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, where, just after 7:11 p.m., a right-handed New York Mets pitcher named Dillon Gee delivered the first pitch of that night‘s game to Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who bunted it foul. The Braves were at Citi Field for a four-game stand against their historic rivals the Mets, whose record stood at forty-three wins and fifty-two losses, putting them in fourth place in their division, eleven games behind the Braves. I was at Citi Field to begin an extended personal experiment in observation, meditation, and expression; I wanted to see what it would be like to watch every pitch, every at-bat, every inning, of an entire series, and to write about the experience, at length, and with perfect freedom. I thought that in the process I might learn something new—about baseball, about the Mets, about New York City, about myself—and this turned out to be true, although not in the way I expected. So here I was, sitting seventeen rows back, just to the left of home plate, by myself, watching as the burly Gee battled Simmons through a long series of foul balls, finally inducing the slender speedster to ground harmlessly to second. Although I am an American Leaguer at heart, I have been to dozens of Mets games over the years, but never before had I sat this close to the action. It was an experience I was quickly coming to find bizarre, not to mention pregnant with all kinds of complex subtextual meanings. To get to the rich-people seats, I had to present my ticket to a gantlet of uniformed minions, whose authority delivered me, via a series of escalators and hallways, into a capacious indoor lounge space giving out onto the lowest tranche of box seats, with home plate and the field just beyond. This, apparently, was the ―Delta Sky360 Lounge,‖ and indeed there was something of the air of the first-class airport lounge about the place, a grim purposefulness, a sense of enforced exclusivity and faux luxury. There was a glass-lighted bar, clusters of tables, low, curving padded chairs; some kind of highly synthesized R&B music was blasting. It was like a Midwestern marketing executive‘s idea of a hip urban lounge, exemplifying that advanced stage of super-consumerism described by Jean Baudrillard where ―needs are not so much directed at objects, but at values, and the satisfaction of needs primarily expresses an adherence to these values.‖ It seemed to me a very contemporary kind of perversity that would take something as
organic and essentially communitarian as a baseball game and force it to resemble an airport, which by definition is anomic, transient, and anonymous. On the subway ride out I had prepped for the game by picking up a copy of the New York Daily News at my bodega on Third Avenue and 29th Street. I thought I recalled hearing someone lauding the News’s sports coverage—the Times, presumably, having more important things to spill ink over—and so I decided that it should be my newspaper of choice for the duration of the home stand. The late Stephen Jay Gould once wrote: ―Baseball is not just an occasional three hours at the ballpark. Baseball, through its many months and 162 games, is going to the corner store every morning, buying the paper and a cup of coffee, exchanging a few words with Tom the proprietor about last night‘s game, and then spending ten minutes at home with the box scores.‖ Well, my proprietor is a Korean man named Bruce, but I wanted to honor this older, slower way of doing things at least for the stretch of these four days. The Daily News, of course, is a thoroughly crummy newspaper, but the sports pages did indeed turn out to be better, with a tabloid jauntiness, sharper and meaner and funnier. I finished with them and, bored, began flipping through the rest of the headlines: ―Rocking Out: Oasis Wife Flees Scandal, Takes Kids to Fla. Fun Park‖; ―Trash Fiend Slays Meter-maid Lover, Puts Body in Can: Cops.‖ Mike Lupica‘s column was typical falangist lunacy warning us New Yorkers that we are going to miss Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly when they are gone and our throats are being slit in the night by dark-skinned marauders, à la the bad old days. Having navigated the Delta Sky360 Lounge, I found myself, quite suddenly, ushered down a mere few steps to my seats, goggling at the sudden widescreen-like closeness to the field. Despite my wonderment I was disappointed to see that the Braves were wearing their dark blue uniform tops; anything that diverges from the classical virtues of grey road uniforms / white home uniforms is sacrilege to my puritan sensibility. Baseball thrives on visual and aural continuity; that is one of its primary virtues. Nonetheless, I was excited. The novel perspective afforded by this unfamiliar proximity was intoxicating; for one thing, you could really see how the pitches worked. The Braves pitcher Julio Teheran‘s third pitch to Mets third baseman and uber-mensch David Wright was a changeup that completely fooled Wright, whose swing was visibly out in front of the pitch. (―Hitting is timing,‖ the Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn—
— ripped a comebacker that sizzled past the pitcher‘s head and bounced into center field. marked only by the occasional burst of shouting and applause. It was a much different experience than these young men were having. followed a Dad-type-person down and into seats in front of me. by which time Teheran had given way to a hard-throwing lefty named Luis Avilan. Could it be too early to start thinking the unthinkable? No sooner had I typed the words into my smartphone‘s handy ―NotePad‖ application than Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman—whose name always reminds me of Miles Davis. bored silhouette the very emblem of soft. A moment later three sullen. and the bases were suddenly loaded. and then Teheren plunked catcher John Buck. who fielded and threw home for the force. Several of the people around me got up and made their way up the aisle towards the sanctuary of the Delta Sky360 Lounge.‖) In the second inning. I saw in these boys‘ vacant. though. In the meantime.speaking of Braves—is credited with saying. The crowd was suddenly come alive with anxiety and noise. The Braves. In the fourth inning the Mets‘ thickset right fielder and secondbest hitter Marlon Byrd cracked a sinking liner that the onrushing Atlanta outfielder misplayed into a triple.M. suburban entitlement and unearned privilege. Many of the fans stood and applauded for the lost no-hitter. Davis singled on Teheran‘s first pitch. a single. sporting close-cropped hair and gold chains. the crowd falling into a relative torpor. just as Dillon Gee‘s does R. the game stood now in the balance. A light rain began to fall. still not having given up a hit. and the jam was circumvented. The game settled into a crisp pitcher‘s duel. Even baseball—especially baseball—is not exempt from the intricacies and heat of class resentment. Gee then struck out the Atlanta pinch-hitter. slackjawed teenage boys. I thought I detected a slight sense of a stir. the friendly and likable but generally feckless Mets first baseman Ike Davis banked a looping fly to the opposite field—it disappeared from our line of sight—that the Atlanta left fielder couldn‘t get to. I thought about the first time my father took me to Yankee Stadium. On a 2–1 count Braves third-sacker Chris Johnson hit a chopper to Wright. a quick review of the statistics this . I resumed my study of the action. a steal. I was watching the zeros accumulate. but the rallyette died there. The rain started again in earnest in the seventh inning.E. and the Mets were on the board. and a hit batsman. in the summer of 1979. when Gee retired Justin Upton to end the sixth. a nice gesture. ―Pitching is disrupting timing.
