“What is this, the 1940s?” my 15-year-old son asked, hearing a fuzzy AM radio broadcast of a Mets game coming from the kitchen.
Nothing’s better than the background murmur of the crowd, the tock of the batted ball, the announcer’s voice rising at any burst of action interrupting the lulls and color commentary on players, managing, or the lamentable changes to the eternal game.
And speaking of the ’40s, this Howie Rose of WCBS 880, with his nasal, staccato delivery suited to midcentury America, is now doubling as a spokesman for Bigelow Tea, a throwback sponsor if ever there was one. “I refuse to settle, and neither should you,” he says. “Grab a mug and tea proudly!”
My baseball radio habit, only recently brought out of mothballs, honestly goes back 35 years, to the 1986 Mets’ unsurpassable World Series thriller, caught out of doors on a cheap Sony portable as my brother and I hammered cedar clapboarding onto the exterior of our parents’ flag-lot house in the woods along the L.I.R.R. tracks.
The thing is, listening in this way and skipping the small-screen feed only makes the throbbing green field and bright scoreboard lights that much more vivid on those occasions when you brave the L.I.E. to visit Citi Field in person. As we just did, sweating the bumper-to-bumper traffic, flooring the S.U.V. in the H.O.V. in the brief window of clear sailing it offered, determined as I was that we not miss the national anthem — it’s part of the show, after all.
We made it, even caught the tail end of a come-from-behind win in a doubleheader make-up day game that was news to me. Spent some quality family time in the inevitable snaking line at Shake Shack, and then shoveled it all in once back at our seats, which were elevated high above first base, but in the front row before the precipice — there really is no bad seat in the house. And this just in time to see . . . a giant white tarp rolled out over the diamond.
Yet even that turn of events didn’t dim our spirits, such is the infectious joy of the place.
“Hey buddy!” some half-in-the-bag fan called out from the rows above me. “We got the same shirt!” He stood to show me his matching Pete (Polar Bear) Alonso souvenir from a 2019 Free T-Shirt Night, and I do value it, but I believe more so the chance to be addressed as “buddy.”
Listen, I’m not one to chat up strangers, but in the stadium among fellow revelers after the boys in royal blue and orange pull one out? “Good win, right?” to the guy ascending the steps on my left. A loss? “Yeah, if we can just get some injured dudes back.”
Jets, Giants, Islanders, even the Ducks — to me, no other sports franchise comes close to engendering this kind of affection, and who the hell knows why. A happy place. We need it.