seen online via Hulu
So Hurricane Irene has come and gone and my neighborhood, at least, doesn't seem to be too devastated. The city actually shut down mass transit, and from looking at the pictures of the damage, that was absolutely the right thing to do. I distinctly remember one year in the late 90s, being caught on Broadway in Herald Square as a hurricane blew through Manhattan. Now that was scary - looking around, seeing only scattered people here and there running for shelter, Macy's and all the other stores and restaurants closed in the middle of the day. I'll never forget it. I'll be grateful when the transit system resumes a semblance of normalcy. A lot of people are working hard at making that happen, and as far as I'm concerned, they're heroes. Moving onward...
There's a wonderful Peanuts cartoon in which Linus is watching the finish of an exciting football game, and after it's over he tells Charlie Brown about it. He describes how the home team was losing by only a few points with seconds left, and the quarterback made a brilliant pass or something and the home team scored a touchdown and won the game, and the crowd went delirious and the players started piling on top of each other in the end zone and everyone was dancing and cheering and it was the Greatest Game Ever. Charlie Brown, being Charlie Brown, just looks at Linus and asks, "How did the other team feel?"
As thrilling as the 1986 World Series was for me, the absolute improbability of it - my Mets coming back from within a single strike of losing the series in six games to winning in seven - I can't deny that among the many images from that miraculous sixth game indelibly imprinted on my brain are that of the Red Sox in their dugout, sitting in stunned disbelief, some of them even crying. And if it was that rough for them, imagine how bad it was for their fans, being subjected yet again to another bitter Red Sox defeat that prevented them, again, from winning a Series, something they had not done to that point in almost 70 years.
Anyone who has been a sports fan for any length of time knows the feeling sooner or later - not just defeat, but defeat in a championship game. Missing out on getting in the record books, to become immortal. Mets fans knew the feeling the year before, in 1985, when the division title came down to the final three games of the season against the hated Cardinals and our side came up short. That was a bitter loss, to be sure, but Red Sox fans, for generations, knew loss on a truly epic scale. I would imagine that messes with your head a little bit after awhile.
That feeling is expressed in Game 6, a movie I found on Hulu last week while idly searching through it. I'm surprised I hadn't heard of this movie; had I known about it, I would've gone to see it opening day. Michael Keaton plays Nicky, a playwright and a Red Sox fan, whose new play opens the same night as Game 6 of the '86 Series. He's not conflicted about it, though, at least not at first, because even though the Sox are winning, he's convinced the Sox will lose, because they always find a way to lose. Over the course of the day, however, between worrying about his play and his crumbling marriage and the game, his attitude changes. Keaton is very good, as is the rest of the cast (Robert Downey Jr., Griffin Dunne, Bebe Neuwirth, Catherine O'Hara), but I wasn't completely convinced of the parallels the movie tried to make between baseball and life. And the ending was a little too convenient.
I don't follow baseball as closely as I used to anymore. Personally, I don't think any sense of devotion to a sport can match the sense one has as a child, when all things are new and anything is possible. I've said it here before, but it's absolutely true: the '86 Series was a defining moment in my childhood, for so many reasons: the connection with my father; living where I did, so close to Shea Stadium; dreaming about being a ballplayer; days playing ball in Flushing Meadow Park with my best friend and his younger brothers. I already felt deeply connected with baseball in general and the Mets in particular, and to see them not only go the distance and win, but to win in so dramatic a fashion - the cliche is true; if Game 6 was a screenplay, it'd never get filmed because no one would believe it - it was like an affirmation of everything in my short life that meant anything to me: my family, my friends, my neighborhood.
As for the Red Sox, well, they too, would eventually get a happy ending when they finally broke the curse and won the Series in 2004, in an equally dramatic, equally improbable postseason march. So if baseball teaches us anything, it's that time has a way of evening most things out. (Unless you're the Cubs.)
Eight Men Out