When I look back on growing up in the eighties, I think about Steven Spielberg movies, Star Wars, riding my BMX bike, and playing Nintendo. My favourite Blue Jays were Rance Mulliniks, Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Jesse Barfield, and Dave Stieb. My mom let me pick out my clothes from a Sears catalogue. I wasn’t allowed to go to the arcade beside Collegiate High School. I liked marbles – hated losing them. And Hulk Hogan was the WWF champion. He told me to say my prayers and eat my vitamins.
While I was living in this kool-aid world with its magical glow of fluorescent colours, I had no idea about what was really happening during that cocaine machismo era – loaded with people who were high on Reaganomics. I didn’t know the dirt behind a band like Motley Crue, or a baseball team like the ’86 World Series champion New York Mets.
Doc Gooden has been open about missing the World Series parade because he was at a house in the projects in Long Island – up all night doing cocaine. A real life horror story. No reason to think that this is Hollywood cool.
I imagine him pacing back and forth in the morning: a room full of strangers, dirty walls, an overflowing ashtray of cigarettes, and bottles everywhere while the parade is on the TV. The sounds of his childhood dream fill the air.
I think of the panic that he must have felt. And the guilt. Hardly a moment to brag about. There is nothing rock n’ roll about his story. It’s the furthest thing from peace. It’s the darkest corner away from calm.
The baseball times sure have changed. Long gone are the Dock Ellis LSD No-No days and the cocaine line drives of the eighties.
Could you imagine Gooden, Dykstra, and the ‘scum bunch’ looking over advanced metrics? Could you imagine them drinking booze in the clubhouse, smoking some tobacco, and talking about data science? Could you imagine their skip Davey Johnson – 10 Coors Light deep – in the back discussing launch angles with Frank Cashen (the GM)? I can imagine all of that, minus the metrics.
Baseball is a different sport now.
The hard partying Mets, who went on to win 108 games, didn’t give a fuck. They were a goddamn cocaine-boozed plane wreck. That team would never fly today. And, yet, they won the World Series. That’s where the awe lies – not in the lines between innings. But, the characters that made this happen.
They certainly were mesmerizing.
How they partied that hard and did what they did is beyond me? Most of that team ripped and roared and were always rarin’ to go, all the while putting up nasty numbers, too. When you listen to the interviews and read the stories, it’s hard not to be in a state of wonder.
(I’m not sure if any of you have seen this short film, but it’s a must watch.)
The ‘best last best plane ride ever’ is something that will never happen again. As Lenny Dykstra says baseball is different now: Rippin’ up planes and getting fucked up and being loud – it’s not typical.
The truth is, there might be a little ’86 Mets in some players in the league today. And I’m not talking about the hard booze, drugs, and groupies. I’m talking about how they play the game.
Gone are the days of the ’86 Mets. But, what’s not gone is some of the attitude they left on the field. In a way, they were the first living bat flip. And they flipped it with both middle fingers.
Those Mets had goddamn character that Hollywood couldn’t pen up. Something no computer driven baseball program can create. They were a Bautista bat flip many moons before 2015.
These days, the new wave of MLB baseball players get shit on for bat flips, dancing, and playing with too much passion. They get scorned for tweets or playing too much Fortnite. There’s no way the ’86 Mets survive in the league today.
Last week after a bunch of Blue Jays beat reporters jumped on the Fortnite story and wrote up their two cents on the dumb matter. I started to think about how dumb the story is and how I don’t care if Russ Martin or David Price or any MLBer plays Fortnite. No one will be talking about this in the future. And no one should because it’s boring.
Sometimes the right people and time collide and it’s an experience like the ’86 Mets. More often than not it isn’t. More often than not it’s Fortnite. And that’s a story that should be 86’d.