Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

Bobby Valentine knew he would have to weigh in at some point Sunday night, given his personal history and his coincidental presence on national television when word arrived of Osama bin Laden's death.

But that point did not come until after he had had time to digest the news and regain his bearings.

"Sometimes you get numb," he said Monday, nine hours after the conclusion of the Mets-Phillies game he covered as an ESPN analyst. "Ten years ago in September, I was numb for a long time.

"When I got a text message that said bin Laden was no longer with us, I went numb again. It was a surreal feeling of going back 10 years, hearing 'U-S-A' being chanted and having a necktie on, thinking I had to talk about it."

Valentine eventually did, but not until the 11th inning and again at the end of the 14-inning game.

When producer Tom Archer and Mike McQuade, vice president of event production, initially went to him, he declined.

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For one thing, he had been losing his voice all night from an unrelated ailment. For another, he said he was not prepared emotionally to talk about it.

"When I heard it was confirmed, I got choked up," he said. "Tom Archer asked me how I was doing to get on and I didn't think I would be presentable."

Said McQuade: "We asked him and he didn't feel comfortable, and I had no problem with that."

Valentine is closely associated with the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when he was manager of the Mets and slept at Shea Stadium for several days helping with relief efforts.

"I tried to do everything I could do, in vain, to bring back survivors as so many other great Americans down at Ground Zero did," he said. "But I felt totally dejected. There was a feeling of loss and despair."

Ten days after the attacks, he was part of a night that helped lift the city. He led the Mets into the first post-9/11 major sports event in New York, when Mike Piazza's eighth-inning home run beat the Braves, 3-2.

"I remember the discussion of whether we should play those games in Atlanta or New York and I said that I wasn't going to Atlanta," he said. "I think the healing started for me at that time."

Valentine first touched on that notion on ESPN earlier Monday morning.

"That was when the healing began, when we began to get back to a recovery state," he said. "Maybe tonight has helped so many who have suffered all these 10 years to continue their road to recovery. I hope so."

Earlier, Valentine had urged viewers "to remain diligent and to look around and make sure you know what's going on around you, because if we let our guard down at this time, it could mean trouble, and we can't let that happen again."

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The brief comments were the best Valentine felt he could do under the circumstances. He said the men in the production truck told him he didn't look quite ready to go on camera, even after the 14th.

"It was an emotional couple of seconds there," he said. Then he "threw a little water on my face" and got on with it.