Dear Basketball

The three senior players from my varsity basketball team, including yours truly on the right. (Photo courtesy of the Bangor Daily News)

The three senior players from my varsity basketball team, including yours truly on the right. (Photo courtesy of the Bangor Daily News)

Dear Basketball,

I didn’t realize this was it how it was done. Thankfully, Kobe Bryant has shown us all the way.

That being the case, I’ve come back to you on this day — the last day of November in the year of our Lord, (Michael Jordan) — to let you know I’m announcing my retirement from basketball. Retroactive, of course, to 1999; the last time I played in a 5-on-5 game.

I first met you when I was in third grade and it was love at first dribble. I was, what, eight years old? The moment I felt that ball in my hand, I knew you were the only sport for me.

Sure, I tried soccer for a year. I played football for one season in eighth grade, but the day I got my bell rung, I kind of knew it would be my only season.

I even played baseball up to high school, until I saw my first curve ball. Then I realized I was an a no-field, no-hit player who just had above-average speed.

You, basketball, became my sport; the love of my life.

As you know, I had to overcome a lot to play you.

I was undersized — 5-foot-11 on my best day with the right sneakers. I couldn’t really shoot all that well, either. I was an average ball-handler.

As a player my sophomore year at the Bangor Auditorium.

As a player my sophomore year at the Bangor Auditorium.

But I could jump, I could play defense, and I could out-hustle anybody on the court.

Heart was my strength and it’s never failed me on the basketball court.

I learned that would be my calling early on in life, during that first season when my coach, a man named Bob Ryan, taught me how to take a charge.

The rest was history.

Though it was a rocky history, for sure. Love, I supposed, can be like that sometimes.

I found out that you were a political sport because of those in power positions.

For the three years I was in junior high, I had a teacher/(ahem) coach who I knew hated me. Needless to say, I wasn’t his biggest fan, either.

At the time, I suppose somebody could have said I simply wasn’t good enough to make the team. I would have disagreed — vehemently, probably — but what the hell does a 12-13-14-year-old boy know when compared to a grown man in a power position of being a coach, right?

The grown up is always right, even when they’re wrong. And this guy was wrong. Period.

Well, when I went to high school, I was handed some ammunition that helped me state my case: As a freshman, I made the JV basketball team.

Fuck you, Mr. Hooper — though he would come back to haunt me once again.

I didn’t play much as a freshman and that was fine. I played JV again as a sophomore, suiting up for my favorite coach of all time, and got the most playing time of my high school career. A JV starter might not mean much to the world, but our varsity basketball team that season won a state championship and it was great to be in the pipeline.

In practice during my sophomore year.

In practice during my sophomore year.

To be honest, I thought I was good enough to make varsity as a sophomore. But the varsity coach took only one sophomore that season — a 6-1 forward.

He became a swing player later in the season, going up and down from JV to varsity, and I’ll never forget the practice where my JV coach paired us players at each basket to play one-on-one and he put me up against the varsity player.

I won.

It was my way of proving a point and, my coach would later tell me, his way of making a point to me, as well. Yes, I was good enough.

Then my junior year, it happened again.

Mr. Hooper.

My middle school coach — remember I told you he hated me? — had become the school’s JV coach and while I made the team, I was back on the bench, back on JV again.

It was the worst year of my basketball life.

I hated hating you, basketball, but that’s what Mr. Hooper did to me. He didn’t teach me to get better. He taught me to hate basketball.

Over that following summer, I transferred from that school to the high school I would graduate from.

Without Mr. Hooper — I will never call him Coach! — I ended up making varsity on a team that played for the Eastern Maine Class B championship the year before, and we got back to the semifinals; again, proof to me that this one man was holding me back as a player.

But that year renewed my love for basketball and I carried that with me into the future, too.

I was never good enough to play in college, but after high school I learned my eye-sight was pretty bad and starting wearing contacts.

That actually helped me become a better shooter as I played pick-up games at Husson College and the Bangor YMCA.

I became a better shooter, a better passer, and I never let the hustle waver — even as my body got older and took such dives to the court a lot more harsher.

