I mark all the documents that go across my desk just like my boss tells me to do, with my hastily scribbled initials and today's date. For the past three months, that "07" at the end has been a constant reminder that, to me, "07" has now become the exact opposite of "69" or "86". Those last two numbers bring me smiles and warm fuzzies. That first number now causes my throat to constrict, my palms to get sweaty, and my skin to break out in ugly blue and orange blotches.
It's funny how both those numbers, 69 and 86, have alternate meanings in our culture to those of us not enlightened enough to be Mets fans. 69 has its scatological meaning, of course. In the series "thirtysomething", one character's young son asked, "What's '69', Dad?". The father, embarrassed, hurriedly explained, "That's the year the Mets won the World Series". Best Mets reference in a non-sports related prime time TV show ever.
The origin of the term "eighty-six", to throw something worthless out, is a little more unclear. Some say it comes from a New York speakeasy, Chumley's, which was located at 86 Bedford Street in Manhattan. In Prohibition times, when the cops were on their way to bust the place, the owners were warned to "eighty-six it" -- hide the booze and get the customers out. Whatever the actual origin, the sentiment predated that ball dribbling through Bill Buckner's legs by several decades.
Ironically, both numbers connote something moving in a downward direction. Which is exactly what the Mets spent their last two weeks doing. Sucking, and throwing their season away.
On the flip side, "07" usually means a lucky number at a slot machine to the rest of the world, but it now signifies the ultimate choke job to Mets fans. I'm so looking forward to marking my papers work with a nice, rounded friendly "08", and leaving that cursed, jagged seven behind.
To me, '08 represents a new beginning. It means hope springing eternal. It means pitchers and catchers reporting. It means a sold-out house on opening day. It will mean my last trek ever from sunny Central Florida to Shea Stadium. I fully expect it to mean the Mets' return to their rightful place in the cosmos -- first place. There'll be more pleasant surprises, like who next year's John Maine or Oliver Perez or Endy Chavez will be. It's all fun and games when you turn the page to a new year, until somebody's pennant hopes get poked in the eye. Despite their quiet winter so far, I'm not anxious or restless that the Mets made no deals. I'm actually glad they didn't pin their hopes, and two or three of their rare and valuable farm kids, on any one player. That kind of deal could have put them one rotator cuff injury or one unfortunate cab ride away from years of suffering. I'm excited and optimistic, about '08 and I hope you all are as well.
May the best be yours in '08, and I hope to see many of you when I make that final pilgrimage to Flushing this summer. Happy New Year, and Let's Go Mets!