Uncanny 2018 Wormhole Shit

946646630

The Mets are 12-2 now, as the great Bright/Kauffman/Crane swung low in the zone, and propelled a ninth inning walk-off, arms extended. High Flying! How you doin?

But I want to talk about the image above, because it fascinates and repels me in an Alex DeLarge-type way; in a creepy, dead-eye stare at the Korova Milk Bar-type way. Uncanny valley to the extreme. Unsettling and unnerving; the image wouldn’t stop creeping around a corner in my mind, won’t stop hovering above me silently as I try to sleep. Like I’m standing in my kitchen and the lights have just flashed and William Friedkin has spliced in a face over the stove hood.

Seriously, what the fuck is going on in this picture?

Couple of things. First, the faces directly behind Wilmer seem to be lit differently, more naturally; as if they are actually standing in an outdoor stadium at four o’clock on an overcast early spring day. Whereas Wilmer’s face is….not? Not lit the same way at all. Wilmer’s face appears to be lit from the side, unnaturally lit.

Second, notice Wilmer’s eyes. Notice his eyes in relation to his body. He’s high-fiving someone to his right, touching hands with this person, only he’s not looking at this person at all. He’s looking straight ahead, dead-eye-staring in the distance.

Not to mention there’s a strange arm that appears to belong to no one reaching across his body. And his neck seems to be farther above his shoulders than realistically possible.

The whole thing has a great high-contrast, deep-shadow vibe that initially attracted me; reminded me of older baseball photos shot on film. But this photo is strange, man. Some other-worldly stuff is happening here. Perhaps it’s 2015 vibes forcing themselves into the conversation, like they travelled through a wormhole and tried to make us think they were 2018 vibes but they got some shit wrong. Some shit that just doesn’t feel right. Uncanny valley shit.

2015 vibes

2015 vibes all over the place right now.

2015 somehow felt like the worst Mets season and the best Mets season simultaneously. There was a wire-tensed electric current running through it, underground ley lines linking one month to the next. Cave walls found in the outskirts of a small town near the Cape of Good Hope bore the ancient scrawl: “Flores, 2-for-4”.

I remember the night I thought “this is the worst Mets season I’ve ever experienced.” It was the night that Kershaw almost threw a perfect game against them. Everyone was saying before the game that the Mets would be lucky to even smell a hit against Kershaw, and they were almost right. My brother and I took a drive through the late evening sun to the local sporting goods store, with the broadcast sort of half-on in the car, and then sort of half-followed on the Twitter feed while we wandered around the place. I remember the setting orange sunlight coming through the big front windows, and I had that thought. “This is the worst Mets season ever”.

It got better from there.

***

There’s too much about 2015 that feels pointless to talk about now. Flores. Cespedes. Murph. Tejada. Neon sleeves. Wright’s slow-mo fist pump. The Washington sweeps that bookended perhaps the most exhilarating month in the team’s history (hyperbole!). All these and more moments that seemed to constantly burst the red seams of some metaphoric baseball (except in this case it’s not really a metaphor).

There were moments where I truly thought the team had transcended their physical bodies, playing in some hyper-reality. Some other-world that alternated between sun-soaked daylight and bright HID-lit nights. This wasn’t our reality. This was 2015 reality.

What 2015 was really about, in my mind, were the players who had been there forever, with the losing teams and the empty stadium and constant feeling that they were not ‘championship-caliber’. These were not the players that would be on the team when it finally found itself winning again.  Murphy? Tejada? Duda? Nieuwenhuis? Eric Campbell? Jon Niese? They were biding time on the roster until space was cleared for the Keith Hernandez’s, the Edgardo Alfonzo’s, the Buddy Harrelson’s. Winning players. But somehow all had found themselves in the middle of a pennant race.

I’m sure every time a team starts winning after years of losing there are always a handful of players left over from said losing seasons, contributing, making big plays, getting a hit or two in the clutch. When Nieuwenhuis hit that tie-breaking blast off Papelbon in DC I think every unlucky player who ever found themselves suddenly helping a winning team probably looked up wherever they were, stopping whatever they were doing, with a goose-pimply feeling rippling down their arms, somehow knowing it had happened again.

