When 159 = 0
Fri Sep 28 2007
Last night, I went out to Shea to see firsthand if my Mets really had historic badness in them. It turns out, yes, they do. In spades.
Even if you're not a baseball fan, you should know about what the Mets are doing right now, because it's a classic New York meltdown (as the Times pointed out recently). The Mets had a huge lead in their division, had a spot in the playoffs sewn up, and now are on the verge of rolling big steaming snake eyes and crapping out. For Mets loyalists, watching the team these days is the sports-fan equivalent of being water-boarded.
On September 12, there were 17 games left to play in the season and the Mets led the second-place Phillies by seven games. No team has ever blown a lead that big with that little time left in the season. Not even the Phillies, and they invented fan torture. Thanks to the Mets' loss last night to the Cardinals and the Phillies win against the Braves, the Mets and Phils are now dead even with three games to play. That's after leading the division for 159 games. Five months of first place—in the toilet. The Mets still could make the playoffs, but I'm here to announce that they won't. I figured it out last night: We're repaying a long overdue debt.
Did we Mets fans really think that 1986 was going to come without a price? Did we think that when our collective unholy prayers in Game 6 of the World Series against the Red Sox were answered, that some day the devil who delivered us Bill Buckner was not going to show up to collect? Sadist that he is, he patiently waited 21 years, letting us think we got off scot-free, and then he arrives at the worst possible time, dangling the bill.
I say, it was worth it. I wouldn't give 1986 back for anything, and if the Mets miss the playoffs and I have to suffer a year of Phillies fans smirking in my face, I'll take it, knowing that the books are now balanced and our debt is finally repaid and nothing like this is ever going to happen again to the Mets.
So I'm going to enjoy watching the Mets disintegrate over the next three games. I actually have it playing out something like this: The Phillies grab a quick one-game lead tonight when they win and the Mets lose again. Then both teams win the next game. And then the Phillies, who simply can't do anything easily, lose the last game of the season while the Mets win, tying everything up again and forcing a one-game playoff.
This do-or-die playoff game will be a classic pitchers' duel (because both teams' pitching sucks and that's how irony works) and go to the 12th inning tied 1--1. At which point Pat Burrell (who else?) will hit a two-out, walk-off home run, and the headline in the New York Post the next day will read, CHOKE'S ON THEM! in 105-point type.
But I won't read the story. Instead, I will Google old news reports of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and relive Mookie's classic at-bat, and breathe the relieved sigh of someone who has mailed that last check to MasterCard, or that final student-loan payment, and can move on with his life, debt-free.