As the ninth inning opened the score still stood at 2–1. The rain. angry. many rows of seats. The game came apart quickly: a hit. ragged. the great banks of stands like a circular skyscraper in the night. pitchah!‖ Perhaps distracted by the sociological implications of this. Justin Turner came up to pinch-hit. illuminated by the banks of lights. but the Braves pitcher pounced on it and threw the runner out at second. I looked up at the sky. arching over the players on the brilliantly lighted field. he kept screaming. with a runner on first. who last year had one of the two or three best seasons any reliever has ever had. Kimbrel peers in for the sign bent almost double. ticking off Buck‘s up-flaring glove and rocketing into the net. and then third. People were leaving. the speedy Mets outfielder Eric Young Jr. almost invisible). sour. Wright at bat. a passed ball (the ball. it was all surreally beautiful. and perhaps some liquid enhancement. and then a single to bring in the go-ahead run. are the possessors of a deep and effective bullpen. laid down a bunt. Two pitchouts later.‖ In the eighth. Scattered. When the Mets came up for their last hacks they faced the daunting sight of Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel. Young stole second. ―The air is as wide as the light. shining and empty in the wet night. ―Hey pitchah! Could ya get any lowah?! Get lowah. from this angle. undone by the evening‘s tension. This odd takeoff was the object of considerable disdain from a Mets fan somewhere behind and above me.afternoon had indicated. New York. putting runners at first and second with two out. putting Young aboard for a fielder‘s choice. ―The light hangs from the wheel of heaven. the cue-ball-like thok clearly audible from this close. millions of shining droplets. took a . forlorn-sounding cries of ―Let‘s go. The Braves boosters in the stands—more of them than one might expect—were emitting isolated shouts of encouragement. whole quadrants of them. Kimbrel plunked Buck and then walked the light-hitting Omar Quintanilla. whereas the Mets pen is a grab bag of journeymen and youthful underachievers. and whose work this season has been only a shade less dominating. in a weirdly Bostonian accent. with his pitching arm extruding out at an outlandish angle—he looks like some exotic insect puffing itself up into order to frighten a predator—before straightening into his windup and delivery. with the Mets‘ bearded fireman Bobby Parnell firing his warm-up pitches through the swirling mist. to scattered boos and cries: the sound of disappointment. Mets!‖ Wright quickly fell behind 0–2—he hadn‘t looked good today—before going down on a called third strike. There were many.‖ the American poet Charles Olson wrote.
in its broad. extending himself vertically over the sodden turf. one that tempers passion with a sense of affectionate exasperation. Howls of disbelief. all white. and slid a good twenty feet along the grass. unlike the Yankees. I had been making my slow way through Charles Olson‘s Maximus Poems. sprinting through the rain. the Mets have had an inferiority complex when compared with their older. cascading down some steep surface across my field of view. ―The rest of us played baseball / into the summer darkness until no flies / could be seen and we came home…‖ Eventually.fastball high. a newsreel of baseball images. The men were wearing suit trousers. From the start. they are often loved but seldom despised. As the week wore on. speared the ball just inches above the ground. They made me feel impossibly old. thirteen? A moment later my snobbery was replaced by a wave of sadness. ―I come back to the geography of it / the land falling off to the left / where my father shot his scabby golf. unable to sleep. of an avalanche of Mets. On the subway ride back. Olson‘s surreal cataloguing of the history of his colonial American fishing village – much of the Maximus Poems reads like a textbook on Puritan-era economics that has been scrambled by some potent intoxicant -.began to blend. as indicated on the one girl‘s smartphone. silently and in black and white. Braves center fielder Jason Heyward. The remaining fans trooped out into the blowy wet night and home. thick University of California edition. and then whacked a long drive into the gap. dove. holding his glove above him as he did so: a game-ending circus catch. The women were pretty and preppy. with bobbed hair and cotton jerseydresses. one of them was wearing a Dartmouth baseball cap. I fell asleep. I was pressed up behind a tight circle of three young men and two women. with a quasi-liminal dream montage. and striped ties.‖ Olson intoned. in my mind. Over the years the amateur sociologist in me has noticed that the Mets seem to engender a special flavor of boosterism. toward dawn. Those nights. and a woman wearing a baseball cap can never be anything but cute. that monument of high modernism. They were amusing themselves by playing a weirdly childlike game wherein they attempted to guess the temperatures of various foreign cities. immeasurably more famous neighbors to . deep into the insomniacs‘ hour. and then resignation. My first reaction was reflexive contempt: Is this the best you guys can do? How old are you. white button-down shirts.
