Keidel: Mayor's meddling in Mets sale a bad look for everyone - including the fans


Beyond the obvious joys of watching pro sports - the athletic splendor, the competition, the zero-sum finality of the final score, etc. - there are accidental benefits that come with our breathless devotion to balls, strikes, first downs, touchdowns, and three-pointers.

On top of the countless pleasure centers they tap into, sports are also a neutral ground where folks on both sides of the political aisle can enjoy the unifying forces of teamwork and hard work, and the unscripted fun of bonding with strangers because they wear the same team colors and rant for the same reasons.

So when we turn on sports we are checking out of the cutthroat world of politics, policies, and the bone-deep fury behind this election. Maybe those problems will be waiting for us on Monday, but on Saturday and Sunday we can just retreat to our most natural selves, spend time with family and friends without that emotional guillotine hanging over us.

Perhaps that's why we're having such a convulsive reaction to the recent sale of the Mets, or more specifically, to the political backbiting around it. Gotham's mayor, Bill de Blasio, has decided to make the Mets a cause, a crusade to rip the club from Steve Cohen, the rightful purchaser of the club, and sneak it into the eager hands of A-Rod and J-Lo, the power couple du jour.

It's not that A-Rod should stick to studio commentary, or that J-Lo should just make more music videos. But we don't want politics stirred with our sports, because the two clearly don't mix. And of all the things saddling our beloved city - from rampant crime to the wreckage created by COVID-19 - sports are the one thing that don't need fixing.

In sports, we accept the score, on the field, as the ancient way of settling things. We (well, some of us) don't complain that the game was rigged by the refs, or that the gods of a given sport have spoken. It's the closest we come to a true meritocracy.

But instead of schooling our children in the values of fair play, Mr. de Blasio is refusing to accept the final score, which is the legal and wholly legitimate sale of the Mets from the Wilpons to Mr. Cohen. In fact, the mayor is so bent on bending the process, he wants to stall the deal using some vague loophole in the lease of the land where the Mets play home games.

We've heard about his silent partners in this march to infamy, including state senator Jessica Ramos, who was instrumental in keeping Amazon out of Queens. But the mayor is the face of this misguided attempt to steal second base without earning his way to first base. Now they want the princes of Queens to be run by two pop stars tethered to the Bronx.

There is nothing we know of that should keep Cohen from owning the Mets. The mayor’s claim that Cohen is a "prohibited person" - the language used in the lease - is poppycock. Gibberish. Hogwash. Cohen's hedge fund was the scene where eight traders pled guilty to insider trading. He was not one of them. Cohen clearly has the $2.4 billion, which the Wilpons will gladly accept, thank you very much.

So if Mike Vaccaro's scathing missive in the New York Post is true, and the Mets are being messed with by the increasingly unsavory mayor, all in the name of personal beefs and not professional conduct, then this is a shell of the glittering city we so proudly called home.

Everything about the mayor's power play is wrong. It invites the stench of politics into the sweet popcorn smell of baseball. It forces us to flex our red or blue-state loyalties when none are needed. It squeezes angry debate into a culture of unity. It brings war where there is peace.

Whether you do or don’t support Bill de Blasio, it's impossible not to notice how wayward his energies have become. The beauty of sports is it works for liberals and libertarians, strips us all of pretense and pretext and flies over the pretentious world of self-righteousness.

There is to be a vote today. No, not that vote, but rather the vote by MLB owners on the sale of the team to Steve Cohen. There needs to be 22 votes in his favor out of the 29 cast. It's bad enough we have to deal with the vitriol of real news; we now have fake news and phony journalists and activists masquerading as old-school, hard-hitting reporters.

The last thing we need is to create a new problem where one has just been fixed. If you ask any sane Mets fan he or she will laud the sale, seal the deal, and eagerly wait for the new product to follow. We're just getting over a worldwide sickness, we don't need a new political virus infecting the pristine world of our national pastime.

Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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