Today the Mets start their 2011 season and after 30+ years of watching opening days I keep my expectations reasonable. I don’t expect much from the Mets this year so anything I get will be fine. I’ll still catch as many games on TV and on the radio as I can but I’ve learned to not take it all so seriously. However, a few minutes ago I was thinking of the game and realizing that I feel like Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory* after his family believed the last golden ticket had been found and that means tonight is my last chance to dream about the Mets being great before reality sets in.
*Let’s all agree that the Cheer up Charlie song almost kills the movie before it really gets going.
The last time I got my hopes up for a Mets game in April was in 2009 because I was going to be in New York for the Mets home opener which happened to be the first Mets game at the new Citi Field. My father called me a few days beforehand to tell me that he scored us a pair of tickets to the game. New season, new park and my father, who is responsible for my being a Mets fan, was taking me to the game. This was as good as life could get when it came to baseball.
I’ll spare you the details but long story short we didn’t make it to the game. Through no fault of my father’s the tickets fell through at the last-minute, this felt like a bad end to a disaster of a trip (I wrote about it at the time here). At least I thought it was a bad ending at the time.
My father apologized for what had happened and invited me to join him at his favorite bar to watch the game. We sat over a few beers and enjoyed the first few innings before heading for home to watch the rest. The Mets fell behind early and lost the game but that didn’t matter, it was good to watch the game with my dad. After 34 years of misunderstandings and missed opportunities we were finally just talking like two people who actually liked one another. We talked baseball, comedy and family When the game ended we stayed up a little while longer talking about the future. He had to work early the next morning and I had to catch a flight back to Los Angeles so we said goodnight and goodbye.
The next morning my father was gone before I got up and despite the great night I had watching the game I left my hometown disappointed by the whole trip and unsure when I’d be back. As it turned out, that Mets home opener would be the last game I would see with my father; my next trip home was six months later when he passed away.
It’s been two years since that night and the disappointment I felt that day has long since been replaced with perspective and a genuine grateful feeling for the fact that I had one last opening day with the person who taught me that opening day was important.