‘ and soon everybody took it up. Attending a game during the Mets‘ historically disastrous debut season of 1962. and that a stumbling kind of semi-success can be much more warming. when they lost 120 games (a record that still stands). these capitalists are quick and shrill with their complaints: ‗They ought to damn well do better than this. the winning homer. they were counterculture. the gallant yell for a good try—antimatter to the sounds of Yankee Stadium. the more fun they were. he observed of some slumming Yankee fans that their fandom was characterized by the stolidity. perhaps. Most of all. as only their due. the cocky underdog.. their swagger was the swagger of the loudmouth. different river: the Mets played their debut season at the Polo Grounds. the grinning. gap-toothed neighborhood delinquent. addicts and jailbirds. During a slump or a losing streak. with their clownish royal blue-and-orange striped jerseys (―like a beerleague softball team. a sense of not-Yankeeness that redounds to their appeal..‖ one former player said) and their almost immediately superannuated dump of stadium. the smugness. What we were witnessing was precisely the opposite of the kind of rooting that goes on across the river (same idea.‖ Even the great Mets teams of the 80s were tacky and raffish. these exultant yells for the Mets were also yells for ourselves. they were fun. some in quite spectacular fashion.the northwest. the counterculture kids began chanting ‗Let‘s Go Mets!‘ as a kind of parody. and the arrogance of holders of large blocks of blue-chip stocks. half-understood recognition that there is more Met than Yankee in every one of us. and they needed the most famous fold in the history of pro sports to take their title. they produced only one pennant. They coolly accept the late-inning rally. considering what they‘re being paid!‖ Suddenly the Mets fans made sense to me. The Yankees are followed by stockbrokers and . in Washington Heights—ML). and came from a wry. These fans expect no less than perfection. The historian Robert Creamer has a consonant if slightly different take. and they treat their stars as though they were executives hired to protect their interests. The great Roger Angell understood this dynamic perfectly from its very inception. These teams were loaded with men—Dykstras and Backmans and Strawberries and Goodens—who became burnouts and has-beens. This was a new recognition that perfection is admirable but a trifle inhuman. built on the doorstep of an airport. There‘s always been something ethnic and outerborough about the Mets. Harvard. observing that those early Mets teams ―were different. They are apt to take defeat with ill grace. along the lines of ‗Fight Fiercely. Despite their immense talent. This was the losing cheer. The worse they were.
After a moment. ―Did you get my text? Ron Swoboda is here. Babs is just old enough to remember all this. She removed the ear-bud. As the anthropologist and Mets fan Richard Grossinger put it.lawyers and celebrities and politicians. We both groaned. in curly teenage-girl cursive. On Tuesday I got to Citi Field a little early. and realized that she was listening to the game on WFAN. ―A jarring way to start the game.‖ There are never any coolly elegant Riveras or clinically perfectionist Jeters in the Mets dugout. and I had hardly sat down before Braves shortstop Simmons hit the second pitch of the game into the left field bleachers.‖ This was an outfielder from the original Mets‘ glory days. via one ear-bud. she said. attractive woman with an engaging smile. his diving catch of a line drive off the bat of Baltimore‘s Brooks Robinson in Game Four of the 1969 World Series helped seal the upset and deliver the title to the unlikely champions. somewhat formally. originally from Long Island. but a West Sider by habituation and temperament.‖ the sunny. as I would be recording the remainder of the home stand in exile from the Delta Sky360 Lounge. Babs taught me the words to ―Meet the Mets. pre-rock‘n‘roll anthem that still greets visitors to Citi Field: Meet the Mets. meet the Mets Come and out and meet the Mets Step right up and greet the Mets! Bring your kiddies. Babs was waiting for me in our seats. glitter around a spiritually hollow snow job. everybody‘s coming down to meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York town! . bring your wife Guaranteed to have the time of your life because the Mets are really sockin‘ the ball knocking those home runs over the wall! East side. it would be like seeing Catherine Deneuve in a sitcom. the Yankees ―are a well-orchestrated advertising campaign. My companion for the second game was my old friend. back in my usual seats in the grandstand behind first base. she once showed me a game program circa late-60s with her enthusiastic annotations of the Mets‘ lineup. the Mets draw a distinctly less glamorous crowd. photographer.‖ I looked at her. West side. a tall. artist. and jackof-all-trades Barbara ―Babs‖ Smiley.
‖ Babs said. Nelson‘s trademark attire was a jarring combination of plaids and checks. ―is this where they do the macarena?‖ As part of their promotional schemes. featuring a series of skits on the giant scoreboard that looked like they were put together by a sixth-grade drama club. ―My popcorn is stale. It was true: the maniacal fixed grin on the face of the Mets‘ mascot was disturbing in the same way that clowns and ventriloquists‘ dummies are. as it turned out.‖ and the result was almost unbelievably cheesy. and roving Stormtroopers and Princess Leias doing break-dancing moves in between innings.‖ she said. and cruised into second standing up. a little vaguely. Like Mr. Barbara ignored me. the Mets had billed that game as “Star Wars Night. the young center fielder Juan Lagares hit a cue shot down the first-base line that caromed off the angled wall of the stands in shallow right field. ―It‘s the nature of Long Island. ―Mr. were not stale at all on this night. sweetly: ―Excuse me? I‘m sorry—this is really stale.‖ The Mets themselves. she was frowning. Met—like everything about the Mets—the effect was mainly embarrassing. Met is creepy. He was sacrificed to third. Met!‖ Babs said immediately.A moment later—perhaps still disoriented by news of Swoboda‘s presence—Babs went on to claim that WFAN announcer Josh Lewin sounded ―just like‖ the late Lindsey Nelson. In the bottom of the third. When the groundskeepers came out to rake the infield after the third. ―From Mr. poised as it was on the precipice between .‖ I said. Babs asked. who punched a grounder past the drawn-in infield to tie the game. Could I get a fresher one?‖ The obliging popcorn vendor moved off. To the vendor. ―Everything is stale. ―Where do you think Lindsey got all those jackets?‖ I mused. bringing up pitcher Carlos Torres.
