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?
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.