It’s past 8:30 and I haven’t even started watching the game yet. But I have a good reason. I’m at my friend Anesa’s good-bye gathering in Astoria before she heads out of the country tomorrow on a South American adventure and I don’t know when I’m going to see her next. Don’t even mention the fact that it’s Halloween because I don’t care. I have zero interest in getting corralled in a subway with a bunch of drunken sexy nurses, zombified hockey goalies or anything else.
Last year I was a booger for Halloween. Not a sexy booger, just a booger. I was too busy watching the World Series and then mourning the World Series to put much thought into my costume. A few years ago a friend and I made anglerfish costumes out of recycled material. We scavenged for boxes at bodegas and grocery stores and plundered neighbors’ recycling bins for cans and bottles and then spent a whole weekend engineering the costumes. We were a hit. Last year I took a five-second inventory of everything in my closet and realized that I had a lot of green stuff. I piled it on me, and taped some Saran wrap over my layers of green, and boom, I was a slimy booger.
Before last year’s World Series I could have been a zombified baseball fan because that is something I’ve never been in real life. Now being a rabid baseball fan is my reality. Because of this new reality I’m not even going to carve pumpkins with Anesa and company. We say our goodbyes at the grocery store, where they have a small clutch of pumpkins left. It’s a testament to Anesa’s character that she’s not even mad at me for ditching her to watch baseball, she says she’ll even cheer for the Royals.
I scurry past an Irish sports bar and try really hard not to find out what’s going on in the game. I don’t want to know anything until I get to my friend Noemi’s apartment in Long Island City so I can watch the game in neutral territory. But an eruption of cheers forces me to catch the score through the window: 2 – 0, Mets at the bottom of the third inning.
I am now very aware of the chips and guacamole that I had at Anesa’s place. Usually innocuous, the crunchy blue corn chips I love now seem to be shredding the lining of my stomach. I need to get to Long Island City fast. I start running frantically towards Broadway and hop in the nearest taxi. The driver, from Ghana, doesn’t know much about the World Series and has no sense of urgency.
“It’s like the World Cup, and my team is in it,” I explain, hoping this will get him to drive a little faster, but all it does is inspire a conversation about how confusing baseball is and why they even call it the World Series if it’s two American teams playing each other. The conversation goes nowhere fast—or at least quicker than it took for me to get to Long Island City.
I try not to trip over myself as I lunge out of the car and dash to Noemi’s building. When she opens the door I try to read her face for any signs of doom. She knows me well enough to deliver the good news first.
“The Royals scored a run!”
“Okay, cool, okay. Awesome, great. And the Mets? What about them? Have they scored?”
“It looks like they just got a homerun,” says Noemi’s husband, Daniel, from the couch.
I try not to react too histrionically. Noemi knows I am susceptible to dramatic outbursts and I want to prove to her that I can be a sane person under this kind of duress.
“That’s cool. It’s okay. I mean, it looks like we’re waking up offensively, you know?”
“What are the chances of them coming back?” Daniel asks.
I certainly can’t tell him that there is a good chance, a really good chance, that the Royals will rally because saying it out loud would only jinx it.
“Well, I can’t really say.”
“But you’ve been watching the team—you have a pretty good idea, right?”
“I do. But I don’t want to jinx anything.”
Daniel is an avid fan of the French national soccer team who suffered through the improbable Zinedine Zidane headbutt of the 2006 World Cup, so he has a healthy respect for jinxes. “Okay, but as a general observer of the game, and not as a Royals fan, what would you say the chances are?”
“As a general observer, I would say there’s a pretty good chance.”
It goes without saying that I still have to knock on wood. Stephen Matz, the Mets’ rookie lefty pitcher, has been on point so far, but the sixth inning will be the real test of how well he can keep the Royals at bay. He’s not as hyped as Harvey, DeGrom and Syndergaard and fans have not yet christened him with a quirky moniker, but he’s allowed less runs in five innings than his cohort did in each of their starts.
The first batter up is Zobrist who takes a leaf from Escobar’s book and swings at the first pitch. The ball flies into deep left field and Zobrist reaches second.
“YES!” I know it’s not a run yet, but it looks like a classic Royals rally in the making. Cain follows with a single and Zobrist scores.
“YES! YES!” I slam my fist into the couch. Daniel implores me to keep it down, because what will the neighbors think?
With their lead dangerously slim, Terry Collins pulls Matz from the game. The camera follows the young rookie do the dugout, where he slams his glove to the ground. If there were a couch, I’m sure he’d slam that too.
The sixth inning ends with no further damage and the Royals trailing 3 – 2. After a soundless seventh inning we enter the eighth, with Clippard of the aviator goggles pitching. In the first at-bat he gets Escobar to ground out, but then lets Zobrist take a stroll—and Cain too, after he had Cain 0 – 2 two pitches into the at-bat.