and . An examination of last year‘s statistics for both leagues reconfirmed this. he is apt to be anxious and defensive. with towers of purple clouds forming and re-forming into fantastical shapes. Susan Sontag would have been stymied by Citi Field circa 2013. was unfolding in the distance: the sky spread out beyond the towers of the stadium had become an eerie.348. when ahead. of course. as his margin for error has become extremely thin. that the averages rise and fall so consistently and with such exact correlation with the correspondent ball-strike counts seems… fluky? statistically improbable? proof of intelligent design? For what it‘s worth. whereas a pitcher who is ahead in the count can fire his wildest. and vice verse. and was startled to find how consistent and drastic it was. having gone 1–2.154 on 0–2. A few years ago I did some research on this phenomenon. a great hitter like Albert Pujols becomes a poor hitter like Ike Davis as the count works against him.385 in 3–1 counts (he faced a 3–0 count 27 times. this being an amusing if faintly prurient exercise in which couples around the stands are shown on the giant scoreboard and encouraged to buss each other enthusiastically. and walked 25 of them). or. and a little electronic research confirmed what I thought I had observed: at no point during yesterday‘s atbats had he been ahead in the count. in 2012 David Wright hit . Yesterday he had gone 0 for 4. the batter. and took a ball. the atmosphere felt liquid. they managed only a feeble .kitsch and schlock. before grounding out again. This is a hard game. In the meantime an older phenomena. Over the course of the 2012 regular season. more impressive even than Wookiees.149. has the advantage of being more selective. 1–2. the batters in both leagues collectively stung the ball at a . when behind. the count progressively is the single biggest predictor of the success or failure of any individual at-bat. Back at Citi Field the kiss-cam was up. hardest pitches in the confidence that if he misses he still has one or two chances to get the batter out. nothing surprising: a pitcher falling behind in the count often ends up cautiously steering a hittable pitch into the strike zone lest he walk the batter. Conversely. In other words. for me. Babs. A cool breeze ruffled the stands. 0–2. to put it another way. He took a strike. David Wright was up. roiling orange. making the count 1–2. 1–1. This is. when the count was 0–2. fouled off a pitch. when the count was 3–0. This is simple to understand but hard to believe. The lights were on. always grouses loudly about the lack of gay . and I watched the Mets captain and perennial All-Star closely. who is a lesbian. a welcome sensation after the heat and humidity of the last week or so.
forcing Murphy at second. poled Medlen‘s next offering into the right-field corner for a double and the lead. convivial till now. and that was it for Medlen. which circled the stadium several times. deep enough to score Davis. It was the Mets‘ annual Latin night. the Mets‘ gritty second baseman Daniel Murphy singled. a few young stars and a team still playing hard will have to pass for entertainment in a down summer for New York baseball. swinging. it turned out. Tonight her approbation was relatively muted: ―Homophobes!‖ she muttered. Byrd grounded to third. ―For now. ―No Wave!‖ I shouted. The Braves. to end the inning. who had entered the series leading the league in home runs. an identity that peaked in the mid-2000s. the last of whom being Parnell revivus. Buck singled. Medlen‘s night was almost over anyway. irritated. His successor was David Carpenter.couples. who set down the visitors 1–2–3 in the ninth to seal the 4–1 victory. against whom Lagares promptly lifted a fly to right. I thought of something that Brooklyn editor Molly McArdle once wrote on Twitter: ―Straight white men get so sassy at sporting events! It‘s like a safe space for heteronormative sass. when the franchise featured both a Latin-American . The Mets have always had a certain Hispanic component both to their fan base and to their team. On the field. Davis waved feebly at two pitches and then. when the mysterious workings of collective crowd lassitude resulted in a brief outbreak of the despised Wave. as if in illustration of my hypothesizing. ―The team is still deeply flawed and could easily slink back into the oblivion that defined the first segment of its season. several times.‖ wrote the News’s Andy Martino the next day. and then. Kris Medlen. ―No Wave! The Wave is for losers!” In a past life I had almost been ejected from Fenway Park.‖ When I came off the 7 train on Wednesday night I found the vast lot surrounding the stadium loud with salsa music and colorful flags. That. a yearly tradition that is part cynical marketing ploy and part heartfelt appreciation of a key demographic. became raucous. As it happened. accumulating modest momentum. though. The yard. for alcohol-fuelled anti-Wave and –beach-ball vigilantism.‖ and laughed. scoring another. in the sixth. improbably. was the ballgame: Mets manager Terry Collins sent out a passel of anonymous but effective relievers to stifle the Braves. Torres put a stop to the irksome nonsense by fanning the Atlanta pitcher. Wright took two balls before singling cleanly to center. had scored only three runs in two games. A perhaps equally offensive display broke out in the sixth. the Mets were holding their own and then some against a visibly superior opponent.
Charlie Neal. etc. and I say this as a Red Sox fan—is a slap in the face. This issue is either compounded or ameliorated. in the words of writer Bill Vourvoulias. so laying claim to his legacy—as noble and essential as that legacy is—is an act of historical reshaping. by the decision to make the centerpiece of Citi Field. Robert Indiana-esque ―42‖ sculpture.‖ The word ―appropriation‖ may even be too mild: ―hijacking‖ and ―moral bandwagon-jumping‖ also come to mind. Elio Chacón. of cultural opportunism. and a giant. one is confronted by a vast and not inelegant three-story space that is dominated by Robinsonania: footage of him with Branch Rickey and with his Dodger teammates in 1947. (If you don‘t believe me. ―the handful of African American and black Latin American players on the opening day roster of the inaugural 1962 Mets (Choo Choo Coleman. the glossy new stadium that replaced Shea Stadium in 2009. both certified members of baseball‘s old-white-boy club. that feels jarring and false. There are demographic reasons to take offense as well.‖ and Latin night in those days sometimes genuinely felt like some kind of giant block party/fiesta.)… have been virtually written out of team history by the Mets‘ appropriation of Jackie Robinson at Citi Field. depending on one‘s perspective. That team. a Mets fan nonpareil who grew up watching Willie Mays play at the Polo Grounds. Robinson retired six years before the Mets even came into existence. when the team fizzled in the 2006 playoffs and was subsequently disbanded.manager in Jerry Manuel and a Latin-American general manager in Omar Miñaya—a first for any major-league team. Félix Mantilla. assuming you are prepared for a barrage of profane obloquy. that is. Carlos Beltran. Unfortunately. for whom walking into Citi Field only to see Dodgers insigne—for this was a rivalry that remains unmatched in enmity and bitterness and historical gravity. ask my friend Ralph Feingold.‖ Upon entering Citi Field. not the Dodgers. Manuel and Miñaya were replaced by Collins and new GM Sandy Alderson. which also featured Hispanic stars like Pedro Martinez. not least that. for the Mets were also the inheritors of thousands of jilted New York Giants fans who adopted the team as their own. are the Mets‘ logical progenitors. but of course hewing to this strain of common sense would preclude any horning-in on Robinson and his aura . inspirational quotes set in dull brass into the floor. was affectionately known as ―Los Mets. and José Reyes. the famous—or notorious— ―Jackie Robinson Rotunda. ask Ralph. This is problematic for a number of reasons.) It could be argued that the Giants. since the Mets inherited the Polo Grounds from the Giants.
