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The Bureaucrats Have Won, and Other Anniversary Tales

You know that Toshiba ad where they ship the laptop without the shock-resistant hard drive, and there’s a nationwide power outage and a guy drinks bad milk and turns into a zombie and bites his roommate and then there are zombies everywhere? (You’re a Mets fan, you have to know it.) I imagine Major League Baseball must had that warning in mind when they refused to let the Mets wear caps [1] honoring first responders during tonight’s game.

Sure, to those of us not gifted with the foresight of MLB mandarins, it seemed natural and right for the Mets to honor first responders on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, seeing how the Mets were a) the New York team playing at home on Sept. 11, b) had just participated in a nicely done, nationally televised ceremony honoring those killed that day, and c) were paying homage to the 2001 team’s gesture of remembrance.

But let the chain of dominoes fall before you judge MLB too harshly. If the Mets had received permission to wear those caps, the Yankees might have asked to do the same, seeing how they also represent the city wounded so grievously 10 years ago. And then the Nationals might have wanted to don such caps, since a hijacked plane struck the Pentagon on that terrible morning. And then the Pirates might have decided to honor first responders, given their proximity to Shanksville, where Flight 93 crashed after its passengers saved untold more lives in D.C.

And then, if the Mets, Yankees, Nationals and Pirates had worn such caps, more and more teams might have wanted to do so. You might even have had the nightmare scenario of 30 teams honoring their local firefighters, police officers, EMTs, Coast Guard members and others, inspiring fans both to remember 9/11 and to give thanks for the people in their hometowns who run towards danger instead of away from it.

And if that had happened … well, I’m not sure what would have befallen us next, but thank goodness Bud Selig and Joe Torre were vigilant and protected us from whatever it would have been.

* * *

As for the game, it was actually something of a relief when extra innings arrived and the crowd thinned out and the parade of visiting ex-Mets stopped.

I’m not saying there was anything wrong with what had come before — the ESPN crew was properly solemn and reflective, with Bobby Valentine interesting as always whether talking about the aftermath of 9/11 or the game in front of him; the Mets did a fine job with a poignant, understated commemoration; and the ex-Mets were thoughtful, particularly John Franco with his pitch-perfect recollection of the team as “a little Band-Aid on a big wound.”

Rather, it was that the emotional weight of the entire day had been so crushing that it was hard to get invested in the game — which made it a very faint echo of what Greg and Emily and I and others felt on Sept. 21, 2001 [2], before Mike Piazza’s bolt off Queens-raised Steve Karsay let all that accumulated tension and sorrow blow, to be replaced (at least for a little while) by joy. There wasn’t and couldn’t have been any such release tonight, though ESPN kept trying to cast various Mets as the Piazza-esque hero in waiting, and it was impossible not to remember and do the same thing in the stands or at home. But what we did get was a game that crossed so thoroughly into funhouse-mirror territory that the solemnity receded, with the Mets and Cubs taking turns refusing to win it until the Mets’ relievers were so awful that the Cubs basically had no choice but to prevail [3].

(The frustration of the Mets’ inability to get the big hit when it mattered was an unhappy reminder of what happened to the Brooklyn Cyclones Saturday night, when their season ended with a 1-0 loss to the Staten Island Yankees. But I’m going to wait and write about that on a night when we’re not all so wrung out.)

* * *

Anyway, back to the damn hats, which I found myself getting angrier and angrier about as the night went on. (With an interlude during which I demanded of poor Jason Pridie why he couldn’t have dented a seat in the Pepsi Porch in his previous at-bat.) I got angrier, but also found myself baffled and saddened that someone had done something so inexplicably dumb, making the Mets’ efforts feel unfairly hollow. Until I found myself trying to wish the whole thing away.

I wish MLB had come to its senses this morning and not issued an edict that was tone-deaf, ridiculous and ensured they’ll be cleaning up Augean stables of thoroughly deserved bad PR.

Failing that, I wish the Mets organization had shown more spine and told MLB to stick it, they were going to support their city with the same gesture that accompanied their selfless efforts of a decade ago, and would now stand for everything they’ve continued to do through programs such as Tuesday’s Children [4].

Failing that, I wish the Mets players had shown a little spine and told the organization and MLB to stick it, because they were honoring their city the way their baseball forebears had. (David Wright’s acquiescing limply to MLB orders and then tepidly rebelling by wearing a first-responder cap in the dugout only made manners worse.)  [Struck given R.A. Dickey’s tweet that someone from MLB took Wright’s hat away after the fourth inning. You can’t make this shit up.]

And since no one was willing to say no to a terrible decision enforced by the guy a rung above them, well, I wish the Mets had at least beaten the Cubs.