Monday, August 14, 2006

I Love the Now

Games 114 through 116 – Mets

Nationals 2, Mets 1
Mets 6, Nationals 4
Mets 3, Nationals 1
Record: 71-45

Once a summer, anywhere between a dozen and two dozen maniacs pack up vehicles and embark upon a pilgrimage of varying length to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for an angling extravaganza. For many, the trip can be 5+ hours in the car with chances for traffic-related delays at every turn to take that number irritatingly higher. With a guarantee of fun waiting at the end of the ride, it’s easy to lament the journey as a necessary evil and the destination as the more-than-worth-it goal; the mere image of long legs folded up and stowed in mid-size sedans, crawling along Interstate 95 versus those same legs stretched out, lounging in the sun on the breezy deck by the cooler – it’s an obvious dichotomy.

That said, what many among the troupe have come to see by this, the thirteenth year of the excursion, is that while – make no mistake – it’s all about the destination, not the journey, the trip down can actually be a weekend highlight. While the sprint that some have made it for purposes of bed acquisition and beach maximization is arguably prudent, it makes for plenty of teeth-gnashing in the premier chapter of an otherwise entirely enjoyable three or four days.

Meanwhile, more and more of the dudes have taken steps to kick the annual jaunt off properly, enhancing an otherwise mundane passage with the proper preparation: assembling a worthy group, choosing the wisest vehicle, packing a robust cooler, stopping en route at the finest eateries, and making a path direct in route but meandering in spirit as the miles fly by. It’s a difference noted easily in faces as they arrive, either visages of angst requiring a period of cool-down, or hearty grins that indicate the party started somewhere in Stafford County. They took the same roads, but chose different avenues (though this partly profanes Frost’s poem, it does preserve his point), and that has made all the difference.

It occurs to me at this late juncture, with the three-quarter mark nearing, that I’ve spent too much of this season fixated on the destination without enjoying this journey quite enough. Consumed with staving off jinxes, refusing premature celebration so as not to lose face later, trying like hell to maintain a healthy perspective – these are all prudent, but they leave me feeling like this ride could be a lot more fun. Players need to keep their eyes on the prize and bear down, but fans? Hey, we’re paying them to worry about it, we’re just here for the beer, the dogs, and the good seats, so I should kick back more.

As fans go year to year from grumbling about their cellar-dwellers to urging on their contenders, instinctive forces take over. Cynicism can become iron-clad within a few years, and it takes some real success and a little bit of time to wear it away. Cockiness appears in only the most casual of fans; having looked up with disdain at arrogant fans atop the standings, we’re now too proud to go that route. In addition, an appreciation for the club’s newly prestigious position makes us cling to its presence and pray for its persistence. In doing so, we (only the most lunatic, idiotic fans) are thrilled for the progress but remain altogether engrossed in reaching those lofty heights when the view even this high above sea level is something to behold. To invert the advice Rob gave his club last week, stop thinking about tomorrow – if only to revel in the moment.

In short, “stopping to smell the roses” isn’t a metaphor whose utterance would go over very well on the fishing trip, yet it’s a piece of advice frequently adhered to by its participants. My life is rife with examples of how I’ve followed the adage to a tee, so why I wouldn’t with the 2006 New York Mets is puzzling to me. This team is kicking some serious ass, so I’ll try to dispense with talking around that fact and bask in a warmth that I know full well can be fleeting.

“Mets Fan, Mets Fan, you have no complaints,
You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t,
So listen up, buster, and listen up good,
Quit wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood.
Dear Abby”

--John Prine

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