The Mets lost the game and my respect

I’m not going to write about the Red Sox today because, well, I just can’t.  Okay, I will just say these two things: 1) It blows my mind that the fans and the media are writing things like “I guess they don’t care about winning” as if that is why every team goes through slumps…because they don’t care and 2) Unlike, seemingly, a lot of fans, I’m disappointed we have an off-day today because I really just want them to keep at it.  I suppose, in theory, off days can be good for the team but I don’t feel like that’s the case this time.  I’m eager for them to get back at it.

And that’s all I’ll say about the Red Sox this morning because I’m so mad about the New York Mets not being able to wear (and not fighting to wear) the FDNY/NYPD baseball caps for last night’s game that I had dreams about it all night.

Let’s recap how MLB has beaten us down with patriotism:  Ever since September 11, 2001, on every Sunday in every park before the seventh inning stretch we are subjected to “God Bless America”.  I have written often about how I feel about this: I like the song.  I believe in God.  I like baseball.  These three statements don’t mean I want to listen to it when I’m at a baseball game.  I have two major reasons for this:  One is that, regardless of my agreeing or disagreeing with them, there are people who are baseball fans who don’t believe in God and I’m not a fan of forcing God on them when they’re at a baseball game.  Come to my church and you’re going to hear a lot about God.  It shouldn’t be like that at a sporting event.  My main reason, though, is all this patriotism they’re going for, well that’s kind of covered at the beginning of the game when they play the National Anthem.  Unlike many of my fellow liberal folk, I’m a fan of having the Anthem played when large groups of us gather.  I don’t think it hurts to acknowledge a love of your country in such a way.  It’s how we honor our country and the people fighting for and living in it.  Which is why it annoys me to know end when I am told “To honor our country” we’re going to be forced to stand and show respect for “God Bless America”.  Essentially, it’s a show tune.  And giving a show tune the same reverence you give our National Anthem makes me extremely cranky.  (This is to say nothing of the people in the stand who argue with each other over taking off your cap during GBA.  If you want to take off your cap, I suppose that’s fine.  If you try to get other people to take off their caps and I’m in hearing distance of you I will point out loudly that “God Bless America” is NOT our National Anthem and there is no reason to be taking off your cap during it.  Yes, I’m that person.)

But I digress.

Along with “God Bless America” we get the patriotic caps, jerseys and t-shirts that MLB sells every Memorial Day and Fourth of July.  I’m actually stunned, STUNNED I say, that they didn’t pull this crap yesterday.  Instead, yesterday we got American flags sewn to their caps and jerseys.  Major League Baseball tries to pretend that they’re all about patriotism and supporting the country as long as they can make a buck off of it.  I guess even the folks at MLB felt guilty about trying to make money off of September 11*.  Good for them, she writes with complete sarcasm.

Back in 2001, when baseball began again after the attacks, the New York Mets wore FDNY and NYPD caps instead of their own baseball caps for that first game…and they were in Pittsburgh.  According to Bobby Valentine, they were told not to wear them and they did anyway.  Yesterday, an hour or so before the Mets/Cubs game was to begin, it started going around the Internet that the Mets wanted to wear those caps and were told by MLB that they couldn’t.  Actually, the story going around was that MLB was being very heavy handed with their warnings about not wearing the caps, basically threatening the team.  John Franco, from the 2001 team, was encouraging the players to wear the caps anyway but none of them did.  David Wright made a half-hearted (and in my opinion, lame) attempt by wearing it in the dugout but even that was thwarted when MLB had the caps removed from the dugout.  The Mets should have stood tall last night and they didn’t.  (They also lost the game. Something I’m not too sad about given none of them showed any backbone before it.)

So Major League Baseball and ESPN decide this game, taking place in New York on the 10th anniversary of the attacks on September 11th, is a big enough deal that it should be on national television even though it was the Cubs and Mets (because, really, the two teams playing are respectively 21 and 24.5 games out of first place and even on such a momentous evening couldn’t fill more than about half the seats).  They ONLY televised this game to capitalize on the September 11th anniversary and then they go and decide that because they don’t want to piss off New Era they absolutely won’t let the players wear the caps?  I mean they TOOK the caps away from them…treating them like school children…just to make sure they didn’t appear on the field during the game. What the hell is that?

When the brouhaha started online (there was a Twitter hashtag gaining speed named #wearthehats) Joe Torre came out and took the blame for the hat fiasco saying:

“Certainly it’s not a lack of respect. We just felt all the major leagues are honoring the same way with the American flag on the uniform and the cap. This is a unanimity thing.”

Horsefeathers.  It is absolutely a lack of respect.  Does anyone believe this has anything to do with anything except money? (so, if there was any left I finally lost all respect for Joe Torre for being the company man and taking the blame for this.) Keith Olbermann does a wonderful job of breaking down MLB’s greed and  history on this subject but my favorite part of his entry was this:

It never crossed my mind. It has nothing to do with patriotism. 343 firefighters and paramedics died that day. 23 New York policemen did. And 47 from the Port Authority Police. This is about remembering them – and acknowledging what all those who survived did for this city and the wounds they still have. For me, as the grandson of a New York fireman, and the descendant of several others, and many NYPD and regional PD, this is something deeper than patriotism.

This nails it for me. MLB wants to flaunt patriotism whenever they can but when it comes down to real people, not just the country as a whole, they couldn’t care less because it wasn’t going to make them any money. It’s just another in the ever-growing litany of things that makes me despise the organization that runs the game I love.

*Keith also debunks my statement above about MLB not wanting to make money off of September 11th by providing a link to the MLB store where they are selling a Mets cap complete with an American flag embroidered to it and selling for $36.99.  A portion of the proceeds will go to September 11th charities…but only a portion.  Really, genuinely and utterly disgusting MLB…and especially Joe Torre for trying to snow us about it.  You should be ashamed, Joe, you really should.

But there will be no shame.  We’ll still be forced to listen to and stand for “God Bless America” in MLB’s attempt to prove it actually cares and people will still shell out money to buy MLB licensed products.  Not me.  I’m going with the knock-offs and bootlegs from now on.  MLB doesn’t deserve my money and they aren’t getting it (that way).

ESPN, Major League Baseball and the New York Mets all  had a wonderful opportunity last night and it was blown.  ESPN spent the entire game talking about September 11th, giving Bobby Valentine, essentially, free run of the booth for the whole game.  Honoring what happened is one thing, but ignoring the game so we can hear about how amazing Valentine is got old quickly.  I expect very little from ESPN or MLB so my disappointment in them isn’t surprising.  I’m more surprised that there was not one player on the Mets team who thought honoring those lost that day was worth a little tug of war with MLB over those caps.

And now it’s over and today will go on and MLB will find other ways to hose the fans and treat their players like children and we’ll all keep watching.  I just hope someday some team or even just a few players show the spine the 2001 Mets did.  The 2011 Mets had an opportunity to leave fans with a sense of pride even during the terrible season their having and they absolutely blew it.  All they did, just as MLB did, was give fans another reason to lose respect for them.

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