We think alike. I’ve always called the new park Shea II.
9/25/2020 11:20:33 am
Mendel, what a nice thing to say. Sometimes writers (songwriters, especially) say it for us.I covered a night game, spring 1962 Polo Grounds, both teams already bad records, extra innings where one fan said to another "I hate to go and I hate to stay," (Second deck right in front of press box) I thought his comment spoke for this weird new team. And still does. GV
9/27/2020 03:41:09 pm
GV, one reason I am GV fan, even more than a Mets fan these days, is my reactions are like Mendel’s son. Your memories of Phillies 50 and Jints 51, are mine. But being you respected, (sometimes), elder I began my frustration in 1941 WS, 1942 Bums won 104 games of 154 and lost to Cards’ 106. 1946 Playoff lost to Cards, 1947 Damn Yankees again, 1949 Ditto, and we are where you entered the scene. In 1987 Mets traded away key RH hitters and lost after 86 win— a very happy moment.
9/25/2020 09:25:53 am
Sorry, George, no sports for me. Shut it all down since March. Mets fan since 1964, and surprised how easy it was to fill my free time without sports. I'll return to the Mets when the pandemic abates but until then this quote from Sean Doolittle ( a player I respect immensely) will suffice ‘Sports are like the reward of a functioning society’
9/25/2020 11:25:34 am
Rick, I totally understand. You and Doolittle are on to something., I was thinking/talking that way in March/April/May....and acting that way...but when games began, I could not resist. I don't need the other sports, but I know myself, I'll drift into some soccer matches as the weather gets colder. But I have no club...anywhere (except the US and Italy in the World Cup),....so very little partisan urge, My wife was watching a great PBS channel today, WLIW Worldwide, with stuff about propaganda and shaping people;s beliefs. Coming soon to my depleted Metsian brain. Thanks for your very pertinent comment. GV
9/25/2020 12:10:12 pm
As a Mets fan since '62, I live in hope. In 2021, a new president and administration, an effective vaccine, new Mets ownership and management, and a full season with fans. And, just maybe, a playoff run and . . . ooops, don't wanna go there yet but ya never know and ya gotta believe (as someone once said)!
9/26/2020 08:55:37 am
Hi George: Alternatives you ask? Might I suggest European futbol? It’s helping me distract.... Just trying to help. Michael
9/26/2020 10:06:27 am
Wonderful expression of what it is to be a fan George. Up there with Roger Angell's "Agincourt and After" inspired by 1975 Reds-Red Sox Series. I must admit that I am watching some of the "bubble" playoffs in NBA and NHL. Strange as it is to have these games in autumn instead of spring. Intensity of games even without fans has been genuine. And if Manfred is serious about permanently keeping half the teams in baseball playoffs, that could end my interest in MLB. The daily grind of "long season" with "cream rising to top" - OK end of cliche run I promise - was always baseball's real charm.
9/27/2020 10:46:44 am
9/27/2020 09:26:55 pm
Bruce: i was rooting for Ichiro. GV
9/28/2020 07:36:54 am
Today’s New York Times has an article, A Writer Who’s Been in the Game, about Kurt Streeter.
9/28/2020 09:57:10 pm
Randy Thanks for that. The writer, John Otis, is one of the insiders who keeps the dept, going, I have to add, I am also proud of being linked to the other 5 Sports of the Times columnists -- the erudite John Kieran, Arthur Daley, who won a Pulitzer, Bob Lipsyte, who yanked sports into the sensibilities of the 1960s, and two friends and fellow columnists Ira Berkow and Harvey Araton, both of whom are still producing books. I learned a lot about Kurt Streeter, admire his first few columns and hope to see many more GV
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.