I remember the first time I understood just how clueless the people in power were. I was in high school, and for one reason or another, dozens of my classmates had plans to attend a protest. My high school was big on protests.
A few days before the protest, the school sent out an email. It was basically a tip sheet: how to stay safe while protesting. But what really stuck out to me was the last line. It went something like this.
“Don’t forget to bring a sweater or sweatshirt,” it said. “Protests can get chilly!”
Here is a protest, the ultimate expression of rebellion and independence, and the school was inserting itself like a toddler’s mother? It was so out of touch, so wrong for the moment, so…misplaced.
Honestly, at my school, that kind of thing happened all the time. Senior year, my class spent months brainstorming a senior prank. We came up with something incredible: each member of our class would switch places for a day with a student at another nearby high school. We would simply create some chaos, and see what happened.
Somehow, though, some classmates of mine got the bright idea to take our prank to the administration for approval. Of course, the administration said no. “Let’s just do it anyway,” I said. I was pretty sure, after all, that that was the whole point of a senior prank. But the rest of the grade shot me down. We ended up forming an administration-mandated “senior prank committee” that included, if I remember correctly, both the dean and the principal.
The message, basically, was simple: sure you can pull a prank! Sure you can have fun! Just make sure that whatever you do, it makes the school principal feel comfortable.
Which brings me to today, and the latest hot-mic scandal to sweep the country. In a video first tweeted by @NickCocco18, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen speaks in a dark, nearly empty press room. As he sits, the Mets are in turmoil: they’re still trying to decide whether or not they’ll play later that night. Given the multiple postponements already, and especially after Dominic Smith’s powerful, tear-filled postgame press conference the day before, it might make sense not to play.
“Three of us,” he says. “Can’t leave this room.” Then he launches into the substance of his point, describing the plan MLB has proposed as an alternative to postponement.
“’You know, it would be great if you just had them all take the field, then they leave the field, and then they come back and play at 8:10,’” Van Wagenen describes Rob Manfred saying. “And I was like, ‘what?’”
There’s one twist: a few hours later, Van Wagenen released a statement. It wasn’t Manfred’s idea, Van Wagenen said: it actually came from Jeff Wilpon. Regardless of who it came from, though, it was a bad idea.
It was beyond misplaced. It was completely ludicrous, almost to the point of parody. There couldn’t possibly be an emptier gesture: a casual fan who turned on the game at 8:30 might not even notice that anything had changed. Basically, Jeff Wilpon’s plan to protest social injustice was pretending that just before first pitch, there was a short flurry of rain.
Caveat: it might well be that the plan was Manfred’s after all, and that the various figures involved are casting the blame on Jeff Wilpon for some nefarious reason or another. If it was Manfred’s, it certainly casts doubt on the statement he gave in June, when he said that “we want to utilize the platform afforded by our game to be not only allies, but active participants in social change.”
But Van Wagenen has said that the plan was Wilpon’s idea, and Manfred has released a statement vigorously denying his involvement; for now, I’ll assume the plan was Wilpon’s. Van Wagenen’s statement casting the blame on Wilpon is actually hilarious. “I felt the suggestion was not helpful,” Van Wagenen says. He’s not wrong.
The Mets and Marlins ended up taking the field at 7:10, then holding a 42-second moment of silence. Then they left the field, leaving only a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt on home plate. They didn’t come back an hour later; the game was postponed. Thank goodness they had more nerve than my high school class.
The key takeaway, though, is just how bad Jeff Wilpon’s plan was. When the Mets wanted to do something real, he proposed the emptiest of gestures, a short delay that meant almost nothing. At that moment, the Mets were the fiercely independent, unconstrained youth, standing up and making a point that couldn’t be ignored. And Jeff Wilpon was the high school principal, admonishing his charges that they should definitely speak out and protest, but only in ways that made the people in power feel comfortable.