weirdly. A writer. Ron came to New York City as a young man in 1970 and quickly became something of a fixture on the legendary downtown scene of the era. ―hokey‖—but the resulting environment is open. whose idiosyncrasies were dictated externally by geography. He co-founded the anarchist literary collective the Unbearables and began publishing the work of his friends and peers in a variety of fanzines. and so on. and editor. to be sure. it is worth noting that the Dodgers. at any time. who had gotten out to the yard early. or at least as much as I am able to like any edifice that is named after a giant financial institution whose reward for helping drive the nation into a second great depression is to have its corporate branding subsidized by the loan of my tax dollars. veered to the right. emblematically. and represent the accretion of decades of not-always-consistent internal development. of course. that I rather like Citi Field. oddly-shaped outfield walls. Citi Field is a pastiche of old-style bandbox parks—an effect that one critic called. are alive and well and very much a living. poet. warm. Finally. and clambered down into the seats. It is difficult to describe Ron Kolm in a way that does justice to his ineffable Ron Kolm-ness. The place benefits mightily from comparison both with its unloved predecessor and with the soulless. Over the past four years I have nonetheless come to admit. carefully asymmetrical. Fenway Park. breathing rival team whose biannual visits to Citi could. as if attempting to out-tacky the Braves. banks of stands situated at fragmented. as is their wont. There are nooks and crannies galore. small journals. For many years the night manager of Coliseum Books—my former boss. cost. wide mezzanines. it is a perfect emblem of its time. in order to soak up the atmosphere. It is a manufactured nostalgia. in this. So. bookseller. Citi‘s simulation of this process is synthetic. so-called assembly magazines. fascistic hulk that is the ―new‖ Yankee Stadium – which opened in the same year and was designed. erupt into relevance. grudgingly. by the same group of anonymous technicians at the architectural firm of Populous / HOK Sport Venue Event. I ascended the escalator. Awaiting me was my friend Ron Kolm and his son Danny. and convenience. say.of civil-rights-era grandeur. in other words—he is . quite accurately. noting as I did that the Mets were wearing their atrocious orange tops. and anthologies. intersecting angles. along with an overhanging right-field porch. overarching promenade grandstands. and visually pleasing. all of these oddities mimic the organic dishevelment of.
‖ Indeed. he of the . After fumbling to correct this. ―She . which got Ron talking about Samuel Beckett. the observation was borne out: the Mets lineup featured many bearded white men indeed. Still spry in his late middle age. Feeling adventurous. who hit a deep drive over the wall in left field for a 1–0 lead. We watched as Hefner dealt to the Braves outfielder Evan Gattis. In grappling with the smartphone I inadvertently hit the button that causes the camera to reverse its perspective. and which in French. this one named Jeremy Hefner. it was like looking at a lineup of hipster Rotarians. which remains alive in the somewhat reduced circumstance of digital format. To my astonishment. After a few moments they turned around and. We were trying to remember which of the novels were originally published in English. Ron ordered a vodka lemonade. is the lead singer and guitarist in the indie-rock combo Arklight. I ordered a hot dog. a tough and resourceful veteran right-hander. one of the best and most consistent starters in the league. thus possibly polluting their group shot with an image of my unshaven middle-aged face. Now it‘s all white guys with beards. Four slinky women in halter-tops filed in and sat down directly in front of us. but a quick review showed no such photo. before turning her attention back to her friends and the game. to make it 4–0. His son Danny. he continues to work the floor at Posman Books in Grand Central Station. and clicking a quick series of shots. He was cruising so far. settling on me. After a moment. his favorite writer. homered to left. with a floppy delivery and a bit of a hitch at the very top of his windup. In the fourth Murphy came up. The Atlanta pitcher was Tim Hudson. I explained this to Cute Girl Number Three as I handed the phone back to her. Braves second sacker Dan Uggla.197 average and 19 home runs. asked if I would take their photo? I would. Danny said— picking up the thread—‖the Mets used to be the most Latin team in the league. Today‘s Mets pitcher was another anonymous journeyman. the young woman smiled at me and snapped her fingers in flirtatious mock disappointment. a lanky young man with soulful eyes. In the top of the fifth.currently the associate editor of the Evergreen Review. Ron observed that it seemed like a slow night for the slender black woman selling cotton candy. You need to look like Bruce Springsteen to play for the Mets. with 205 career victories to his name. one of the last independent bookstores left in the city. although the Mets weren‘t challenging him with any kind of patience or skill. The three of us contemplated this brazen display in silence. Ron and Danny split a beer.
