If I weren’t home every damn day, I wouldn’t remember where I was last Tuesday. But I remember October 27, 1986.
I was in Plattsburgh, New York, visiting people I’d gone to college with for a couple of years. We had dinner–bitched about the dining hall food probably, then played volleyball.
Then everyone else retreated back to their dorm rooms–it was a Monday and they had classes. I went to the on-campus bar and watched the World Series. It was the sixth inning when I got there and the Mets were behind 3-0.
“I’m not worried. They’re gonna win.” I knew it. I had no doubt my team would be champions–an odd thought process for a Mets fan (who’s also a Jets fan).
It was 34 years ago, so the details fade, but I wound up talking with a Red Sox fan–a cute blonde, and making peace. We had a mutual hatred of the Yankees in common, after all.
And then Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett, Vin Scully said, “Got ‘im!”, Orosco fell to his knees and threw his glove to the heavens, and pandemonium ensued.
I’d had a few by then, and it was a long time ago. But I remember people pouring beer on me in the same way you get sprayed with champagne. The Red Sox fan faded into the night, to suffer another 18 years before her moment of glory.
More than half a life ago, I still remember, down to the shirt I wore that night.
Last night, as I write this, my son was at the Ice Palace (for that’s its rightful name) in Tampa at a socially distant watch party. The Tampa Bay Lighting–his team–were up three games to one over Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup finals.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock as the Lightning wrapped up their second championship, most of his friends were home–they had work the next day. He was there alone, but not really.
It’s been 34 years since I tasted that beer dumped on my head. It tasted wonderful. The next day, I got up and came home to work–I worked at a small supermarket then.
The Mets had a relatively young team and a good farm system. No one had an incredible year. I was certain they’d be back, so I was relatively low-key about it.
It’s been 34 years and while the Mets have been back to the World Series twice, they haven’t won it all again. The players have aged, as champions do. Some have had legal problems. Catcher Gary Carter died of brain cancer.
The world went on, that sparkling night in autumn becoming a fading memory to a dwindling number of people.
A championship is a rare and wonderful thing. My primary teams have won three of them–two before I was old enough to notice. But decades later, I can still go back to that night. I can still remember the bar, the Red Sox fan, the taste of the beer. And the joy that erupted when the end came on that little TV up in the corner.
Maybe my son’s experience will be different than mine. Maybe his team will be back and win some more. Maybe it’ll be a new dynasty. But those are even more rare than a single championship.
For now, his team won. He came home hoarse and was up late. Work will be hard today, given the short night.
And in a year of dumpster fires, wildfires, murder hornets, and strife, this will emerge as a treasured memory he cherishes long after the last player retires.