Can't see nothin' in front of me
Can't see nothing coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I've gone
How far I've gone, how high I've climbed
On my back's a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line
As usual Springsteen pretty much nails my Mets state of mind except that Fred & Jeff weight closer to six hundred than sixty pounds. But being old enough to have heard parts of the '69 Miracle on a transistor radio smuggled under a pillow - this ain't my first or darkest Mets rodeo.
In the early 80's at Northwestern, there were afternoon classes to be skipped every time the 65-68 win Mets came to pre-lights Wrigley Field. Lousy baseball? Yep but El fare from Evanston, a bleacher seat in an empty stadium and a beverage could be had for six bucks. Between Wrigley and The River tour, I took my share of classes pass/fail.
By '93 the rush of '86 was long gone but I still burned way too much gas seeking a place that could hold a 250-mile away WFAN signal chronicling the Worst Team Money Could Buy. Ten years later I'd graduated to DirectTV just in time to catch a battered Mike Piazza limp along with the 66 win Metropolitans.
Now we're back in the darkness and everything but Tarot Cards are being consulted to calculate a timetable for the next banner-hoisting.
But as I look back at 43 years of blue and orange fever I realize my favorite years weren't always when we won the seasons final game.
Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight
Just a boy in 1969 my fandom was simple and pure but 1986 was another matter. I understood stuff. I knew all about expectations - both in life and on the baseball field. The crushing expectations of 1986 squeezed a whole lot of joy from the championship run. The Houston series was great drama but I sure wouldn't call it fun. It felt more like a slow motion march to disappointment. And finally when we prevailed I'd barely caught my breath when we were down 2-0 and headed to Fenway . . . and Game Six . . . it felt like my head was in a vise for 3 weeks. The final triumph was in some ways worth it but it was more agony than ecstasy.
Well finally to my point.
My favorite seasons have been The Rising. The first light of dawn after the long cold darkness.
Seeing Keith Hernandez embrace his general's stripes while leading the '84 Mets to 90 wins - a TWENTY-TWO game improvement from the year before! Shea rocked for the first time in a long time. So long we'd forgotten it could sway. After seven seasons of last & next to last finishes the future was worth taking seriously. Not only were young arms like Darling and Terrell ours but Straw solidified himself as a can't miss AB AND we had a new Doc who could cure all our ills! I made my family sprint from the car to ticket window to get walk up tickets to a Doc start before they sold out . . . on a Wednesday afternoon!
He came from nowhere. And so did the excitement. We outdrew the Yankees. We were used to being trampled, held no hope it would change but we hung around because we loved baseball. And our reward was being given 162 games worth of house money - we didn't know we could be happier - we were IN THE MOMENT. Nothin' in front of us, Nothing comin' up behind.
'86 was amazing but it was also something else we didn't realize at the time. The end of innocence. The following years saw a gifted club that was harder to appreciate unless they won the final game of the season. And they didn't. They partied (who wouldn't). They played as hard off the field as on the field. They may not have rested on their laurels but those laurels grew brittle and sharp.
Those same feelings of joy are nearly identical to what I felt in 2005. Watching Jose & DW was like playing with a new puppy for the first time. We didn't know all their moves yet, sometimes they'd be awkward, usually they'd make your jaw drop and either way they'd exude joy. Remember the FIRST time you heard the Jose-Jose song? Pedro for a brief shining moment being the type of ace we hadn't seen since the good doctor? Shea was new again. The only time I thought of Vince Coleman was when I brought a thermos to an early April game. Energy, hope and innocence were back. It was like the walk home after that really great first date that went 'till three am. She was perfect and so was the future.
Did anyone have their head down on the last day of the 2005 season?
How about 12-1/2 months later?
I've got my own countdown clock but it's not to a championship. Don't get me wrong, I want more of those but that's an entirely different type of joy. My countdown is to the next Rising. It'll come. Maybe not soon enough. But when it does it will be pure in a way you can't really remember unless you're in the middle of it. But deep down I've got enough of the memory in my Mets DNA to keep me going when I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me.
Keep the faith. Someday, hopefully soon we shall be released.