***

I think 2015 ended up being a very singular season for me, and most Mets fans. I think if they had pulled it off, it would have felt right to put it up there with ‘69 and ‘86.

When I say “put it up there”, I mean have it sit next to those other two championships in the history books. I think it would have felt ok to put it there. Notice I’m saying “I think”.

Why do I even care about this? Why can’t I just enjoy my team’s success? I notice it happening this year too. They’re off to an 11-1 start and I’m half-worried about whether or not it ‘feels’ as good as their past winning seasons. What’s the deal? Do other fans think this?

 

Appropriation & #justgettinstarted

merlin_136679517_61e0bfa1-b072-4f31-afd7-27a6e245f8e5-master768.jpg

Appropriation is cool, isn’t it?

I found this picture online last night and thought it would be fun to talk about. First off, this thing has compelling composition: our friends Amed Rosario and Juan Lagares draw the eye up while at the same time our friend Michael Conforto draws our eye away – towards the left of the frame – as he walks away from the jumping dudes, creating a nice contrast to the whole thing. Second, our friends Mr. Rosario and Mr. Lagares are overlapping with the Marlins inane #justgettinstarted, which is actually based on a song by someone named Poo Bear (?) with a feature by DJ Khaled, Nicky Jam, and Kent Jones, meant to drum up some excitement for a rebuilding Marlins team. Whatever. Font is cool though. This overlapping juxtaposition between the Mets’ success and the #justgettinstarted logo is what I want to talk about.

Artists like Rauschenberg and Warhol appropriated all the time, taking objects thought up by other people, twisting them slightly to make them their own. To me, this is when art became officially Modern, capital M. An art history major would probably disagree with me, but when Duchamp walked into the Society of Independent Artists salon in 1917 and kluncked this thing down on the table…..

Duchamp_Fountaine.jpg

…you can’t deny that we had just been dragged screaming and leg-kicking into the 20th century.

Now, this “Jumping Dudes” photo isn’t appropriation exactly, because the Mets have not taken the #justgettinstarted and called it their own. We as fans haven’t done this either. But this photo is an art-piece because it has taken two images and juxtaposed them to create new meaning. Much like the Endy Chavez “the strength to be there” catch from 2006, this photo has come to mean something else. The Metsies are 9-1, winning like every day. They have the confidence and poise that comes along with winning. Things are going pretty well, and it feels like it can’t get any better than this, right? Ah, but according to this image, they’re #justgettinstarted. Keep watching, baby. There’s more to come, it says.

 

***

 

This is like a flat, emotionless, dream-state of a season so far. Maybe because I spent the first week in Italy? I don’t feel anything like I suppose I should for a team that is 9-1. Perhaps it’s “other-shoe-to-drop-itis”, preventing me from feeling full-on euphoria. It’s also only April 11th. 9-1 is super, but 1st place in June with a 6 game lead would be better. Flatliners need to wake me up here before I end up realizing I never appreciated this wealth and good fortune. Why can’t I appreciate this? I told myself after 2015 and then after the struggles of 2016 and 17 that winning is a state you visit, not live in. And try to enjoy your trip while you’re there. What kind of fan truly appreciates their team’s success in the moment? None here, I dare say. 

There’s all different kinds of Mets fans, just like there’s all different kinds of people. But I would guess a lot of them have seen too much heartbreak to truly feel secure with 9-1. First place in June with a 6 game lead? We’ll revisit.

The Roadways of Italia & The Conforto Sixth Sense

The roadways spiral out here in Italia, through majestic and lumpy (is that even a thing?) hills that could be described as rolling, but these hills don’t seem to follow a pattern that one associates with rhythmic rolling at all. They seem to run their own wayward course, jutting up in different shades of amber, stretching out the horizon line left and right, up and down, creating a kind of patchworked, overlapping y, x and z-axis all at the same time.

