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Living history at the ballpark
Walked in my door at about 4:30 this morning, closed my eyes at 4:45 and got shaken awake at 5:30 by my son, who was hacking like a two-pack-a-day smoker.
"Can I have some Chestal?" the poor guy asked me.
So I'm not quite at my most rested or coherent this morning, but I wanted to post. To discuss the still-raw feelings that emerged at Citizens Bank Park last night, as news broke that a U.S.-led operation killed Osama bin Laden.
When we flipped over from 2009 to 2010, I did an entry here entitled "Datelines of the Decade." If I'm in a position to do another one of those come the arrival of 2020, I'll most certainly be including last night.
It was around 9:45, 10:00 last night when the tweets started coming about a suddenly scheduled public announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama at 10:30. It was right around 10:30, I believe, when confirmed by reports by respected news outlets started asserting that bin Laden had indeed been killed.
You're taken aback. Really? I flashed back to that horrible, horrible day, to the pain of learning who and how many died in the 9/11 attacks. I was glad when the Phillies tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, just because it meant I could stay in front of my computer - rather than go to the clubhouses to interview the baseball folks - as we awaited more news.
Meanwhile, you could sense the news surging through the packed Citizens Bank Park, as the "USA! USA!" chants grew from small pockets to an immense chant.
I'm the sourpuss who loathes the Olympics; it feels to me like forced nationalism, jingoism and separatism. This, however, was 180 degrees the other way. What pride in our country, in the way we reacted to those attacks by (initially, at least) joining together in solidarity.
You could feel that sense again, even in the silly microcosm of the Mets-Phillies rivalry. There were plenty of Mets fans in attendance, after all. And on the field, David Wright said that, as he stood on second base in the top of the ninth inning, waiting as the Phillies intentionally walked Carlos Beltran, and Wright turned to Phillies second baseman Pete Orr and asked if he knew what the "USA!" chants were about. Orr said he didn't know, either. We were all in this together.
I really wish the Phillies had been more proactive in terms of communicating with their fans about what was happening. They could have stopped the game and ran Obama's announcement live. Shoot, if they really wanted to be cautious, they could've watched Obama's announcement and then ran a tape of it. I'm quite confident both the Mets and Yankees would've dealt with it like this.
Instead, what wound up happening was many fans left as the game dragged on into extra innings, even before Obama's announcement. Maybe some people wanted to get home to see Obama speak. Maybe others were simply tired. But by the time Obama actually spoke - it was the 11th inning, I believe - the ballpark had been largely sapped of that unreal energy from earlier.
The Mets' clubhouse, post-game, carried that energy, though. And while they were glad they won, my take is they still would've been quite upbeat even if the Phillies had pulled off the sweep.
Here's my column on the whole night.
It's natural to discuss the both the political impact and the worldwide impact (as in, what this means for the war with Al Qaeda) of all this, and I'd be lying if I professed to have no interest in that sort of stuff. But as I drove up the New Jersey Turnpike early this morning, all I could think of were the people who died on September 11, 2001, their crimes being nothing more than showing up at work.
I thought of Kevin Cohen, who used to come to my Little League games because his brother and I were teammates.
I thought of Scott Schertzer, whose Little League games I used to attend because he was in my brother's age group.
I thought of Andrew Gilbert, whom I got know in the summer of 1990 (between my freshman and sophomore year of college) when I worked at my dad's Manhattan office. Andy was British-born, and he was sort of a pre-Ricky Gervais Ricky Gervais. He loved insulting people to their faces.
When I left the gig in late August, headed back to school, everyone signed a "Thank you/good luck" card to me. Andy wrote, "Piss off, Ken." I loved it.
I thought of the pain that Andy's, Scott's and Kevin's families have felt over the last nine years, seven months and 19 days. I hoped that yesterday's news brought them some sort of positive feeling.
And I was glad to have been among a large crowd of people with mixed backgrounds and mixed opinions, all of whom could commune for a few moments over something so much bigger than a ballgame, when this long-awaited news arrived.