I carefully pick up a neon-orange shirt, purchased and worn for a proposed "Orange Citi" rally that went bust in my trip to Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. It was the night Matt Harvey was shaky, and the CitiField faithful rained a symphony of "boos" and "fuck yous" down on Chase Utley during the pregame introductions. Utley's cheap slide-tackle on home-grown Ruben Tejada in Game 2, along with his Philadelphia Phillies roots, made him public enemy number one on that warm night in Flushing. As the Mets went on to slaughter the Dodgers 13-7, the boos evolved into an eerie "We-Want-Utley" chant. Ya gotta love creative New York fan heckling.
It was an evening I'll never forget. I went to the first postseason game in what I hope will be many in the history of CitiField, and I got to share it with one of my closest friends from the neighborhood. Matty Boy doesn't get out much anymore. He has a beautiful family of his own, along with a mortgage, and the days of partying with me till 4am are long behind him. While I'm still doing the bachelor thing at 31, he chose a different path. Yet on that night, with Mets playoff baseball before us, just like every Opening Day we've attended since 2010, Matty and I picked up right where we left off. He hung up his barfly cleats years ago, but was let off the hook on the eve of his 31st birthday to catch a ballgame with his old pal Chris. We talked about family, life, and adulthood, while our beloved New York Metropolitans took a 2-1 series lead.
So back to this shirt -- this bright-ass orange shirt. Game 5 of the NLDS was just a couple of hours away. The Dodgers had taken one back from New York in Game 4, anchored by an uncharacteristically clutch performance by Clayton Kershaw. Elimination game. Tensions were high. I couldn't focus on anything all day.
Is this what Yankee fans deal with every year? I can't handle this fucking stress! THIS ISN'T FUN!!!
I figured since I purchased this shirt for Game 3 and they won in such dominating fashion, coupled with the fact that I had an amazing night with close friend to boot, I had to wear it. No one will notice that it wreaks of stray beer and phantom smoke from the sausage and peppers stand, right?
I pop the shirt on. This is my game shirt. They can't lose if I wear this shirt.
I head over to my old roommate's new apartment in Hoboken. I spent the previous year living with a couple, Mango and Jaime, sharing a many of nights watching Mets baseball, along with Giants football, Rangers hockey, and putrid Knicks basketball. We dispersed after the lease was up in August, and I haven't seen them much since. Life has been hectic, for all parties.
I arrive, wearing my stinky bright-ass Orange shirt. I give my round of hugs, load the fridge with beers, and plop down on the couch I used to call my own. A couch that served as the replacement for the bed I didn't make it to on countless nights. A couch where we watched the Rangers crushingly lose game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago. A couch were we spent Sunday after Sunday eating bagels from Leo's in the Financial District while dissecting the previous night's episode of Saturday Night Live. A couch where we watched the Mad Men era come to an end, and Kimmy Schmidt emerge from her bunker. A couch where we bonded, ate together, and grew together.
Six weeks removed from seeing each other every day, the former roommates and I picked up right where we left off, just as Matty Boy and I did. They broke my balls about poor decisions made, past and present. We quoted Ray Donovan (actually, Ray Donovan's wife). We laughed and busted balls. It was we did for a whole year, and it's what we did that night.
In the swell of catching up, the subject of Dad's came up. Oh, shit. When was the last time I called my Dad?!? I got on the horn right away. After a ring and a half, as if he were waiting all day for the call, the Old Man picked up. We gushed about the thrill of the postseason. We commiserated about the stress of it all -- whether is was freakin' worth all these gray hairs I've been growing. He passed the phone around to the family, each of us exchanging a "Let's Go Mets" in lieu of "I Love You" for just this night. I hung up just in time for Zack Greinke's first pitch.
The Mets won that night, thanks to a bulldog performance by Jacob deGrom and the modern day Lou Gerhig that's become of Daniel Murphy. We screamed for joy. Joyous and loud enough for his neighbor to come a knockin', informing us that "this isn't a fraternity house".
It would have been just any other Thursday for me. Maybe I would have set up a Tinder date that went mediocre at best. Maybe I would have caught a flick, or grabbed a six-pack and found a new TV show to binge. That Monday night I spent at the NLDS with Matty Boy would have been just another night on the door, fighting with cabbies, spitting my frustration of just how fucking useless this degree I worked so hard for has been.
But they weren't just any other nights. The Mets are in the playoffs, and I'm sharing and loving every second of it with the people closest to me. I'm headed to Game 4 of the World Series with my brother on Saturday. The last time him and I were in attendance during a World Series game, we had to watch the hated cross-town rival Yankees celebrate on the Shea Stadium infield after Mike Piazza's sure-thing home run died in the autumn air. Fifteen years later, we're back, back in the New York Groove.
Tonight is Game 1. The shirt I picked out? It's blue, with the outline of New York state, and a Mets logo inside. I, along with every fan in attendance, received it during a free-shirt Friday promotion at CitiField on July 31st of this year -- hours after the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes and turned their season around. Wilmer Flores was the hero that night, smashing a walk-off home run into the left field bleachers in the bottom of the 12th. This came just two days after tearfully leaving his heart on the field after learning he'd been a piece in a trade that eventually would never happen. Since then it's been tears of joy for Wilmer and the Mets.
That night was my 31st birthday celebration, and again, I shared the turnaround game of the season with the people closest to me. It's a night I'll never forget.
So they can't lose if I wear this shirt, right?!?