Most of you know that I'm a life-long Atlanta Braves fan. This means I'm required by laws of nature to take great joy in anything bad that happens to the New York Mets. So the last two Septembers have been particularly good considering that my Braves haven't been involved directly in the playoff hunt, yet I've able to watch as the hapless Mets collapse down the stretch two years in a row. Still, I have some sympathy for at least one Mets fan. This year has been doubly tough for Levi; not only has he watched yet another team fail to make it to the playoffs after fading in the final weeks, but he also had to bid farewell to the venue that he loved. Here's Levi's take on Shea Stadium:
Shea Stadium is a very literary place. As I wrote in a recent article, it's built on a spot described by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. Don Delillo wrote a weird movie, Game Six, about one of the most famous World Series victories of all time there -- the same game (1986, Red Sox) immortalized in Seinfeld and many other places. George Plimpton once wrote an April Fools day hoax story in Sports Illustrated about a barefoot Mets pitcher named Sidd Finch. Paul Auster's City of Glass is about a Mets fan who goes insane (Mookie Wilson has something to do with it), and writers from Jonathan Lethem to Frank Messina have celebrated the team from various literary perches.
Shea Stadium is a major symbol in my novel Summer of the Mets, which nobody ever reads but which is a psychological study of a kid who suffers from extreme shyness. He has trouble with various social encounters, but then he goes to Mets games with his family and marvels at the human synchronicity -- the cheers, the boos, the Wave -- of the packed crowd surrounding him in Shea's concrete perfect circle. He finds that Mets games are the only place where he can be part of a large crowd and not feel alienated. I wrote about this because, of course, that's the way I used to feel when I was a kid and went to Shea Stadium, and I guess in a way I've never stopped feeling that way about the place. I wonder if this is a common reason why people enjoy going to baseball games. If it is, I don't think there could have ever been a friendlier or more welcoming place (not like that other ballpark uptown) to enjoy a baseball game than rollickin' Shea Stadium, an unpretentious arena where New Yorkers have always been at their nicest.