Over the years, basketball remained a huge part of my life — mostly in my role as a sportswriter — but I also became a coach for four years and a certified patch-wearing referee for two winters, as well.

Sitting with former Wakefield (Mass) High player Liz Labriola at a summer basketball camp.

Sitting with former Wakefield (Mass) High player Liz Labriola at a summer basketball camp.

Through the years, I’ve been a fan of the NBA, though that has waned in recent years because of the spoiled players, the money and the style of game. College basketball and high school basketball still rates high, though the one-and-done of college hoops is a sad state of affairs and AAU basketball is spoiling part of the high school sports experience.

Another winter is now upon us, which means another basketball season is here.

I’m excited to get out there to be a part of it.

But on Sunday night when Kobe Bryant wrote you that letter, telling you he has retiring from basketball, I realized I had forgotten to do that.

Thus, I hereby make it official.

As of 1999, I have been retired as a player from the sport that has given me so much over my life.

Thank you, basketball, for being there for 42 years.

When ‘The Smile’ Is Gone From Your Life

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Bri Wade’s smile, which I no longer get to see, has moved on to bigger and better things. (Photo blatantly stolen from Bri Wade’s facebook page).

There was a time, not all that long ago, when no matter how bad my day was, I knew I could go home and be greeted with The Smile that would lift my spirit.

Well, that’s not quite true. The Smile that would brighten my world would actually came about one and a half miles before I got home, when I stopped by the Wheels convenience store to grab my nightly dinner and snacks. (See why I needed The Smile? I’m eating my dinner from a convenience store).

I first met Bri (pronounced Bree) Wade three years or four years ago, on a day when I walked into that store and was greeted with one of the biggest, most genuine smiles I had ever seen.

It was that type of smile that literally gives you a lift, that grabs you by the shoulder and says, “Hey, can it really be all that bad?”

It was more than a smile. It was a beam, a glow. It was The Smile. She radiated happiness that wouldn’t just rub off on you, but leap from her soul and grab on to yours.

More than anything it was pure and it was genuine, and that’s what counted.

We came from totally different worlds. I’m the old fart from the state of Maine,  working 40, 50, 60 hours a week as life slips away. She lived in Bridgeport, young enough to be dipping her toes into the real world while deciding what she wanted out of the rest of her life.

It was early in our nightly multi-minute rendezvous — me in front of the counter with my goods, her behind the counter, taking my money — where I told her she had one of the best smiles I had ever seen.

Somehow, she smiled even bigger and I felt even better.

Over the next three years, we saw each other often — she worked nights, I worked nights — and it was refreshing to know that I would be able to end my day with The Smile offering hope for another day.

We’d make small talk and over the years, Bri and I would, and all that adds up so you slowly get to know one another. I met her brother and her father over the course of my nightly stops. We even became Facebook friends, which in this 21st century digitally signifies the importance of a relationship, even one as seemingly mundane as two-minute interactions every day over the course of three or four years.

One night, she was sitting outside, taking a break, a sad look on her face. Something was up in her world, something that was none of my business and something I probably wouldn’t be able to understand.

But I tried to make to make her smile just a little, a thank you for all the nights she ended my day with her smile.

I liked it when I could.

She was Bri and I was Nash — that’s how she greeted me when I walked in the store … “Hey, Naaaassshhh!” — and I liked how I felt after spending just a few minutes with her.

Then one day, she was gone.

Convenience store jobs aren’t forever.

So just like that “The Smile” was removed from my life.

I still stop by “Wheels” most nights, but it’s not the same. The guys who work the counter — Juan, Ace, Bennie — he’s the new guy — are all nice enough people. They still feed me.

But none of them are Bri Wade. None of them flash me that smile that brightens my day just a little bit.

Wherever she is these days, I hope she’s still smiling. I heard through the guys she’s gone back to college, which is the big next step toward the rest of your life. I’m happy for her and proud of her.

I just hope all those she’s interacting with every day still get to see that smile and I hope she’s brightening other people’s world the way she lit up mine for a period of time.

Good luck, Bri. Keep smiling.

