No sport played professionally in America bears the literary and poetic burden of baseball. You'll never see soft-focus movies about football, Brian's Song notwithstanding. The Natural wasn't a movie about Michael Jordan. No one will ever make a tennis movie called Court of Dreams. The right-wing may conjure up images of the 1950s in its longing for a return to the past, but their image is a false one. It doesn't take into account the desperate isolution of women in suburbia, the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, the drab and predictable lives of the men in the gray flannel suits. It's baseball that carries the mythology of America. Ken Burns created twelve hours of soft-focus reverence about the Greater Meanings of Baseball.
There have been endless musings about why this is, from the pastoral green field reminding us of our agrarian past to the great George Carlin's immortal comparison of baseball and football:
But damn it if baseball doesn't live up to all this burden of Norman Rockellian mythology.
This month saw the 25th anniversary of what is known among Mets fans as "Game Six." We don't need any further explanation about what "Game Six" means, though I, being the iconoclast that I am, have always preferred the grit and determination of game six of the NLCS that year, which went for sixteen grueling innings, the first eight scoreless for the Mets, who tied it in the ninth and again in the fourteenth, then finally won in grand style in the bottom of the sixteenth when Kevin Bass struck out. That will always be the most memorable game for me, right up there with the 19-Inning July 4 Marathon Of 1985, which saw Mr. Brilliant and I get home from watching the Macy's fireworks, watch a few innings, go to sleep around midnight, and wake up with the TV on a few hours later to Steve Zabriskie saying, "If you're just tuning in, write and tell us why"; and Tom Gorman giving up a fat one to Braves relief pitcher Rick Camp (lifetime batting average: 0.30) in the 18th before the Mets finally won in the 19th.
I thought on the anniversary that I really should write about this momentous anniversary, but frankly, with the Mets in the kind of disarray in which they find themselves now, the less I think about the Mets the better.
1986 is long gone; the Mets' glory days are long past. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez are graying and thickening. Lenny Dykstra had a spectacular fall from the financial high life and this week pleaded no contest on car theft charges. But the family of Gary Carter, who is being treated for malgnant brain tumors, is reporting that his tumors have shrunk almost 75% since initial detection and 10% since his last scan and Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson becoming the Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca of the latter half of the 20th century, so it seems that perhaps it's time for another World Series to deliver a similar kind of drama.
When one's own team isn't participating, it's hard to get up much enthusiasm for the World Series. I might pay more attention if the Giants were playing, just because Tim Lincecum is cool. But my loathing for anything Texas not named "Molly Ivins" or "Ann Richards" is so complete that I had to toss my lot in with the Cardinals. I owed them that much after they defeated the hated Phillies in the NLDS. Then I stuck with them in the NLCS, if only because the Brewers were from Wisconsin, Scott Walker is governor of Wisconsin, and it just works that way.
This year the Cardinals were the wild card team, having edged out the hated Atlanta Braves in the last week of the season (giving Mets fans a scintilla of schadenfreude), and wild card teams are not supposed to make it this far. It isn't as if the Cardinals have made it look easy, especially after manager Tony LaRussa couldn't even get a call to the bullpen right in Game 5. But if you're a Mets fan, and an aficionado of the Goofy Game, you have to admire the work of art that the Cards put in last night, which forced a Game 7 tonight -- the first one since 2002. The Cardinals NOT being the Mets, however, it only took eleven innings to tie the game twice and win, not nineteen.