For nearly a decade, October has strictly been about planning my Halloween costume, carving pumpkins and getting sweet new flannels. It has been about watching the NFL take shape, waiting for the NBA to get going and continuing to ignore hockey.
For nearly a decade, baseball has not been on my radar.
I am a New York Mets fan. This year, it has all changed.
I will not rehash the whole Mets season. I have done that in this column space and in other articles already. What I will say is this.
Stretch run baseball, these nail biting, heart pounding, “I’m-going-to-rip-all-my-hair-out” type games, these games that feel like an anxiety attack every half inning, is the best sports has to offer.
Damn, I missed this.
The Mets clinched the National League East on Saturday afternoon behind a strong starting effort from beleaguered ace Matt Harvey and a grand slam from streaky Lucas Duda. They got home runs from Curtis Granderson and David Wright on the way.
The real fun started just after closer Jeurys Familia struck out Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce to end the game. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud pumped his fist and ran out to the mound, joined seconds afterward by the whole team. The Amazin’s went bonkers on the field for a few moments before collecting themselves for their usual handshake line.
The party then spread to the clubhouse, where the team waiting for Wright, their captain, to conclude his postgame interviews. When Wright arrived, the champagne and beer was popped and sprayed and dumped on every member of the club.
For nearly a decade, I have watched dozens of teams go through this ritual. It always looks fun.
Every year, the same beats are followed.
The manager is in the middle of the room, giving a final “you guys did all the work, you guys get all the credit” type of victory speech. You know what happens, some bench scrub cuts off the coach midway and empties a bottle of Moet on his head.
We see the TV beat reporter conduct interviews as they are getting drenched in the onslaught. A box of cigars is opened and emptied within seconds.
Smiles are everywhere. The relief of a long hard season comes to a fitting end.
For nearly a decade, I have watched this scene play out and wished and prayed I would actually have a reason to see it.
For nearly a decade, the Mets let me down.
On Saturday, after a six month long rollercoaster ride, the Mets finally pulled in safely.
For the first time in nearly a decade, nine years to be exact, the New York Mets won the National League East.
I was 12 years old in 2006. I watched the clincher against the then Florida Marlins. I saw David Wright and Jose Reyes have their arms wrapped around each other, soaked in champagne, cigars between their lips and a glint in their eyes that saw a decade of hope, prosperity and winning ahead.
I did not appreciate the gravity of the moment. I did not quite know what it meant.
On Saturday, SNY kept the camera in the Mets clubhouse for nearly an hour uninterrupted. We got to hear speeches from Terry Collins, interviews with all the relevant pieces, we saw Yoenis Cespedes smoke a cigar like the Cuban boss he is. We saw Matt Harvey give the answers all Met fans have ever wanted. We heard David Wright say what we always knew.
“I bleed orange and blue.”
The Mets are headed to the playoffs.
I will not ever forget this one.