I've been fortunate enough to see games from luxury boxes in a number of arenas, thanks to my work behind the scenes in broadcasting. I've been in a box at the Astrodome, which is kind of redundant, as it's like watching a game being played in a living room from an adjoining living room. I've seen the circus in Madison Square Garden from a box. No, not a Knicks game. The actual Ringling Brothers circus, where the poop gets scooped, not overpaid. I've seen plenty of Giants games from my radio station's box right behind the goal posts in the south end zone. I've even (shudder) hosted a box in (gulp) Yankee Stadium for 15 of my closest friends, the result of winning a contest at work. No, second prize was not TWO games' worth of boxes.
But there are two things I'd never done. I've never been inside a luxury box at Shea, and unless I discover a friend with connections in a hurry, I probably never will. And I'd never watched a Mets game on television from inside a luxury box at another sports arena. Until last night.
The plans I had with Steve from Disney to see the Saturday portion of Subway Weekend were doused, when the manager of the sports bar sheepishly apologized that the game was blacked out everywhere but New York. Thanks so much, Fox/SNY/Major League Baseball. By that time, it was the fourth inning of the Va Tech/Tennessee women's softball game. Fortunately, we hadn't ordered food yet, so we left with the bitter taste of unfulfilled viewing in our mouths instead.
The following night, I knew I'd be missing what turned out to be the last of the two-game series. I'd scored tickets to the Duran Duran concert at the new UCF Arena, home of your UCF Knights. Thank you, whoever it was who didn't get to the radio station by 5pm Friday to pick their tickets up. I wasn't a huge fan of the group, but Mrs. NostraDennis definitely was. As many of you know, a happy wife means a happy life, so I trotted along, knowing a rock concert is one of the few places where you can't bring a transistor radio to follow the game.
The seats were free, which was good, since we were able to lean back in our seats and bang our heads against the arena's ceiling. The opening act was nondescript; a British band that apparently needed no introduction, since they played their first three songs without identifying themselves. That's when I noticed the Mets game. On the TV in the luxury box across the arena. It was a good, unobstructed view, but rather tiny. How tiny, you ask? Stretch out your hand at arm's length and give yourself a thumb's up. That thumb is about the side of my narrow-screen window into the Mets' universe on Sunday night.
In retrospect, it's amazing how much an observant baseball fan can deduce from a TV broadcast from 500 feet away with no sound. I had a feeling the game was close for the first few innings, as the commercial breaks were spaced out about every song and a half. I knew the Mets were doing well in what turned out to be the fourth inning, since Duran Duran had taken the stage and done their first five songs, while I saw tiny men in black shirts circling the bases. As the group started in on "View to a Kill", I saw a Met (Delgado? Beltran?) jogging leisurely around the bases. I smiled. The next TV shot, though, was an umpire. This can't be good. Followed by several umpires. This definitely isn't good. Now repeated shots of the 318 sign in left field. But there's nothing going on there. Is there? Now the umpires are yelling at the Mets' dugout. And Willie's yelling right back at them. And did he just get thrown out of the game? At least he's showing some emotion on behalf of his team. That's strange, though. When did Willie Randolph grow that Morgan Freeman-looking goatee?
No matter, though. My sensory deprivation didn't get in the way of the fact that I somehow knew the Mets were winning. More black shirts on the bases. More white shirts on the mound. More Yankee calls to the bullpens. I wasn't certain, but I was cautiously optimistic. As the Sports Center crew was shuffling their papers for the last time before going live, Duran Duran hit the last song before their encore. "Wild Boys" was one of my favorite songs of theirs, mainly because it's featured in the Mets' 1986 year-in-review video, as the backdrop to a montage of Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman getting dirty. I thought it would be a wonderful harmonic convergence if Billy Wagner were to take the mound during that song being played a thousand miles away. Wags is the only one on this Mets roster who bears any resemblance to hotheads like Nails and Wally. As it turned out, they didn't need him, and I could tell that from where I was sitting. Even from one side of a rock concert to the other, Scott Schoeneweis and Wagner look very different.
With British glam-rock/pop still echoing through my inner ear, Mrs. NostraDennis and I made the long walk back to our car. She was content. She'd seen her boys perform all their hits, twenty years later and still looking and sounding good. And, in a greater sense, so had I.