Hating the Hatred of the New World

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He was the first man I ever met who hated hate and while I can’t remember his name, I can still to this day vividly remember his face and the day he talked about how much hatred was in the world.

It wasn’t even the year 2000 yet, but there he was, a man ahead of his time, breaking down in tears as he talked about how much the hatred of the world takes out of him.

I was in my late 20s at the time, going through a divorce and in a group therapy session back in my native Maine, when I met the man whose name escapes me.

I want to say Glenn. But maybe it was Ted.

The name isn’t important, though. The emotion is what counts and what brings me here today to spill my guts on this topic.

I’m guessing that Glenn (or was it Ted?) was close to my age now when I first met him — late 40s, closing in too fast on the big five-oh — when he took the floor that day and let all the emotion pour out of him.

I was somewhat new to the group at the time and I remember realizing I had never seen such raw emotion flow out of a human being like that before. It was eye-opening. It was human. It was so real.

I’ve thought of Ted (Glenn?) a lot lately because I’m beginning to sense how much hatred is out there in the world. That’s not true. It’s not a sense anymore. It’s a full-fledged inner feeling that leaves me uneasy.

I know there’s always been hatred. History has taught us that and reminds of us that every day.

But it was always big picture stuff.

I know there are people, radicals, who hate other people and they’re willing to fly planes into buildings, or walk into concert halls in Paris and kill, all in the name of their take on their religion.

We claim to not understand that,  yet there are people who invoke the name of Jesus Christ himself in order to strike down homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and a myriad of other things they don’t agree with.

Radicals are to Islam what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity, right?

What has me inner-grieving so much, though, is today I see people I consider (considered?) my friends, spewing hatred at other people through social media sites, just because they want to and just because they can.

Sometimes it’s political as they attack President Obama for random things that rise up from their view point on the right. Those on the left do the same thing to the far right Tea Party people, too.

And because of this whole left-right thing nothing gets done in our country anymore. The political system is broken and embarrassing.

Sometimes it’s cultural because, well, for some reason they think it’s fun to hate on somebody because they’re young, rich, famous (Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, et. al). Where does this come from? Jealousy? I’m far from a Justin Bieber fan and I don’t like his music one iota, but if I had his money and the paparazzi following me around 24/7, I can’t imagine what trouble I would have found myself in. I guess you would have hated me, too, if that was the case.

There’s sports fan hatred, too, and I’m getting tired of that. The Patriots are despised because they win all the time and dip their toes into the waters of probable cheating to get an edge. (Like they’re the only ones). The Giants and Cowboys despise each other because, well, they’re the Giants and Cowboys and that’s what they’re supposed to do.

I grew up hating the Yankees for no reason other than they were the arch-rivals of my beloved Boston Red Sox.

I learned to hate the Boston Celtics for no other reason than they were the arch-rivals of my beloved Philadelphia 76ers … and they won all the time and were arrogant in doing so.

But sports hatred is left to be tolerated because, after all, it’s only a game, right?

Sadly, not for everybody.

In my own life, looking back on it, I can count the number of people I hated on one hand. And I was one of them, so I’ve learned that I have to let such hatred go because otherwise it would have taken me down with it.

In my heart, I want to be hate free and I try every day to remain that way.

But then I log onto Facebook, or scroll through Twitter, and I read the hateful comments and it saddens me.

I’m tempted to get off both forever, signing off and not dealing with it anymore.

People tell me to block the haters, or unfollow them, and this would be the wise choice. But these are also people I love and care about, too, and cutting the cord isn’t that easy.

I just don’t understand why people are so full of hate anymore. How can we be with the world the way it is?

More than 20 years ago, I met a man who nearly crumbled under the weight of hate. I don’t know what happened to Glenn/Ted, but I hope he’s out there and I hope he’s OK.

I guess I want all of us to be OK, but with all the hatred in the world — from the little things, to next terrorist strike that’s coming down the pike — I fear that will never be the case.

‘Tramps Like Us, Baby We Were Born To Run’

It takes a very special person to be a cross country runner. This photo was captured at the start of the 2015 Connecticut State Open championship. (Photo by John Nash)

It takes a very special person to be a cross country runner. This photo was captured at the start of the 2015 Connecticut State Open championship. (Photo by John Nash)

To this very day, I can vividly remember my first-ever cross country practice.

