So, there has been a pretty big tussle in recent days regarding 9/11. The New York Mets’ wanted to wear NYPD and FDNY hats in honor of the first responders who lost their lives on 9/11. That desire was subsequently rebutted by Major League Baseball who issued statements about adhering to league-wide policy requiring uniformity so that each team could honor 9/11 in unison. Then, Joe Torre who, lest we forget, is a New Yorker but now works for MLB’s front office was then trotted out to lay down the law.
All things considered, baseball (not just at the Major Leagues) has always been a bit… funny… about what is appropriate on a baseball field. Let’s take mascots for example. Every parent knows that mascots are in part, there, to appeal to younger children who might otherwise not be paying attention to the game. Yet sometimes, there are things I wouldn’t want my daughter to watch…
Of course, it’s not like mascots are meant to be role models of good behavior…
But then again, the idea that baseball players themselves make good role models can also be a bit overrated…
Yet I digress. Baseball may have once been America’s past time, but it’s little reason to take it oh so seriously. We are supposed to be fascinated, not so much by the activities on the field but the “experience” of attending a ball game. Baseball’s new mission is to be “Always Epic”, a slogan new to 2011 designed to appeal to that coveted 18 to 34 age demographic. Instead of focusing on on-field accomplishments, we should instead dream about what’s in Brian Wilson’s beard.)
Not that I can blame baseball too much, really since they’ve had their share of bad luck in advertising. The last time they focused on performance on the field and how much players wanted to improve themselves, not too many fans dug the aftermath.
I could insert a cheap Rafael Palmeiro Viagra clip here… but it’s too hard to pick just one. In the 90s we were sold on the idea that performance (and enhancing that performance) mattered. It didn’t start there, though. You didn’t need to read Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” to hear that greenies were good for baseball…
Yeah, focusing on performance and what a player (or a younger player) can do to enhance it probably isn’t in baseball’s best interests at present.
Perhaps I overdramatize a bit, and yes, it’s not fair to blame Major League Baseball for the way other companies have used the game of baseball to push their products.
Yet Major League Baseball is a business built on its tradition. It would be naive to think that MLB didn’t have some say in how the game of baseball is marketed. From Little League to the Major Leagues, you gotta sing the Star Spangled Banner (old tradition) and God Bless America (new tradition) like every good American ideally should (sorry, Carlos Delgado) Just remember, a good American shouldn’t grab your crotch or spit on the field until the anthem is over. I’m sure I read that in the unwritten book of baseball rules somewhere between the part where scuffing baseballs was ok and using “banned” drugs are not ok.
But usually, following the unwritten rules i.e. “the tradition of baseball”, whether it’s public indecency or punching a guy in a beanbrawl, usually doesn’t draw more than a fine and some R&R. Just wear your standard uniform (with a token ribbon or color change or patch added here and there for special, sentimental occasions and on sale in the team stores) and honor the game uniformly. Sure, a billboard creeps into the field of vision behind home plate or a beer ad on the billboard reminds you to drink responsibily, but it’s all to give MLB just a little more revenue so that we can better enjoy “the experience”. MLB, after all, has our best interests in mind and wouldn’t (usually) tarnish the game for a cheap buck.
(But, in case you really want to honor 9/11, Major League Baseball is selling 9/11 commerative caps (available in a variety of teams and different color schemes) for just $39.95 with just a portion of the proceeds going to charity.
On 9/11, I did not think about baseball. I was trying to find out what happened. On September 12th, I did not think about baseball either. I was trying to find out what happened to myself. On September 13th, I went to see Les Miserables which helped me understand more about what happened and what I could do about it than baseball, at the moment, could. But then baseball started creeping back into my thoughts. Not that baseball healed me, per se. I do not think a game can erase and can barely diminish the reality of what happened. I can also imagine that for those who, unlike me, lost friends, coworkers and families in the tragedy, baseball would be an inadequate medicine.
But the return of baseball to New York and to my thoughts provided, to me at least, a return to normalcy. Seeing Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the stands at Shea in his FDNYPD cap seemed to make it ok for me to enjoy “leisure” activities without feeling guilty and in a way that “Let’s Roll” never did. Knowing that Shea stadium was used as a place where Mets players and average New Yorkers worked together to coordinate relief supplies made me feel that by watching baseball, I was acknowledging their efforts as human beings and realizing those efforts as humanitarians and public figures were more important than low batting averages and high salaries. Thus, I began to remember that the big picture, whether it is the love of America or the love of the game of baseball, is more important than some of the quirky actions of a society or a baseball team that perhaps too often, we all tend to nitpick about. Sometimes, even a tragedy can help to remind us of that.
Others have used much better words than I ever could about how the events of 9/11 affected baseball or themselves. Thus, I provide some of these links to you as a way to commemorate what others thought during the events of 9/11 and its aftermath and to provide an echo of the numbness that I felt during that horrible period in our history.
“How Major League Baseball Responded to 9/11” – Rob Neyer http://mlb.sbnation.com/2011/9/11/2414430/mlb-response-9-11
“Baseball And 9/11: Continuity and Not Healing” – Keith Olbermann
“Our Flag Was Still There” – Joe Posanski
“As Mets prepare to commemorate 9-11, Valentine, Franco recall day baseball returned to NYC” – Associated Press
“Near 10th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks, former Met Mike Piazza recalls emotional home run” – Christian Red
“Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera recall events of September 11, honor veterans” – Anthony McCarron
“When the Yankees Skipped Security” – Daniel Barbarisi
“9/11 spurs baseball player to join Marine Corps” – Katalynn Thomas
“September 11: How Baseball Turned Into a Microcosm Of a City’s Fight” – Andrew Devereaux http://bleacherreport.com/articles/251874-september-11-how-baseball-turned-into-a-microcosm-of-a-citys-fight
My nonbaseball thoughts on 9/11 are at http://bergstromblogs.wordpress.com