Wednesday, July 6

Worst Ballpark? Maybe. Charmless? Definitely Not.

last sunday's NYTimes featured a great (and personally resonant) story on the impending demise of Shea Stadium as the home of NY's terminal underdogs, The Mets:

if you're not a Mets fan, you just won't understand the magnitude of this. Shea Stadium is F-UGLY. it was built at the furthest stop of the #7 train, nudged between Flushing's Asian Center and a no-man's section of Queen's, squarely sitting in the direct flight path of Laguardia airport. the stadium itself was constructed in this half-ass manner, disguising a shoddy interior (which smells as if it hasn't been cleaned since its opening in 1964) with a garish splash of bright blues and oranges throughout. and don't even get me started on the over-sized baseball figures lit in neon on the stadium's side. this was not a place built for dreams to happen.

but in spurts, dreams did happen, and continue to. many times these dreams came in the form of miracles-- think Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and the ball Mookie Wilson hit that rolled through Buckner's legs--providing the team with a moniker even a losing record can't shake off. My love affair with the Miracle Mets started 20 years ago, when my uncle took me and my family to a game right in the heat of summer. we had box seats, four rows behind left field. it was mitt night and my brother and i didn't just have our first stadium hot dog, but our first taste of Mets euphoria. there is nothing better-- or cheesier-- than shrieking and dancing in the orange-clad stands with a crowd of giddy strangers, watching a giant (and kitschy) red apple rising out of that top hat behind centerfield, signifying that the home team had hit a ball outta the park! this is what it means, i thought, to be a sports fan.

my brother and i were hooked. the 1986 World Series victory cemented The Mets as Our Team, continuing even through our move to Maryland 5 years later, through the team's frustrating and sustained downfall in the early-mid 90's when they were the butt of EVERYONE's jokes. we remained loyal even still, when we thought it couldn't get any worse in the late 90's-- as fate (and money) would dictate that our hated hometown rivals-- and superiors--the NY Yankees, were destined to rekindle their history-cloaked dynasty, forever relegating The Mets to second-class status in a city fixed on drawing a line between winners and losers.

Losers or not, The Mets will always be lovable ones, characterized by a blue-collar determination and a badass charm that shines beyond the shadow of Yankee lore. sure, i have no idea if and when my Mets will ever feel the glory of another World Series victory (can we please get a new relief pitching staff?), but i'll never forget these games at Shea. Their life began when this park opened its doors, so Shea is very much a part of the team fabric, woven into every bruise that defines The Mets gritty personality. and despite its downright ugliness, despite it being labeled the Worst Ballpark Ever, it's still worst in the best way: it's the perfect symbol for underdogs, both on and off the field, who return every year to play and cheer for the hope of miracles.

No comments: