Monday, March 31, 2008

Starting Over

For a ballplayer, the year doesn't end on December 31, but in October. It doesn't begin on January 1, but in April. Next April. Whether we like it or not, the season defines our lives.

-Keith Hernandez
from "If At First..."

I guess some of you might look at the header today and think of the classic 1979 movie with Burt Reynolds and Candice Bergen. In the movie, Reynolds is embroiled in some degree of internal conflict. He'd rather love his new girlfriend (Jill Clayburgh), but can't seem to get his mind past his ex-wife (Bergen), and her attempts to somehow win him back (resulting in Bergen caterwauling for a few minutes in a wholly scarring scene). The movie handles Reynolds' plight with light humor, despite it being a situation that isn't so funny if you happen to go through it yourself.

It seemed to be a similar conflict to one I had at the end of the 2007 Baseball season.

I had, throughout much of the 2007 season, been romantically involved with a woman. The relationship had actually developed during the latter part of the 2006 season, but that's neither here nor there at this point. She wasn't a Mets fan; in fact she wasn't much of a baseball fan, though she did profess an allegiance to the Red Sox since she was from Boston (although she did say she would root for the Mets unless they played the Red Sox in the World Series, which was a definite possibility through much of the season). It seemed that, despite some differences we might have had, we were heading in a positive direction. At least, that was certainly how I felt, and she never had indicated anything to the contrary.

Then, for no particular reason, she suddenly stopped speaking to me. She only e-mailed me after I left a message on her voice mail wondering if she was still alive. This was on August 23rd, after sitting through a rather miserable Mets loss to San Diego. Her message was terse and empty; no real explanation was offered, only repeated apologies. I wrote back, said my peace, and that was that. We haven't spoken since.

In September, the Mets collapsed, rather suddenly. Too many empty explanations were offered. The day after that miserable final afternoon, I received an e-mail that read simply, "Message from the Mets." I'm sure we all received it.

Dear Mets Fan:

All of us at the Mets are bitterly disappointed in failing to achieve our collective goal of building upon last year's success. We did not meet our organization's expectations -- or yours. Everyone at Shea feels the same range of emotions as you -- our loyal fans -- and we know we have let you down. We wanted to thank you for your record-breaking support of our team this year.

Equally important, Ownership will continue its commitment in providing the resources necessary to field a championship team. Omar will be meeting with Ownership shortly to present his plan on addressing our shortcomings so that we can achieve our goal of winning championships in 2008 and beyond.

You deserve better results.

Many thanks again for your re
cord-breaking support.


The first, last and only thing that went through my mind when I read the e-mail was that it was basically the same damn thing my ex-girlfriend had written to me a month earlier. As if this was going to somehow make me, us, feel better after everything that had happened.

When Keith says that the season defines our lives, it's not just for the players. Sometimes, it's for the fans as well. Yes, many of us go on with our regular, day-to-day lives. We carry on as if nothing has happened. But we carry the season with us. And for the past 6 months, we've had to carry the outcome of those final 17 games on our shoulders. The calendar says 2007 ended on December 31. I was still carrying around the bad feelings, from the Mets, and from my Ex. In New York, Baseball season never really ends. There's just an interim period between games. In that interim, we waited for something to happen. Some sort of sign that this team was actually trying to give us the results they told us we deserved. For most of the winter, it seemed like this promise that Omar and the "Ownership" was nothing but empty words. It wasn't until January 29th that hope finally re-emerged.

Hope coming in the form of this afternoon's starting pitcher.

See, unlike my Ex, the Mets always get back to me. Unlike Burt Reynolds, we always take them back. It's a relationship that is always cathartic, abusive and sometimes beautifully tragic. More often then not, they usually drive me to drink or do things like yell at nuns. But I can't ever turn them away. So for me, Opening Day is about wiping the slate clean on all fronts. Don't forget about last year, but don't continue to be ruled by it.

Today is New Year's Day for Keith Hernandez and the rest of us. Ready to wipe the slate clean and move forward, with a keen eye to the past, and how it can't ever happen again. There's a new attitude, a team that understands its responsibility and knows what it needs to do. They're not going to forget about last year, either.


1 comment:

Stephen Mejias said...

Excellent post. Let's go Mets!