The Afternoon Before: Playing out the string

Later than usual with this, and just one thought and some NFL picks. Been a busy week and had some other stuff to write, including one article I’m hoping to see on the Dime Magazine site this week. I loved Dave Cone

It’s no secret that the older we get, the more jaded we are, especially when it comes to the way we watch sports.

I remember watching the final game in 1991 for a 77-84 post-Strawberry Mets team like it was Game 7 of the NLCS, as David Cone struck out 19 batters and had the chance to tie the record, but retired Dale Murphy with a groundout to end the game.

I remember sitting on the literal edge of my seat on the couch, praying that Cone would dig deep and join Clemens in the record books.

Twenty years later, my perspective has of course changed. The Mets, famously, have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter, and R.A. Dickey took one into the seventh inning this afternoon. And I opted not to watch it.

It was almost an identical situation in terms of playing out the string – the Mets may well finish with the same record they did in 1991, though I’d hope they’re building toward something more positive than The Worst Team Money Could Buy. And I was tempted to stick around and watch to see if Dickey could finally give the Mets their first pitcher with a no-hitter, at least while wearing a Mets uniform.

But I also wanted to try to get a run in, which I couldn’t do Friday because of the rain and a couple of errands I had to run. My fiancée was taking a nap at the time, we had plans for later in the evening, and this was my window to get out and get my blood pumping a bit.

So I went. As I pounded the pavement, I thought about my decision, and I figured that I’d watched probably 10 no-hitters from the beginning, including one I attended live. (That one with the six Astros or whatever.) I’d like to watch the Mets’ first no-hitter when it happens, but it’s no longer worth rearranging my whole day for it.

Besides having a bit more going on in my life at 32 than I did at 12, it’s become tougher to vicariously invest myself as much in the accomplishments of athletes I honestly don’t have all that much to do with. I’m still very much a Mets fan, it’s just that I prefer to take pride in the things that I personally do, rather than someone on my television or on a field while I sit in the stands. And whether this is realistic or not, I’d like to run another marathon someday.

Another example: I still love Darryl Strawberry – it was a thrill to interview him for a story I wrote about a boxing match last year – but that’s mostly for what he was to me when I was younger. As such, I had an opportunity to attend a charity golf tournament organized by Darryl last week, but I felt like I’d been stretching myself too thin, so I stayed home.

Twenty years ago, I would have walked to Long Island for something like this. Heck, even eight years ago, I converted to born-again Christianity to meet Darryl for the first time. (Long story, I’ll get to it another time.)

It’s definitely a strange feeling, because so much of my life – including the way I make a living – revolves around sports. And I do sort of miss the version of me that would sit enrapt by Dave Cone as the strikeouts piled up, regardless of how lousy the Mets were that season.

But that’s life. I have more going on now, real-life things I have to deal with. Not in a bad way, mind you.

But a big part of our sports memories becomes looking back on who we were when we made them. I wouldn’t trade the version of me that lived and died with Dave Magadan’s at-bats for anything. It’s a large part of how I ended up the person I am, doing the work that I do.

And just because you don’t necessarily feel the same way about certain things as you did 20 years ago doesn’t make those old feelings any less cherished.

*****

WEEK 3 PICKS

Season record: 2-2-2

Last week: 1-1-1 – Won big with Detroit, pushed with the Cowboys, lost with the Eagles… though I think I would have won had Vick not been crushed by his own oafish lineman. (I went 9-5-2 in my weekly against-the-spread league, so I’m doing pretty good so far.)

Falcons +1.5 at Bucs – Talib can only cover one guy. Can’t see the Falcons losing outright.

Steelers -10.5 at Colts – I just can’t see Indy scoring a whole lot of points. They’ll win a game or two, but this won’t be it.

Dolphins -2.5 at Browns – Three road teams this week. Dolphins are desperate, and they played Houston pretty tough for a while.

Esoteric

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