given over to irritation and bile. by a defective machine. the perspective was somehow foreshortened. and it was 6-0. ―Ron. From here. the sense of decorum somewhat attenuated. silent memory‖ that ―maintained in the shadows an iconographic power that men might have thought was exorcised. sparsely populated. although this sometimes leads him faintly astray. was motoring along with the iconographic power of throwing strikes.‖ This was more of Ron‘s poetic fancy taking flight: Collins is potbellied and Irish. For consolation I walked a long way along the concourse. vivid. Section 113 had begun functioning ―as a great. so after the sixth I went up and stood in a medium-long line only to be foiled. ―It‘s like they‘re conceding defeat. Ron is not just a poet in name. his imagination perhaps enhanced by beer and vodka lemonade. ―He came out timidly. after some delay. visibly tipsy. and doesn‘t do anything ―mincingly.‖ For some reason. bales of cloth. meanwhile. long. You can‘t say ‗bales. above the steeply angled stands.‖ Danny found this ominous.looked like she was carrying totemic items.‖ he said wryly. ―Terry was being summoned by the crowd. He was taking tiny. through seven he had thrown 90 pitches and given up only three hits.‖ I remonstrated. little baskets of souls…‖ he said. By the time I got back the precincts of my little seat-neighborhood had become looser and rowdier.‖ Ron exclaimed. Collins came out to get the beleaguered Hefner. the scoreboard displayed only a giant Atlanta ―A. Michel Foucault has written of ―fortresses of confinement‖ that separate ―reason from unreason on society‘s surface‖ while ―preserving in depth the images where they mingled and exchanged properties‖. distant but curiously distinct.‘― A few minutes later Simmons hit another shot very close to where Uggla‘s landed. enjoying the way the shifting perspective on the field below offered ever-evolving. heretofore-unseen angles. With two . all the way out to deep right field. ―She‘s black. The young women had returned from wherever they had gone to drink. The night had become windy and quite cool. the other patrons were losing focus. he has an authentically metaphorical mind. but I wanted ice cream. Directly below me I could see the furrows made in the dirt of the warning track by the groundskeeping machinery. thinking in quick bursts of imagery and analogy.‖ Hudson. mincing steps. I leaned against the railing and watched an at-bat or two.
I was having a hard time staying focused.235—for the series). There will be no liberating… oh shit!” Justin Upton had just singled. Gonzalez didn‘t even bother to waste Kimbrel on this game. Some air seemed to have gone out of the game. and a walk. secret and staged. even after Murphy doubled off the wall to bring in two runs in the eighth and precipitate a Kolmean digression on Flann O‘Brien. in so many ways… well. It meant the end of Hudson‘s season. let a pitch skitter away from him. A group of young men in the stands below us started chanting something unintelligible. Baudrillard. ―You can say that something. again: ―This realm . and it was clear that something had gone very wrong.‖ wrote Olson. who bobbled it and then. instantly fracturing his fibula and tearing the deltoid ligament. coming up strong. flipped to Hudson covering. anything. We found out later that Young had come down hard on Hudson‘s ankle. ―These are the chronicles / of an imaginary town. a quality of being both imaginary and real. an error. at first. who executes his delivery with a dainty little hop. The Braves promptly countered in the ninth with a single. scoring Reed Johnson. opting for mop-up man Luis Ayala. who converged on first base with Young in a highspeed blurry tangle. no. Eventually a cart emerged from the deep-center field wall and motored along the warning track down to the first base cutout. Hudson lay on the ground for a long time. The Braves brought in Jordan Walden. but center fielder Lagares fielded the ball on the second hop and. and. Hudson collapsed and lay writhing on the field. In a way. a baseball game experienced live is a small but discrete installment in such a chronicle. fired a strike to home to get Heyward and bring the inning to a merciful end. possibly—he is thirty-eight years of age—his career. hurrying. to face Wright. sending his bat and helmet spinning skyward in disgust (he would end up going 4 for 17—. Massachusetts. ―a night sky of falling soot…‖ The Mets backup catcher. scoring the Braves pinch-runner and making it 7–2. The crowd became quite still. They loaded the Atlanta pitcher onto a stretcher and drove him away. although the Maximus Poems are steeped in the very real history and mythology of 18th-century Gloucester. is a temporary autonomous zone.‖ Ron rhapsodized. possibly profane… and a few minutes later the game was over. though. ―even this ballpark. Eric Young hit a grounder to Freeman. quite by accident. ―The events took place under a de Selbyean sky. a gruesome incident indeed.‖ Ron was saying. Anthony Recker. who fanned to end the inning.outs in the eighth.
a young Nuyoriqueña named Anitta Santiago. hustling down the line.‖ that I and thousands of others respond to. In joining me Anitta was taking time off from working towards her doctorate in American literature at Columbia. sent out their young power pitcher Zack Wheeler. soft-spoken. that sense of ―finality without end. cloudy with the occasional sprinkle of rain. who was having a terrible series defensively. observing sourly that today the Mets had chosen to wear their blue jersey tops. yet from a distance of time and space they blend together so completely as to be interchangeable. got away from Buck. so I settled in. They aren‘t very good and they won‘t be very good in the near future. thanking me for a book—a collection of sermons by the Anglo-Irish Marxist theologian Herbert McCabe—I had sent her the week previous. and one of the smartest people I have ever known.‖ Thursday‘s game was scheduled for the unusually early start time of 12:10. And as another philosopher. With two outs and men on base. devoutly Catholic. . In this sense it is and remains an aesthetic. grave. whose promising rookie campaign had so far been obscured by his teammate and fellow rookie Matt Harvey‘s All-Star season.beyond political economy called play. Zack wheeled and dealt a fastball to Evan Gattis. Gattis. The Mets. forced a sloppy throw that Satin bobbled—it hit him in the face—and for the third day in a row the Mets were trailing in the early going. so Collins had inserted two new right-handed-hitting players: Josh Satin at first. completely specific and utterly generic. learned. or nonalienated labor. a staggering achievement for a firstgeneration college student from the Bronx. each game is distinct. who has a herky-jerky. however unconsciously. teeter-totter delivery from a low three-quarters angle. but they aren‘t performing terribly at the moment. She had not yet arrived when the game started. Watching a major-league baseball being played in a big-city stadium is simultaneously public and anonymous.” and it is that aesthetic. this one named Filip Bondy. Anitta arrived and took her seat. nonwork. meanwhile. as if to compete with the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates in testing the limits of uniform-variation combinatorics. of course. The pitch. put it: ―The Mets are just the Mets. The Atlanta pitcher was the rookie left-hander Alex Wood. and it was also downright cold. who swung at what should have been an inningending strike three. when we go to a game. My companion for the final game of the home stand was another Coliseum Books alum. is defined as the reign of finality without end. however. and Justin Turner at shortstop. The 7 train was half-empty.
