For those of us cursed with an addiction to the NY Mets it's been a tough week of anguish and recriminations as the Amazins consummated one of baseball history's most stunning late-season collapses. "For sheer collective failure," wrote
George Vecsey of The New York Times
on Sunday, "the Mets seemed to be making their own history." Watching this train wreck from afar was hard enough...and then Salman Rushdie came to town.
Rushdie spoke at Vanderbilt Friday evening in the first installment of the 2007-08 Chancellor's Lecture Series, and for more than an hour he treated a packed house to an engaging and witty verbal excursion through the relevance and import of literary life in the 21st century (with the occasional Dan Brown-trashing digression thrown in for good measure). I was fortunate to be in the small group invited to break bread with Rushdie after his talk, and until about midway through the main course it was light and polite academic dinner table gab touching on bland and noncontroversial issues—religion, politics, literature, that sort of thing.
Then the conversation meandered in a far more provocative direction, when after being asked how he likes living in New York City, Rushdie let it slip that he's become an ardent Yankee fan. I challenged him: surely a newcomer to the politics of Big Apple baseball, one known worldwide for speaking truth to tyrannical power, would easily prefer the underdogs in Queens to the totalitarians (indeed, the "bombers") in the Bronx. "I like the overdog," Rushdie replied with an impish grin.
Having discovered that he was sitting across the table from not one but two lifelong Mets fans (the other a faculty colleague who had spent formative years in New Jersey), Rushdie went into crosstown taunt mode. He pulled out his Treo and fired up its browser, throwing us a mischievous look as he oh-so-diplomatically proposed that we "have a look at how those Mets are doing tonight, shall we?" Trailing Florida 7-4 in the seventh, Rushdie informed us with glee only marginally in check. "And shall we check in to see how those Phillies are doing? Ah, the city of brotherly love." Phils winning handily. The Yankees, he assured us, were above the fray, safely ensconsed in the playoffs, and what pity he took on those who choose to suffer with the Mets year after year rather than jump on board with those pinstriped winners who play in such a nicer ballpark up on the Bronx. Ever the gentleman and scholar, Rushdie thoughtfully left his Treo on the table at the ready so that he could update us on the tragic doings at Shea periodically through the rest of the meal.
"What a poor misguided literary genius," I thought after saying our goodnights and heading home. The Mets will return from the dead over the weekend, and Rushdie will get what he deserves when the Yankees make their usual early playoff exit. And the new novel he just finished writing will flop, and he will come to realize the error of his ways. Fatwa chance. The Mets, after a tantalizing Saturday rebound, wrote the epitaph
for their imploded season in a satanic verse of a first inning on Sunday afternoon. The overdogs win again.