Friday, February 12, 2010

Game Six - behind enemy lines

I'm in the middle of reading Faith and Fear in Flushing, Greg Price's book that shares the name of his excellent blog. His recollection of Game Six prompted me to dig up something that earned me two tickets to the only movie premiere I have ever attended.

Game 6 was an odd little film that came out in 2006. Shot on a shoestring budget with a screenplay by Don DeLillo, it starred Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Griffin Dunne, Bebe Neuwirth, Catherine O'Hara and Harris Yulin, or as my wife mistakenly remembed him as, Yulie Harris. (Now, whenever we see an actor but can't remember his name, we say, "You know, Yulie Harris.")

Directed by Michael Hoffman, the film is about a playwright (Keaton) who is a die-hard Red Sox fan living in New York City. The opening of his new play is scheduled for the same night as Game 6, and if that weren't bad enough, he anticipates his play being savaged by the mysterious theater critic played by Downey Jr.

Despite the considerable talent involved, it is an awful film. I knew going in that Game 6 was just the backdrop to the story, so I didn't go in thinking it was a baseball movie. That's not the problem. It's just a disjointed mess. Is it a comedy? A drama? It doesn't know. (Sure enough, its IMDB page lists it as both.)

Anyway, part of the film's publicity was to ask people to write about what they were doing during Game Six. The best entries would receive tickets to the premiere in Manhattan. My story? I was a freshman at Boston University, so close to the heart of Red Sox nation that I could see Fenway Park from my dorm room.

Sure enough, I was one of the winners, and I took my extremely pregnant wife, Paula, to the film. All of the stars were there (except Downey Jr., which disappointed Paula), which was kind of cool. Then the director got up to say a few words, and I'll never forget that he told us, "If you feel like laughing, please laugh."

That wasn't a good sign.

After the movie, Paula and I went out for a nice dinner, so the evening wasn't a total loss. And we got to go to an actual movie premiere, albeit for a film that opened and closed within a week, its DVDs quickly finding its way to supermarket bargain bins. (By the way, I asked the PR folks to send me a free DVD, since the best entries were included on the DVD as part of the bonus features. They never did. Bastards.)

So to spare you from getting the DVD to read it, here's my winning entry:


I was a 17-year-old college freshman at Boston University, which many of us referred to as LIU-North because so many of the students were Long Islanders.

A Mets fan since birth -- my father was at Shea when they won in 1969, seven months after I was born -- I found myself surrounded by New Yorkers, Red Sox fans, and students who simply adopted the Sox as their team because they were going to college in Boston (pretty weak). Needless to say, it was an interesting place to be when the Mets and Sox faced off in the World Series.

The Mets dropped the first two games at Shea only to win the next two at Fenway. The Sox won game five to move within a win from taking the Series. Boston was in a state of frenzied anticipation. I couldn't imagine the Mets losing the Series with me in Boston. "I may have to transfer," I thought.

Only one kid on our floor had a television, and he knew nothing about baseball. So we took his TV to my friend Tim's room. Tim was a die-hard Sox fan, but a good guy nonetheless. About a dozen of us hunkered down to watch the game.

It was tense. The Sox took a 3-2 lead but the Mets tied it in the bottom of the eighth when Calvin Schiraldi came in to pitch. Schiraldi was an ex-Met, and I guarantee any Mets fan will tell you, once Schiraldi came in, we really liked our chances. Gary Carter's one-out, bases-loaded sac fly knotted the score.

Dave Henderson's homer in the tenth was a body blow. The Sox fans and the wanna-bes scattered, headed to Kenmore Square in anticipation of an armageddon-like celebration after Boston’s inevitable victory. Marty Barrett singled in another run. The only ones left in the room were me and Tim.

I'm staring at the screen, a shell. The Mets won 108 games that season, a powerhouse. But they struggled against the Astros and were about to lose to the Red Sox, with me at ground zero of Red Sox nation; I could see Fenway from my room on the 14th floor of Warren Towers, BU's massive freshman dorm.

Tim looked at me and sensed my pain. "I know this sucks, but you don't understand what it's like being a Sox fan," Tim said. "This is huge."

I do not respond. Tim doesn't expect me to.

So it's just the two of us as the Sox move to within an out of victory. Then Carter singled. Kevin Mitchell came up and rapped a pinch-hit single.

I began to hope when Ray Knight stepped in. He was clutch all year. So when he singled in Gary Carter, I began to believe again.

Then Bob Stanley came in.

Tim's immediate reaction was, "Oh, God, no, NOT STANLEY!" Once I heard that, I knew there was a real chance the Mets could come back and win.

Sure enough, Stanley bounces a pitch under Mookie Wilson's feet and past Rich Gedman. Mitchell scores and the game is tied, and Knight -- Mister Karma that season -- is on second.

I will fight to the death anyone who does not believe that Wilson would have beaten Buckner to the bag had Buckner fielded that ground ball. It's clear on the replays that as the ball passed under his glove, the gimpy Buckner was shuffling to his left and flat-footed. One second after the ball goes through, Wilson rounds first. So to me, Wilson would have reached anyway with an infield hit, which would not have scored Knight, but would have spared Buckner -- a hell of ballplayer for many years prior -- so much agony.

We know what happened next.

To that point in my life as a sports fan I had experienced the Islanders winning four straight Stanley Cups and seen Team USA beat the Soviet Union. But nothing compared to the feeling after the Mets won game six. All the tension after being so close to losing was released, replaced by pure joy.

Outside, you could hear Mets fans in other rooms in Warren Towers screaming in delight, while Sox fans like Tim just slumped in dazed agony.

After yelling and running up and down the hall in celebration, I waited by the elevators for the pseudo-Sox fans to return from their ill-advised and premature trip to Kenmore Square.

A bell rang. The elevator doors opened. Incredibly -- I couldn't have scripted it any better – they were all in there together. And there was me, wearing my Mets cap and the biggest shit-eating grin I could muster.

I walked back to my room, where I called my buddies at home who were watching the game together at my friend Joe's house.

Two days later, I made another call. Joe’s dad answered and immediately put him on.

I said, "Listen to this," and put the receiver up to the open window of my dorm room. Someone in B tower had "We Are the Champions" cranked, and the sound of that song mixed in with the cheers and hollers of displaced Mets fans rang through the Boston night.

I got back on the phone. "Can you believe it?" I said. It was almost too good to be true.

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