possibly the first-ever time those words had been spoken at Citi Field. briefly bobbled the ball. was their alacrity in responding to the loathsome MAKE NOISE exhortations from the scoreboard. or 3. was distracted by the bat boy. and over the next inning or so we worked up a quasi-Marxist post-feudal theory of bat-boy dialectics. beating Gerald Laird‘s throw back out. say.‖ I said. (The downside of the relative aggregate youth of the crowd. he was greeted with a noise that seemed noticeably higher in pitch than that of previous games—an alto fuzz. roller-coaster second wave of excitement that I find exhilarating. The bat boy thus represents a bottleneck of sorts in the transference of surplus value… Anitta wanted to know if on hot days the bat boys were allowed to take shelter and water in the dugout alongside the players. This play—scored 8–2– 4—is one of my favorites in the game. and then Byrd singled and took second when Gattis. I found that once again my attention was wandering. The Atlanta outfielder on the play made the throw home just too late. and I was feeling a little baseballed-out. in the familiar gray and blue- . in the third. Seeing him trot out to first.This being a day game. but Buck took second on the play. scoring another run. our analysis soon foundered. a ball which is worth at most $15. In the face of these proliferating levels of complexity. At one point I noticed—it somehow having escaped my attention so far—that the Braves first-base coach was former Atlanta stalwart Terry Pendleton. Young scored on the play. ―Is it like indentured servitude?‖ wondered Anitta.) Turner then grounded to deep first. meanwhile. Everyone near me was standing and clapping. for the catcher‘s throw back out to second gives the play a delayed. who singled to drive home another two runs. the crowd comprised an unusually high percentage of old people and children. in left. this was my 40th consecutive inning in the last sixty-seven hours. rather than a guttural tenor roar. when Wright came up with men on first and second. and the game was tied. ―I wish Fredric Jameson was here. Anitta.2% of the price of a front-row box seat at Citi. ―Is he permanently consigned to serving his betters?‖ I pointed out that the bat boy in turn exercises power over the supplicatory front-row fans—themselves an economic elite—who clamor for the favor of a tossed ball. or if they were forced to wilt in the heat. which adult fans rightly ignore. aside from the danger to the treble range of one‘s hearing. and was followed by Buck. Wright hit a long drive that advanced the runners.
with the Mets up 7–4. and the Mets came away. with the stands booing and hollering. in essence. who had replaced Eric Young in the outfield for the Mets.trimmed uniforms.‖ by Five Finger Death Punch (sic) filled the stadium—closers are required to have pop-metal theme music these days— and Parnell strode in from the bullpen. Pendleton was the National League‘s Most Valuable Player that year. bitter accusations. In the ninth. with a split for this installment of the summer game. it seemed portentous and lachrymose rather than inspiring. No matter: Parnell gave up a single to Chris Johnson but otherwise was unscathed. on a gray day that felt like autumn. and he hit . rife with injury. In the sixth. Andrew Johnson. and questionable umpiring. with the dark red ‗9‘ on his back. This is a hard game. counterproductive. in an effort to keep warm. he alertly kept running.367 in that series. of the 1991 World Series—one of the greatest ever played. when the umpire made no signal. In 1987 he had played third base for a St. That night. Braves manager Freddi Gonzalez came out to argue. I was sitting on my hands by now. Terry Pendleton never made it back to the World Series. Louis team that also lost the Series. with the gutty Murphy‘s single bringing him home for the lead once again. once again the mournful strains of mook-rock classic ―Bad Company. for a ground-rule double. angry set of games. It seemed impossible to believe that last week the temperature had hit ninety-seven degrees. which appeared to hit the track and then bounce over the mesh. who clearly had blown the play. I came across this: I looked up and saw its form through everything — it is sewn in all parts. brought unbidden a sudden shock of memory. under and over . Wright then launched a long drive out to the left-center gap. reading Olson. and ended up on third. Anitta wondered if the gloomy music wasn‘t. doubled and then took third on a passed ball. and. which the Braves lost to the Minnesota Twins in seven games. was eventually ejected de rigueur by third base umpire Chad Fairchild. to essentially the same Minnesota team: a sour. with Anitta and me watching for the most part in companionable silence. again in seven games. The one in front of me proceeded in fits and starts. 5–4.
