Fantastic Voyage

One would be hard-pressed to argue that I was born anything other than a jock at heart, but I cut my teeth in life as a musician. Entering eighth grade at approximately 5’6″ with the speed of a hobbled koala bear and the hops of Hans Moleman, conquest on a basketball court didn’t seem to be in my long-term future. However, being spawned of musically-accomplished stock, a fruitful run behind a drum kit was within reach. After spending my entire childhood either traversing a playing field or glued to a TV reflecting sports into my face, I spent my high school years in basements and garages rehearsing with bands and in DIY spaces and all-ages clubs connecting with fellow music aficionados. Hell, during my sophomore year, I even skipped the Super Bowl in favor of going to a show. Granted, that game was between Tampa Bay and Oakland, and the headlining band didn’t even show up that night (cut to every Albany-area xFilesx fan slowly nodding their head), but even at the time I realized how foreign a sensation my decision created.

While my participation in underground music scenes continued well into my twenties, by the time I hit college, the sports deities had waved smelling salts in front of my face and woken me from my slumber. I explain this internal journey, because I have been thinking a lot about my reemergence as a sports-crazed sociopath over the last few days. I finished my freshman year of college in 2006, which is the last time the New York Mets won the National League East division; the last time until this past Saturday, that is.

2006, or three decades ago in Murphy Years.

My investment in new music has dwindled to almost nothing. I am not a proud drop-out, but cognoscente and unashamed of how my life has changed since my piss-and-vinegar punk rock years. What has not waned, however, is my love of the music that entranced me for over a decade. That’s why, as I’ve basked in the Mets’ first division title since I was a freshman at The College of Saint Rose, I’ve been unable to shake a lyric from a still-favorite band of mine; Kill Your Idols:

“You’re living the good-old-days right now – enjoy them while you can. Tomorrow is finally here, so don’t look back, but never forget.”

I didn’t appreciate those words in their entirety as they pertained to my journey as a New York Mets fan at 19, but I am fighting like hell to internalize them now.

As I’ve alluded to previously, music never pulled me away from sports entirely, but more so created an emotional time-share with an additional passion for the first time in my life. So while I never ceased being a Flushing Faithful, I picked a hell of a time to crank the heat back up across the board. The Mets romped through the 2006 campaign, going no worse than .500 against a single national league team en route to a 97 win season, their highest total in 18 years and three games better than the 2000 squad that reached the World Series. This was a coronation, and an expected one at that. After notching their most wins in five years during the 2005 slate, the front office slayed the offseason, signing and trading for critical role players, bonafide all stars and contributors who would go on to post some of the best numbers in franchise history (not to mention arguably the most insane sports WAG in New York history). When Paul Lo Duca tagged out consecutive Dodgers at home in a single play during the second inning of Game 1 of the Division Series, I wasn’t dreaming of advancing to the next round. I wasn’t dreaming of making it to the World Series, or even winning it all. I was – well, besides screaming like a murder was in progress during the middle of a weekday afternoon – dreaming of just how many parades through the Canyon of Heroes this team had ahead of them.

But the funny thing about dreams is that they don’t come true. So barely two weeks later, when Carlos Beltran’s knees buckled at a two-strike curve ball (I refuse to link to this clip), so did mine. Twenty minutes later, my roommate peeled me off the floor, and the ride was over. There was only real life left.

Real life wasn’t too hot for me in 2006. I obliterated my wrist in a stage diving incident, resulting in a lifelong loss in range of motion and enough metal in my arm to warrant a “get out of metal detectors free” card from my surgeon. My schoolwork slipped while I was recovering, leading to me failing my only class of college after I had typed a ten page final with one hand. Unable to work due to lack of necessary, functioning limbs, and having my schedule dominated by physical therapy, I spent my summer scrounging together enough money for my 21+ year old roommate to buy me $9.99 handles of rum, which I would not permit myself to drink until the daily Gilmore Girls re-run aired…at 5:00 pm. I mean, these were some seriously dark days in the life of Murphy. The surging Mets provided me a glorious, crucial respite, until they began to resemble the rest of my life, which was essentially one long, looping called-strike-three.

If I had looked on the bright side at the time, which I most-decidedly had not for a six month stretch, I could have seen light on the horizon. The Mets were primed to bounce back stronger than ever in 2007. They did, until they didn’t, when they missed the playoffs on the last day of the season after completing the greatest statistical collapse in baseball history. I was at Shea Stadium that day. By the time the line at the gate had subsided and let my friends and me in during the bottom of the first inning, the Mets were down 7-1 and Carlos Delgado was out after being hit by a pitch and fracturing… his left hand. Ya gotta believe.

Then in 2008, the Mets landed Johan Santana and were primed to bounce back stronger than ever. They did, until they didn’t, and missed the playoffs on the last day of the season after yet another mystifying September collapse. As for my own personal bounce-back; I had another surgery on my wrist that spring.

The subsequent seven years finally did see a turnaround, both in life and on the diamond. Very slowly, and never quite surely, the signs arose. I graduated college. The Mets toiled in anonymity. My wrist never healed, but I’ve learned how to make a life around it. The Mets stunk, but stockpiled arms in their farm system. I shed some weight. The Mets shed Ollie Perez. I got married. The Mets got Noah Syndergaard. I moved to New York City. The Mets moved to the top of the division.

Enjoy them while you can
Enjoy them while you can.

Whenever the Mets host their first game of the National League Division series, I will be sitting in right field with two of my very best friends that have suffered with this star-crossed franchise for many years longer than I have. In 2006, they knew well enough that those fleeting, halcyon days were to be enjoyed while they were around. When we cross through the turnstiles at Citi Field that night, I will not be looking back; in fact, I’ll never have felt so freed from the past. With my wrist aching from the unseasonably-humid weather continuing to plague New York, I will be looking straight ahead, but I damn sure will not have forgotten.