Saturday, and they're laying new ties and sleepers on the F line. By the time you change for the 7 train you're already late. The Mets and the Marlins start without you. In the Willets Point station stragglers hustle past the scalpers, everyone wearing a look of comic pity for everyone else, then take the stairs two at a time until they're outside. Even from here you can feel the pull of it in your chest, the game underway, the concentration of big league noise and color and the compression of energy inside the walls.
Citi Field is half full. Or maybe it's half empty. Matt Harvey is pitching, and why most of us are here. His motion is worth the price of the ticket, a beautiful thing, fluid and clear as water. He is purposeful but unhurried, and by the time I walk a lap of the concourse to watch him throw, it's 1-1 in the fourth. The rest of it — the succession of .200 hitters, the low gray sky, the souring of the future into what feels like futility — falls away.
To see a thing done well is part of why we're here, but it's simpler and more complicated than that. It's the game and late spring and belonging to something that belongs to you, it's kids running and couples necking and the line for beer, jackass wisecracks and skin on skin and the intimacy and indifference of a whole city, green grass and red earth and a clean angle widening to infinity, fantastic tattoos and bad hats and the smell of hot grease and cooked sugar, the light and the shadows and the declining arc of a long fly ball, and to open yourself fully to any of it is to risk being overwhelmed by all of it, by the fellowship and the carnival, the men and women and children, and in the right frame of mind to be cracked open to the love of everything and everyone here. To be part of that larger thing, whatever it is.
In that way, nothing ever changes. Even when they tell you everything has changed. Three days before the game the story broke that we're spying on ourselves again. The National Security Agency and our war on the war on the War on Terror turned inward. Now even meaningless ballgames in New York resonate just a little to the prologue of "Underworld," Don DeLillo's great late-century novel of American paranoia, in which J. Edgar Hoover, the patron saint of warrantless domestic surveillance, is in the stands at the Polo Grounds for "The Shot Heard 'Round The World." From the Palmer Raids to Woodstock, Mr. Hoover spent his professional life tapping your phones and opening your mail. And always in the name of patriotism and on the grounds of "national security."