I arrived at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, Maine, on a late August day, a 14-year-old freshman who didn’t know shit about tomorrow, and I was told we were going to run the Howard Street course. We would start from the school, run down Broadway, up State Street, left onto Howard Street, left onto Stillwater Ave., left onto Broadway and back to the school.

Three miles with just one order from the coach: Don’t stop.

That was the practice for all of us. From the best runner on the boys team, a senior named Marc Chretian, to the worst runner on the girls team.

Off we went.

In four years, I can’t imagine the number of miles I put in, putting one foot in front of the other, my feet striking the pavement with just enough of a pronation that I would wear out sneakers each and every season.

I wore running shoes. I wore waffle racers. I wore spikes. It all depended on the day and the race. And, back in the day, we wore those little short shorts that all runners wore.

My best finish was a Top-10 showing at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. My greatest race was finishing 27th in the state at Colby College in Waterville my sophomore year.

I was part of a team state championship my junior year, and a Pendale Invitational championship my senior year.

I’d say for each mile I ran, a memory was made.

• The Revenge Of The Track Rats: We had a love-hate relationship with our football team. On Saturday nights, we loved them as they represented our school, wearing the Purple and White with pride. The rest of the week, we hated them. They called us “Track Rats” and we called them a lot of things. One day, when we had finally had enough of their teasing (these days the Charmin people would call it “bullying,” we plotted our revenge. They had these huge hangers for all their pads and we decided on this particular day to throw all of them into the middle of the locker room, one of each other, in a pile. Ever try to take apart 35 coat hangers that are intermixed in a pile? It’s not easy. We caught holy hell from our coach on that one, but I seem to recall it came with a sly smile. As for our football team, “Go Crusaders!”

• Drummond Street Hill. I dare say our “hill route” was probably one of the greatest practice hills in the country for a high school cross country team. It was called Drummond Street Hill and some days we ran up , cut across Ohio Street and then ran up to the Thomas Hill Standpipe — at least a half-mile climb that would make your legs burn. Other days, we sprinted up and down Drummond Street until we puked. I think it made us perhaps the best hill running team in the state, though. No rise would intimidate us after a season of running that.

• The Run Of Unknown Destination: This came during my senior at Hampden Academy and the practice was simple. Go run for at least an hour straight. Run wherever you want. Trails, roads, hills, beaches, backyards. If we had access to treadmills back then, we could probably run on that, too. This day was actually the furthest run of my high school career — we estimated at 12 miles. It was during this run, though, where the memory was made. While running on a trail off Route 202 we came across a car sitting in the middle of woods. We all stopped at this oddity, not sure what to do, or what we would find. A dead body? An empty stolen car? Slowly, we approached. And then we found a rather amorous couple, initially not distracted by the group of runners peering in the window. Her shriek of horror sent us scampering further down the trail, but I can guarantee you no football team every came across such a memory. There again, it was usually the football stars that were in the car with the pretty girls, so I digress.

I could dig for more, no doubt, since I ran more than three miles in my cross country career, but the reason I sat down to write this is because of what I witnessed yesterday at the Connecticut State Open Championship meet at Wickham Park.

The State Open — is it’s known — is something the State of Maine never had. In Maine, we had our league meet (The Penobscot Valley Conference championship), our regional meet (The Eastern Maine championships) and a three- or four-class state meet, depending on the year.

Here in Connecticut there are league meets, followed by state class meets (Classes LL, L, MM, M, SS and S) and out of those meets come those runners who advance to the State Open championship meet.

They are the best of the best, and qualifiers from this meet advance to the New England Regional meet next weekend.

I was reminded of what makes cross country such a great sport again on Saturday.

The winners — Eric van der Els of Brien McMahon High School and Hannah DeBalsi of Staples High School — are two of the top distance runners I’ve ever had the honor to chronicle in my long career as a sportswriter. Eric is heading to UConn while Hannah — a three-time State Open champ — is bound for Stanford.