Every now and then one will catch sight of a villa or a cottage tucked inside one of these hills, like a tiny bug you notice on the wallpaper. But looking closer, these structures hold beauty in them as well. Glimpses of terracotta orange and brown if you squint quickly before it gets too far away. Lines of cypress trees guarding the exterior, long driveways and metal gates with tiny postes and oh well it’s too far away now…

These roadways have been here longer than any in the world. The Autostrada was first conceived and built by a dude named Piero Puricelli in the ’20s. It’s first iteration spanned from Milan to Varese, and he cut the inaugural tape while sitting in an 8-cylinder Lancia Trikappa with a poet (?!) named Gabriele D’Annunzio.

Several thoughts here. First one: Lancia Trikappa’s were really freaking cool, but how can you sell a car with the name Lancia Trikappa?

Second thought: This was the start of the entire highway system as we know it. This road would multiply into more roads – the Firenze-Mare Roadway, the Birgamo-Milan Roadway, the Pompeii Roadway, and by the 70s Italia’s map was spider-veined with freeways. The rest of the world had caught up by then, but who cares? Autostrada is where it’s at baby.

Let me know what you think next time you’re zipping past those amber patches and jutted-out mounds, when you’re snaking through an almost too-low tunnel and your vision pinholes for a few seconds, even maybe a minute, and the blackness takes over. Then you turn a darkened corner and suddenly the blackness evaporates, and there you are again in the unreal sunshine, spiraling through those hills both majestic and lumpy.

***

When Michael Conforto swings the bat now I hold my breath, because of reasons too depressing to type so I’ll just link it. Even over here in Italia, while I’m exploring sun-soaked spots like this one….

IMG_20180406_145550

…there is a sixth sense in me somewhere that cringes out of reflex, wincing with an unholy kind of dread. Chris MacNeil in the attic trying to find where that weird sound is coming from kind of dread. For every time Conforto unlocks the bat and creates force into the air I worry about his danged shoulder.

It’s only been one game – and what a game it was – but as Mets fans go I am hesitant to stare at Mr. Conforto from now until eternity (or at least until something worse happens to someone else) without waiting for the other shoe to drop. That bizarre silence after he fell to the ground in a heap. I don’t wanna hear that kind of silence again.

Allora! Things come, things go! Mets are 5-1, best start since 2006. Good things happened that year, no?

 

An Ode to the MLB Condensed Games

Just a word or two on the Condensed Games that Major League Baseball uploads to Youtube every day. Turns out they’ve been around since 2011 or so, but I’ve only known about them since 2015. Anyway, they have become one of my favorite time fillers – for reasons I shall now explain:

  • They only show the pitches that result in a play in the field or an out in an inning. So thusly they move fast. And something is always happening. (Then again I’m a believer in the idea that something is always happening in a regular full-coverage 3 or 4 hour game also. Whatevs)
  • They use the sounds of the game: crowd noise, balls smacking against bats, gloves smacking closed, cleats crunching the dirt, and inaudible yurps from players and umpires and coaches. But they do not use the play-by-play, obviously, because it would sound very weird and annoying to hear half-snippets of a Gary Cohen narration (as lovely as it is) being chopped up every 2 and half seconds. I assume they use the audio track from the field, and simply mute the announcing track…but how does the crowd noise always stay consistent? They are cutting to the next play every 2 seconds, which means they have eliminated minutes of time, yet the crowd doesn’t skip a beat. Maybe someone is literally sitting there putting an audio fade from one cut to the next as they edit together the thing in an MLB broom closet somewhere. Come to think of it that doesn’t sound like too terrible a job.
  • It is very democratic. Because they use only the sounds from the field, there are no loud or special calls for homeruns or big strikeouts. The routine fly ball is given the same respect as the three-run homer. The only difference is the crowd noise, which increases when something big happens. It creates an odd serenity to the experience, akin to being at the game itself. This is, I think, what I like about it the most.

***

Mets just took two games from the Phillies, and both seemed like they were played in a strangely dark and empty wind tunnel. Watching the Facebook feed on Wednesday night I could see light faintly reflected off the sides of this metaphoric wind tunnel, every now and then illuminating the players with a yellowish glow. April baseball in the Northeast is fun.