I am excited, but try to keep my tone conversational. “Okay! Keep the line moving!”
Terry Collins and the Mets would prefer to bring the line to a grinding halt, so he swaps Clippard for Familia. Clippard can be seen mouthing a four letter curse. The levee hasn’t broken yet, so this is Familia’s chance to patch things up with Hos coming up to bat. Hos makes contact on the second pitch. It’s a soft grounder that seems to be making its merry way to Daniel Murphy’s glove. But the ball is only flirting with the glove. It coyly stays low—millimeters away!—and scampers out of reach. Zobrist scores to tie the game. Daniel Murphy copes by applying Chapstick. Whatever helps.
Familia really has the worst luck—cursed since Game 1 by Alex Gordon’s home run. He can’t seem to pull himself together and gives away consecutive singles to Moustakas and Salvy, bringing the Royals on top 5 – 3. Yost wastes no time unleashing Wade Davis and the game is in the bag past midnight. It is a spooky Halloween indeed for Gotham City.
The Royals are one win away from winning the World Series. This year’s one-win-away sensation is much different than last year’s, because it was also a one-loss-away situation. This year there are lots of different ways we could win the World Series! We could lose two games and win one, lose one game and win one, or just win one without any of the losing! It is strange and novel to be from Kansas City and for the second year in a row and have one’s team be a game away from winning the World Series.
Stranger yet is that this all happening less than ten miles from where I am sitting on a couch. The television fills up with blue—not blue and orange, but just blue. There is a whole legion of Royals fans at Citifield. It looks like half of Kansas City is hanging out in Queens.
“Wow, look at all the Royals fans,” says Noemi.
“I know! I should be there.”
But really, who are those people? If they are they made it to Citi Field there must be a way I can, too. This is what I think about as I pace the platform waiting for the G train. I forgot it is Halloween until I see a slutty librarian and Darth Vader. The thunder of the train’s arrival brings me out of my reverie. The train is packed. It is not your Halloween type of packed, where you won’t escape without getting glitter bombed or elbowed by a dominatrix using the holiday as an excuse to wear her work uniforms in public. Nor is this the typical Saturday night type of packed, with red matte lipstick, high heels and gelled man-buns.
No, none of that. I see flashes of blue, flashes of orange and realize this is the crowd from Citi Field coming from the 7 train at Court Square, the same people whose misery I just saw on live television. They are in old Mets scarves, old Mets hats, Piazza jerseys worn over blue sweatshirts worn under jean jackets; they are wearing stuff they dug out of storage or an outerborough garage, stuff that was garnished with cobwebs until this postseason.
Other than a sporadic vampire, these are the only other people on the train. The only ones. The train comes to a stop and the doors yawn open. No one gets off. I make a big decision in this moment. Do I unbutton my jean jacket and ostentatiously broadcast who I’m cheering for, and by default, how happy I am? Or do I keep my jacket respectfully buttoned? If I stay buttoned I could be one of them, except for the fact that my visage is far too sanguine for me to pass as a Mets fan at this moment.
I usually avoid ostentatiousness but not provocation, so this is a dilemma for me. I go for a compromise, unbuttoning my jacket but not exuberantly letting it flap open like the shutters of a window on a spring day. I see this as a humble display of pride that won’t merit any kind of knuckle sandwich.
At first there is only room to stand. What my shirt says is of no consequence because no one can see it anyway. There is not much talking on the train as it worms its way through Brooklyn. Conversations are muffled by sweaters, scarves, hats and bodies. I find somewhere to sit once the train spits out a few bodies at Bergen Street.
There is now enough space in the train to hear all the conversations about What Went Wrong. Most people talk about Daniel Murphy. He is a hard one for them to talk about, because he was a big part of What Went Right earlier in the postseason. I catch the serious conversation of a clutch of red-faced men who are having a nightcap of bagged beer.
“It’s not just on Murphy, though.”
“Yeah, but you really just have to catch the grounder. You can’t just let that grounder go.”
“Yeah, but that was one run. What about the other ones? What about Familia?”
“Nah, nah, nah. It was Clippard, when he walked those two guys.”
A third man agreed.
“And besides, we would not be here without Murphy.”
A big sigh is heaved.
“Yeah. But maaaaan. Murphy.”
“Those Royals are feisty, though.”
“They’re soooo fuckin’ feisty.”
The talk stops. The tallest guy in the group looks at me. I quickly avert my eyes. Only a sliver of the Royals Y peeks though my jacket and my bag, which is on my lap, covers most of it. Does he know?
He knows. He lowers his voice, looks at his friends, and gestures towards me with his chin. I hear him mutter as the group gets off at Smith and 9th.
“I bet she’s happy.”