Both are great kids and it’s been such a pleasure and honor to have watched them grow up through their careers.

Twenty minutes into the girls race, though, I also got to witness the other thing that makes the sport great, as well.

The finish line at Wickham Park is a 200-meter up-hill finish, a long steady grade that saps a lot of runners and empties their tanks.

It was during this climb to the finish that I first saw Sarah Leavens of Avon High School come into view. Her legs were growing unsteady and you could tell she was in trouble. She was done. She was going down.

I’ve witnessed this before many times. Once runners go down, their legs are gone. It’s next to impossible to get up as a runner tries, they look baby deers walking for the first time.

It’s painful to watch, yet it’s also in a way heroic. Because they don’t stop.

New Fairfield's Kristen Richichi, right, stops to help a fallen Sarah Leavens of Avon during Saturday's Connecticut State Open championship meet.

New Fairfield’s Kristen Richichi, right, stops to help a fallen Sarah Leavens of Avon during Saturday’s Connecticut State Open championship meet.

They’re trained not to. They go down and they think, “Get up.” They know the race isn’t done until they cross the finish line.

You could see that in Sarah Leavens’ eyes as she sat their, less than 20 yards from the finish, looking at the goal in front of her, trying to will herself back to her feet.

I’ve seen runners crawl to the finish line before.

I didn’t think Sarah was going to get back up when suddenly a runner from New Milford, a girl named Kristen Richichi stopped as she ran by and started to help Sarah up.

From the finish line, the race officials yelled for Kristen not to help Sarah because — despite the sportsmanship angle and the fact the runner helping the helpee is costing herself time and places — it’s an event that could lead both runners to be disqualified. (I never said cross country was perfect).

Sarah got back up and she finished, staggering home in 142nd place. Kristen, once Sarah got to her feet, sprinted ahead and finished 135th.

New Fairfield and Avon are not in the same conferences, but the week before Sarah had finished eighth in the Class MM championship race while Kristen was ninth. Both finished as the No. 2 runners for their team.

This was a bad day as both were more than a minute slower than the week before, but they were, a moment in time, one runner helping another will herself to the finish.

I’ve never met a runner I haven’t liked. And I think that’s a big reason why, all these years and all these pounds later, I still remember what it was like to be one.

These Two Are Always Winners To Me

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Another election day has passed.

In the fall of 1980, me and a group of friends joined the political campaign of a young up-and-coming citizen of Bangor, Maine; a gentleman named John Baldacci, who was running for city council against a man named Howard Trotzky.

We walked neighborhoods, handing out fliers; we cold-called people from a long list of numbers printed on a dot-matrix printer; and we waited on that November day as the votes were cast.

We lost.

I left politics never to look back, except from time to time to express my own rights as an independently registered voter.

Thankfully, the honorable Mr. Baldacci stayed in the game and later became a congressman in Washington, D.C, (1993-2003), and then the Governor of Maine for two terms (2003-2011).

The reason I bring this up today is because two old friends from my high school days — Joe Perry and Dani O’Halloran — have put themselves out there and entered the world of local politics.

On Tuesday, Joe won in his quest for a seat on the Bangor City Council.

Across the river, Dani lost her seat as a member of the Brewer School Committee.

As far as I’m concerned, though, both are most definitely winners. And always have been.

Back in high school, everybody could have seen Joe Perry becoming a politician. Everybody liked him. And he liked everybody, or so it seemed. He greeted everybody with a warm a smile and an open mind. It didn’t matter what clique you belonged to, you felt like Joe knew you and liked you.

As a football player at John Bapst Memorial High School, he wasn’t the most talented individual, but his work ethic was something that everybody could have and should have followed. He was one of those people who was a thankless lineman, but he took pride in that, being in the trenches and doing the dirty work so the team could succeed.

Joe Perry, right, and his son. (Photo blatantly stolen from Joe Perry's Facebook Page)

Joe Perry, right, and his son. (Photo blatantly stolen from Joe Perry’s Facebook Page)

Twelve years after high school, right around the time he was 30, I suppose, Joe was voted to represent Bangor in the Maine House of Representatives. Eight years later, he ran for — and won — a seat in the Maine Senate, serving another eight years there.

