It was the New York Mets who brought me to the dogs, or dog. Or maybe it was the other way around.
In any case, it was a headline atop a recent story from the Times: “As dog days drag on, Mets ramp up intensity.”
And I recognized that even after all these occasionally troubled but pleasant-enough decades on terra firma I still don’t really know what “dog days” is talking about. I have a suspicion there are many phrases like this that lurk just outside my ken, and if I opened some window they’d come flooding in. I assumed I knew what it means — I think of a motionless dog in the sun, too tired and too clever to move under the heat and humidity (My dogs are always East Coast dogs).
But the phrase does not actually refer to a dog on Earth, on terra firma, but in the sky, as in the celestial heavens where the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, or the Dog Star, follows the hunter Orion in pursuit of Taurus the Bull across the evening sky. Before the days of television and WikiLeaks, mortals had to look to the heavens for entertainment and inspiration, and the ancients connected the rise of the Dog Star with the advent of summer and its hottest days.
I’m not sure why dogs get all the attention, but you can’t let sleeping dogs lie because every dog has its day even though you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and you don’t yourself want to go to the dogs.
At this point you might be wondering, what does this have to do with the Mets?
The Mets get short shrift in coverage around these parts that typically devotes itself to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. You could say it figures. New York’s National League team was created out of disappointment, after all, and from anguish that was left in the wake of the Dodgers and Giants departure to the Left Coast. It’s not by accident that the Mets’ colors are those of the departed teams.
There are all sorts of ways teams live in the shadows. The Times story that brought me to the Mets and dogs started by talking about how baseball teams disappear from view if they’re not contending by the end of the Dog Days (roughly the end of this month) to the advent of football. Some teams don’t have much of a chance no matter how well they’re doing. A few seasons ago I remember reading about an Indians player complaining that Cleveland was Browns obsessed even as the Tribe was heading into the playoffs and the Browns perennial stinkers. But that’s Ohio, the Western Reserve.
How different would it be if the Braves had stayed in Boston? Rivalries keep an aging game of slow play in the realm of excitement. You can bet that the Yankees’ fortunes this season would be all the sweeter had the Sox not flatlined from their World Champion glory.
As it is, the Mets are an easy way out for those hard pressed in the Nutmeg State. One of my sons, who in actuality didn’t care one way or the other, found refuge with the Mets during high school when pressured to declare Yankees or Sox fealty. You could always argue that you admired the purity of the National League and its disdain for the designated hitter, though that distinction now looks to be heading the way of the dinosaur.
In any case, the Miracle Mets have been here before. Their first championship was born in the dog days of 1969, when they made that improbable, Amazin’ climb in the pennant race.
Then it was transistor radios, today it’s smartphones; what’s beginning to look strikingly similar is the Mets’ ascent.
You could say I admire their dogged determination.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.