Saturday, May 28, 2011

Praying for the enemy

I loathe the 1986 New York Mets. Or at least I did. They were arrogant, brash, the epitome of the Big Apple. They celebrated a division title in the face of my beloved Cubs. They had Hernandez, Dykstra, Gooden, and that catcher. What was his name? Carter, yeah Gary Carter.

I still recall my father waking me up mid-dream, excitedly nudging me. "The Red Sox are going to win the World Series!," he said. I catapulted out of bed only to watch in horror as the Mets rallied to win on Bill Buckner's error. At the center of the celebration was Carter. Yeah, Carter. Ugh.

Years later, having shed my fan card in favor of a career in sports journalism, I was walking out of Cinergy Field following a game and found myself strolling alongside my longtime nemesis. Carter.

Only he wasn't arrogant, or brash, or anything resembling the Mets catcher I had once despised. He was pleasant and polite, insightful. We chatted briefly about the game before going our separate ways down the steps toward Second Street.

Earlier this week I learned that four small tumors had been found on Carter's brain. A few days later it was reported that the tumors were likely malignant, according to doctors at the Duke University Medical Center. Once the pathology report is complete Carter's doctors will discuss treatment options.

Perspective changes as you grow older. Or at least it should. It has certainly changed for me as I've made the transition from paying customer to paid observer.

In the fall of 1986, Carter was the enemy. Today Carter is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest catchers of my generation. Above all he's a human being facing one of life's great challenges. Today, I'm rooting for him.

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