(I also think it’s pretty cool that he served under Gov. Baldacci, a man he knew well.)

Even though I no longer live in Bangor, when I saw on Joe’s Facebook page that he was running for a seat on the city council, I was happy for him … and happy for the residents of my former hometown.

Not only do I feel Joe is the right man for the job, in my heart of hearts I think he’s the best man for the job, too.

He would have had my vote in each election he ran in. He’s that good of a man.

Dani, meanwhile, is also that good of a woman.

While I was able to follow Joe Perry’s political career through the press, Dani O’Halloran disappeared from my life for a good two-plus decades after high school.

Dani and I first got to know each other when she was a manager for our junior varsity basketball team. We would sit together on bus rides home and as I got to know her, I also got to know of her family a bit and since she had multiple police officers around her, public service was obviously in her blood.

Dani O'Halloran and her daughters. (Photo blatantly stolen from Dani O'Halloran's Facebook Page)

Dani O’Halloran and her daughters. (Photo blatantly stolen from Dani O’Halloran’s Facebook Page)

It was only after rediscovering her through the magic of Facebook that I got to realize she had become a Mom, a professional in the real estate world, and a member of the Brewer School Committee.

Like others in her family, she was giving back to her community and I admire her so much for that.

It’s one thing to love your kids and follow their exploits as they grow up, but it’s taking it to a totally different level when you jump in to the fray of a local school committee, or school board, to make things better not just for your kids, but for everybody’s else’s kids, as well.

And that’s the kind of person Dani has grown up to be, and I think that’s pretty great.

I admire her more now than I ever did when we were teenagers and the most important thing in my world was that day’s junior varsity game. (I was such a little picture thinker compared to her!)

Last night, Dani posted her congratulations to those who won seats (A class act by a class lady, might I add) and this morning when I got up I looked at the results myself.

She lost by 95 votes.

The city of Brewer lost by a lot more, in my humble opinion.

During my three decades in journalism, I’ve been privy to cover the world of local politics — city council meetings, school board meetings and the like — and I hated every minute of it.

But by sitting there and listening to everything that was said and talked about during these mundane, yet important, meetings, it did bring me a new-found respect to those who put themselves out there and run for such offices for the greater good of their towns and states.

It takes a very special person to do that and that’s exactly what Joe Perry and Dani O’Halloran are to their respective communities and the people in their respective lives.

It’s taken me far too long to say it, but both of them are winners in my book and I know each of them are passing down what makes them so great to their own children — Joe’s sons, and Dani’s daughters, as well.

Thus, there is hope for the future.

So 24 hours after our most recent election — for a while at least — I can feel pretty good about that.

The Day I Went To The World Series

My view for Game 3 of the 2015 World Series (Photo by John Nash)

My view for Game 3 of the 2015 World Series (Photo by John Nash)

Buried somewhere deep in my box of regrets is the fact that in the Summer of 1996, I didn’t take the time and effort to go to Atlanta to attend the Summer Olympics.

I had a friend who lived just outside the city, so I had a free place to say. It’s the Olympics, so I would have taken tickets to anything … judo, crew, rhythmic gymnastics.

Instead, though, I let the opportunity pass. And, 19 years later, it’s a regret I carry with me.

So when the World Series came to New York City, courtesy of the National League champion New York Mets, I knew I faced living with another regret.

To go, or not to go?

As a life-long sports fan, I’ve been lucky enough to have seen countless games at Fenway Park. I’ve seen in the Bruins play twice and the Patriots play. Since moving to the tri-state area, I’ve been to Madison Square Garden for countless college basketball games and one NBA game.

But this was different. This was big time. This was history.

A couple twists of fate made my decision easier.

First came my own stupidity.

After a late Friday night at the office, I was supposed to wake up at 7:30 a.m. and attend the State Cross Country championship meets for work. Sadly, I never switched over my “p.m.” to “a.m.”, so when I woke up at 9:15 a.m., Saturday morning, the meet had already started.

