As I write this, the Legislature is spinning its wheels in special session, the Anchorage mayor and Assembly are looking at new ways to raise revenue, and the only thing I can think about is the New York Mets in the World Series.
It's true, the Mets went to the World Series in 2000, but that year in the Subway Series even the most optimistic of Mets fans – myself included – knew that the chances of the Mets slipping past the Yankees was minimal at best. Yet, I watched and cheered as loudly as I could for Mike Piazza, Rey Ordonez, Benny Agbayani, Armando Benitez and company, led by audacious Bobby Valentine as they fought their hardest against one of the strongest Yankees' teams in history.
This series, however, takes me back to 1986 and 1988. In 1986, I was only 11, but I can remember the grittiness of the Mets team that powered through to that infamous Game 6 Bill Buckner miscue that kept the Mets alive to win that World Series two days later.
In 1988 I was 13, a student at Hanshew Junior High School (not "Middle School") and was far more knowledgeable about baseball than my 11-year-old self. The Mets' foe in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) was Kirk Gibson and the Los Angeles Dodgers. I was an avid collector of baseball cards and was a devoted viewer of Keith Jackson and Al Michaels on "Monday Night Baseball" on ABC. It was only 13 games a year, but thankfully for me, most of those games were Mets games, as back then, it wasn't nearly as easy to see your favorite baseball team as it is now.
I was a quiet, chubby, introverted kid. I liked to read; I was content playing by myself on the playground and was generally an easy target for bullies because I just never had the self-confidence to believe that I could fight back. At that point in my life I was really starting to get passionate about sports. I looked up to these athletes because they were like superheroes. I would toss that ball up and could barely hit it out of my backyard; they could hit it out of the ballpark and it always left me in awe.
During the NLCS in 1988, I bounced around the living room as much as you can imagine a 13-year-old kid would. I jumped on the couch as Darryl Strawberry would let home runs fly that looked like they never landed and as David Cone and Doc Gooden struck out batters, leaving them looking confused while the umpire gave his dancing rendition of a strikeout call behind the plate.
Back at Hanshew, my nemesis awaited – red hair, quick wit, some geeky glasses, obnoxious shiny smile of braces and that awful, ugly, blue and white Dodgers hat on his head – Timothy Jacobson. As fate would have it, Tim sat right next to me in computer lab during the same semester as the NLCS. The ongoing verbal battle is one I will never forget.Tim's family was military; after the Dodgers won that year, I never saw him again. However, his face and that hat have always been a special symbol for me of that fateful, bitter October.
The Mets have had good years and bad years since that run in the 1980s. They've had various rivals over the years. Some have stuck around and some have gone. Back then, it was the St. Louis Cardinals, because of the way the divisions were set. The Mets and Cardinals often battled for the National League East lead. When Major League Baseball expanded, added extra divisions and the wildcard, the Philadelphia Phillies quickly became one of our rivals, as did the Nationals when they added a young pitcher named Stephen Strasburg and quickly became annual contenders in the new NL East. However, to this Mets fan, the Cardinals and Dodgers are always our main rivals.
To have run the Dodgers out of the playoffs this year exorcised some of those demons plaguing my 13-year-old self. It helped erase a little bit of the image of that laughing braces-faced Dodger-capped ginger waiting in third period after Kirk Gibson had a two-home-run night. It's brought back my youth and for that reason, I can't wait for each of these games of the World Series – win or lose. Let's go Mets!
Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late '90s. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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