Counterpoint to MLB's 9-11 Hypocrisy: Maybe Not

by Steve Childs

In response to some very thought-provoking comments on my recent article, I decided to act on my idea for writing a counterpoint. While I still believe the MLB handled the Mets’ first-responder hat situation poorly, my antithesis reveals my thoughts more fully. Below I lay out the case for why the Mets should not have worn the debate-spawning caps, why the their shortsightedness helped fuel the first-responder hat controversy, and why alternative uniforms, in general, are a distraction from sports.

First, the 2011 Mets have no greater personal connection to the horrors of 9/11 than any other team. To be sure, New Yorkers paid a dearer price 10 years ago than any group of people in the country, and they do have a singularly troublesome link to the attacks. But the Mets’ tribute to the city’s first-responders in 2001 came as a result of their meeting the heroes in person as they faced their most difficult challenges and in their moments of greatest courage and personal sacrifice – sometimes amidst the rubble at Ground Zero.

“Look, it’s significant now because it’s a tribute,” Todd Zeile, the Mets player representative in 2001 told Adam Rubin from ESPN NewYork. “It was certainly a lot more personal at the time. The hats we had, they had real blood and sweat from the guys that were down in the trenches.” Zeile’s remarks make plain the moving emotional bond that the players in 2001 shared with first-responders – a bond powerful enough to compel the team to spurn league threats against wearing the first-responder hats – and that 2011’s team lacked this bond.

Emotional ties aside, the Mets displayed no forethought in springing their decision to wear the caps on the MLB at the eleventh hour. If the Mets sincerely hoped to remember New York’s 9/11 heroes – and their plans appear genuine, then their shortsightedness proves inexcusable. Following the 9/11 attacks, of course, one understood the Mets’ failure to give sufficient prior notice before transgressing league rules.

But perhaps if the Mets told the MLB about their designs to honor New York’s first responders in advance – and they had ample time, MLB and its licensees could have reached an agreement that would not have put the league in danger of incurring multi-million dollar lawsuits for breach of contract.

Ultimately, no one can blame the MLB for wanting to honor its contracts (though Bud Selig still deserves criticism for trying to justify the league’s decision by citing “consistency”), but the MLB contracts – indeed many league’s contracts – give too much latitude to teams to wear alternative uniforms. In baseball, a team traditionally wore its “home whites” and “away greys.”

Some teams, like the Yankees, wear pinstripes at home. The home uniform displays the club’s name or logo, and the away uniform the city from which the visiting team hails. The league ought to revert to this older standard – and perhaps allow for one alternate home uniform.

Todd Zeile
Todd Zeile of the New York Mets at the Mets Spring Training facility in Port St Lucie, FL. Mandatory Credit: Gary Rothstein/Icon SMI.

The incessant uniform changes are distracting – and that does not include throwbacks and other chromatic aberrations that teams sport throughout the season for this-day or that-day. The Mets have three standard home-uniforms (home white, pinstripes, and home-black), which they match with three different hats(all-black, black with blue bill, and all-blue with orange logo) and at least two away-uniforms – though keeping track becomes a challenge.

A simpler wardrobe would put the emphasis on the game, both for fans and players. Doesn’t the starting pitcher have enough to worry about without deciding what uniform his team will wear for his start? And are fans really impressed with how dashing the team looks in black? The Yankees, who have not needed league rules to impose simplicity upon their fashion choices, fare quite well with their tried-and-true, iconic home pinstripes and away-greys. Their fans also seem content with not having to tolerate fickle daily uniform changes.

Commemorative uniforms merely exacerbate the problem. No one should have to wonder which is the team they have rooted for since childhood when turning on the television to discover that it is Heritage Week, and both clubs in the game have donned grey flannel. Honoring a team’s legacy or part of its fan-base, has merit – before and after the game. Ethnic nights like Irish Night or Latin Night at Citi Field and their accompanying festivities and giveaways bolster attendance, provide entertainment, and show appreciation for certain groups of fans.

The same idea applies to the Mets pre-game ceremony for 9/11. But the attention should shift to the game after the ceremony, concert, or any other pre-game event. What purpose does wearing the uniform of a defunct or even imaginary team serve – other than to distract? (This goes for the NFL as well. No Jets fan wanted to see Mark Sanchez nearly sustain a season-ending injury last week in the fourth-quarter while playing for the New York Titans.) A simple commemorative patch on the sleeve would recognize whomever the team wants to honor equally as well.

Perhaps these ideas seem overly puritanical and traditionalist, but has anyone ever focused on a game more because the team or teams playing wore an alternate uniform? Admittedly, the imaginative uniforms that have become pervasive may spark conversation or attract attention from those either surprised (or appalled) by what they see. But whether that conversation or attention translates into more than a fleeting interest in the sport itself, however,seems rather dubious.

Read more at BNYSB --- The MLB's Hypocrisy Extends to 9-11 First Responders

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