From home, I was able to follow the action and work on writing a story and it was while waiting for results to come in that the idea popped into my head.

I could go to the World Series.

I missed the opportunity to get tickets at — ahem — face value, so I’d have to either scalp a ticket (too risky), or purchase one through a third-party website.

I started checking out StubHub and SeatGeek and, needless to say, tickets were over-priced … $600 for standing room only.

It was still early, though, and I decided when tickets dropped down into the $500 range I’d consider snatching one up. If it was the right seat.

Over the course of the morning, our local region had a couple of state champions so I set up telephone interviews with both of them and, after telling one of them I was planning on attending a game, the conversation ended with our girl’s champion telling me to “Have a great time at the game.”

I hadn’t even brought a ticket yet, but she pretty much knew I’d be going. In a way, so did I.

So I returned to my hunt — which was like a cyber-fishing trip. A ticket would pop up for $425 and before I could snap the line it was sold. Ditto for a $375 ticket, in a great seat. That was the big one that got away.

Game time was 8:07 p.m., so I’d have to decided by 5 p.m. whether or not I was going to spend the money, slapping it on a credit card and taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Somewhere after the four o’clock hour it came. The right seat at the right price.

I bit. I bought.

I was going to Game 3 of the 2015 World Series between the Mets and the Kansas City Royals.

An hour train ride and a long subway trip later (word of advice: never take the local when you can take the express) I stepped out of the Mets-Willets Point subway station in Queens, seeing a glowing, larger than life Citi Field just hundreds of yards away.

Outside, thousands of Mets fans — and a handful of Royal fans — were milling about.

There was electricity in the air, the kind of ambience you don’t find at a regular season game — and I’ve been to Citi Field perhaps a half dozen times in nine years.

This was the World Series feeling that I wondered about and wanted to feel first hand. You can sense it on television — which is still and forever will be the best seat in the house — but to feel it in real life is something special.

I don’t and will never call myself a Mets fan, but I am a follower. Growing up a Red Sox fan, I will never root for the Yankees or watch them on television for my own satisfaction or enjoyment.

The Mets, however, are tolerable, despite what happened back in 1986 when Rich Gedman didn’t catch Bob Stanley’s pitch, and the ball rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs.

Three World Championships since 2004 eases a life-time full of pain, that’s for sure.

Thus, going into the game, I was pulling for the Mets.

I made my way into the stadium and before finding my seat I bought $29 worth of food — a beer, a cheeseburger/fries combo and a water.

My seat was in Section 510 — the top ring of seats around Citi Field — but it was only six rows up, slightly behind home plate.

I could see the whole field and the stadium was aglow.

The lights were brighter. The fans were louder. The crack of each bat sounded like an explosion — especially Michael Conforto’s first home run, giving the Mets the early lead.

It was a tight game and along with 45,000 other fans, I was caught up in the mood and could feel the tension in each at-bat and, toward the end, each and every pitch.

Then I experienced something I had never experienced in my nearly 40 years of having sports be such a major part of my life.

During the eighth inning, when Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy made an error that gave the Royals the lead, I felt the air being sucked out of Citi Field and 45,000 fans go silent.

I’ve been in big gymnasiums that have gone silent with a last-second, game-winning shot.

But this was different.

It was like you could hear the swoosh of everything disappearing as the ball went into the outfield, allowing runs to score and suddenly putting the Royals into the lead.

It was almost eery to feel it.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets rallied. Citi Field was again filled with the spark that only the tension of a World Series could bring to a moment.

Runners on first and second. One out. Was I about to witness a climatic walk-off moment in a World Series game?

Double play.

End of game.

Twenty four hours later, the Mets would lose again, ending the World Series and making the Royals the World Champs.

Good for them.

I would never again spend the kind of money I spent to go to the World Series.

It was a one-shot deal and I knew that going in. But I’m glad I did it and I’m glad fate pointed me in the direction to be able do it.

By the time the 2016 World Series finishes up, I’ll have paid off my credit card debt for this particular endeavor, too.

But, like I said, this was a moment I didn’t want to regret and thankfully I’m not going to.

Now I just wish the Olympics would come back to the United States.