Murky!

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A murky cavernous atmosphere seems to exist in “April Northeast Baseball” or “ANB”. I wrote earlier that it reminds me of a wind tunnel, a sort of dark, spiraling tube that maybe a group of scientists and military dudes would carry heavy backpacks through, expecting to be transported to another time or place.

The murkiness can sometimes bleed out in all directions, with the players swinging a tad early or late, or hitting balls directly at opposing fielders. With the murkiness being front and center, it is easy to look at two-game losing streaks as perhaps the wind tunnel collapsing; the cavernous tube getting smaller as the scientists and military dudes get farther inside.

CitiField is criss-crossed with deep and billowy shadows in The ANB. The TV casts a blue pall. Why is The ANB always blue?

Comeback-capping grand slams make the murkiness more palatable. Especially weird high-ball-chopping-Cespedes grand slams. What was the deal with that swing? It was a captivating athletic moment in an already captivating ballgame. Cespedes seemed to somehow drag the bat through the air in slow motion and fast motion simultaneously.

I think the swing ripped a hole inside the wind tunnel, upending gravity for the scientists and military dudes. Their backpacks and gear jarred loose in the whirling scrum.

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?

 

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….

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…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?