and which actually need a heroism that is not seen from without. .Baseball‘s form. I love pro football. it is hyperbolic and reductionist by its very nature. that enduring symbol of batting excellence. The iconography and language of most sport. the structure of pitches. it‘s impossible. thrill. No other sport. the Hall-of-Fame slugger Reggie Jackson—not a conspicuously humble person—noted that his 2597 lifetime strikeouts were the equivalent of going hitless for four-plus entire seasons. It does not shine and is not praised. games. to belch and yammer and strut its vulgarity and cheerful. nearmeaningless games had given me a glimpse of this reality. is to fail seven out of ten times.‖ and this seems to me a fairly exact description of the confluence of baseball and life. even for the best players. The ―variables‖ are endless. how the shape of their psychic structures overlap. at-bats. has failure built into it—‖sewn in all parts. the averages will win out. which we must fulfill modestly and without any heroic gestures to court applause. triumph over impossible odds. Many. climax. but I find it exhausting. to perform perfectly. it seems to me. namely. villains and heroes. that is unique to itself. can be seen through everything. up-and-down grind. Jung once wrote that ―our banal everyday life makes banal demands on our patience. baseball can only support so much exegesis before it begins to resist. even elegant. too. sometimes laughably inept. it‘s a long. at times invisible. But enough of that—like many manifestations of American culture. Baseball is more often than not anti-heroic in this very way. the sheer volume of innings played over a long season—what Wilfrid Sheed called ―the variables. watching a telecast is essentially subjecting yourself to men yelling for three hours. many people have observed that to hit . It‘s often quite boring. a composite subtlety. Baseball contains that too. As in life.300. the big game versus the small one. Maybe that‘s the secret key to its appeal: it‘s a place where public failure can be beautiful. nothing much seems to happen for long stretches of time. innings. which seems as mundane and miraculous as air. G. is built towards action. the crucial series that proves inconclusive and the minor one that turns out disastrous. Even the Mets can be poetic. and all the streaks and slumps and injuries that curl their way through the season‖—gives it a depth and nuance. the structure of its meaning. A sort of formal inevitability is built into its dynamic structure. C. but its very every-day-ness. seasons. brilliance is accretionary and cumulative rather than epic. under and over‖—so ineluctably.‖ Watching these four very ordinary. it too is ―sewn / in all parts.
November 4. Notes ―needs are not so much directed. the team wobbled along at 28–35 the rest of the way. to be distracted. but that turned out to be the high point of the season. says that he expects to be fully recovered from his ankle surgery by the spring. but for now there‘s still time enough. which ended up costing him almost seven weeks on the disabled list. the two teams continued along their divergent paths for the remainder of the season.profane grit. 31. edited by Mark Poster (Stanford: Stanford University Press. returning to form.307 but with only 58 RBI. The Braves.. David Wright injured his hamstring. Tim Hudson. time enough to fall asleep. 37. translated by Jacques Mourrain. meanwhile. pp. 17-26. The season draws on. in the 10th inning of a game at Kansas City. his lowest total since his rookie year of 2004. ―Baseball: Joys and Lamentations. claiming their division title with 96 wins before bowing out. reprinted in Selected Writings of Jean Baudrillard.. 11–0.‖ the New York Review of Books. ―Baseball is not just an occasional three hours…‖ Gould. to turn on the radio. 3. pp. The headlines are from the July 22. to catch an inning or two of a meaningless game. and to dream. on the other hand. to half pay attention. while it‘s still summer. Stephen Jay. —Michael Lindgren Postscript: After their July split. He finished at . his sixteenth. 2013 New York Daily News. 1988). quite unexpectedly. with a particularly dismal 2–9 stretch to open September. On August 2. to cheer or not. in the first round of the playoffs to the suddenly hot Los Angeles Dodgers. 13. and looks forward to pitching —with the Braves or another team—next season. 1970). even to be a little bored. the Mets walloped the Washington Nationals.‖ from La Societe de Consommation (Paris: Gallimard. continued their strong play. . The day after the last game of the Atlanta series. 1993. pp.
―were different…‖ Creamer. July 16. Andy. 1965). Jean. 1973) in Poster. ―This realm…‖ Baudrillard. ―Citi Dwellers Not Yankees and That‘s Special. July 24.‖ the New York Review of Books. reprinted in Psychological Reflections. March 15.103 ). p. Richard. (II. 299. 1983.. Burning Bright.―The light hangs…‖ Olson.‖ New York Daily News. October 12. 121. G. ―hokey‖. ―I looked up…‖ Olson.‖ the New York Times. Tiger.‖ Maura Magazine / V is for Victor. II. ―our banal everyday…‖ C. p. F. 2013. ―The Great Fear. Myth. Louis: Telos Press. ―These are the chronicles…‖ Olson. 62. p. and Subtext (Berkeley: Frog Ltd. p. Baines (Zurich: Rascher. (II. original publication. translated by Richard Howard (New York: Random House. The New York Mets: Ethnography.. 189. Filip.‖ in Madness and Civilization. II. ―Scrappy Mets are Must-See. 1975. p. pp. 2013. ―Play Ball‖ issue. p. 1984. 203. 1989. Jung. Wilfrid. Ouroussoff. Molly McArdle. ―the handful of African American…‖ Vourvoulias. 2013. 1962.‖ New York Daily News. July 26. 56. ―Sporting Scene: The ‗Go!‘ Shouters. ―Straight white men…‖ via Twitter. translated by H. A1. 2007. All rights reserved. The Psychology of the Unconscious.173 (343). and C. ―Tiger. ©1961. p. . The Maximus Poems. ed. G. Butterick (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. April 3. ―The Mets are…‖ Bondy. ―the variables…‖ Sheed. 1943).‖ New Yorker. 193). June 16. 2009. 109. edited by George F.14 . translated by Mark Poster (St. ―fortresses of confinement…‖ Foucault. ―the stolidity…‖ Angell. 1953). edited by Jolande Jacobi (New York: Pantheon.. Bill. 126 ) ―I come back to the geography of it…‖ Olson. 2013. ―Outside Baseball. Nicolai. Roger. Selected. ―The team is still deeply flawed…‖ Martino. The Mirror of Production. p. ―Meet the Mets‖ written by Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz. Michel. Robert W. p. ―Two New Baseball Palaces.) ―are a well-orchestrated…‖ Grossinger. Charles. 209. Stengel: His Life and Times (New York: Simon and Schuster. p.
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