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Jeff Wilpon, Leigh Castergine, and rooting for the Mets

In light of the recent allegations of sexual discrimination against Jeff Wilpon, a reflection on what it means to root for the Mets.

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The Mets are hard to root for sometimes. Let me expand on that: It can be frustrating, in an ultimately harmless way, to root for the Mets when it’s a simple matter of baseball. Are they signing the right players and making the right trades? Gaah. Are they really fielding a mediocre team with a small-market payroll for what feels like the bajillionth year in a row? Aww, man.

This time, however, it feels actually, truly difficult. Leigh Castergine’s allegations against Jeff Wilpon and certain members of his executive cohort describe behavior that is illegal, sexist, and abominable; and regardless of whether those allegations prove true or not, I feel kind of sleazy up here in my silly little perch in the stands, so to speak.

Many Mets fans, myself included, have detested the Wilpons-as-owners—pugnacious Jeff in particular—for years, if not decades. Many of us have yearned for the day when a grim-faced Fred Wilpon announces he is selling the team to a rich and enthusiastic ownership group that will finally provide the type of actual “skill sets” a successful sports franchise requires of its chief executives, i.e., deep pockets and an awareness of who to hire and when, who to fire and when, and how to get the heck out of the way.

If Castergine’s allegations are true, we Mets fans may very well see that long-standing wish fulfilled (with regards to Jeff, at least). But while I would shed no tears in watching the Wilpons get kicked to their gilded curb, I would take no joy in it, either, for these allegations have the potential to render all of our old squabbles over the Wilpons’ incompetence as baseball people utterly small, insignificant, and beside the point.

Though I am obviously not an “insider,” and though I have not conducted formal research on the matter, it takes no great leap of logic to assert that Major League Baseball is a Good Ol’ Boys Club. It is a network of organizations comprised almost entirely of men, particularly at the upper levels. To wit, with the rarest of exceptions, women don’t play, coach, manage, construct, administer, or own Major League Baseball teams. It is no stretch to assume that such a paradigm could, in any industry, give rise to the type of rampant, unchecked sexism that is alleged in Castergine’s lawsuit.

It gives me additional pause to consider my participation in this whole thing. After all, I’m a baseball fan. I’m a Mets fan. In no small part, I have hitched the wagon of my identity and emotional life to the very franchise that, as it turns out, has very possibly harbored a Chief Operating Officer who has perpetuated actual “morally objectionable” behavior. I have spent untold hours of my life thinking, talking, watching, and writing about the Mets. I have spent who-knows-how-many dollars of my money on attending Mets games, buying Mets apparel, and subscribing to the cable and Internet TV options that deliver Mets games to my home. By virtue of my participation, I have been, and am, despite what I would prefer to think about myself, complicit with the same Good Ol’ Boys paradigm that has given rise to some very horrible human behavior. It makes me question myself, a complicit, heretofore silent, bystander.

I sincerely hope that the court system does its full diligence on the matter, and that justice is served, whatever that means in this case. I hope the allegations are untrue. I also hope that, if the allegations are true, Major League Baseball will take swift action against Jeff Wilpon and whomever else participated in the harassment.

Regardless of the outcome, and my feelings of ambivalence aside, I will continue to root for the Mets. Why? Because the Mets (and any team, sport, organization, state, country, etc.), thank the stars, transcend individuals and groups of people who behave like scumbags; and they most certainly transcend its incompetent, allegedly abusive Chief Operating Officer.

The Mets are, and will continue to be, about my heritage, my family, and my friends. The Mets are interwoven in some of my most treasured memories. The Mets represent some very human experiences and values that I hold dear, like rooting for miracles, persevering through hard times, maintaining a sense of humor, and having a shot at experiencing sheer joy from time to time.

For my part, short of swearing off baseball altogether, what I can do is work to ensure that I treat my fellow humans—particularly those who hold less power than I do—with respect and decency. And I can speak out in favor of an inclusive environment in professional sports (and in other industries), wherein abuse and harassment are not tolerated. If Leigh Castergine truly was a victim of harassment and wrongful termination as she alleges, my heart goes out to her, and I hope she is well compensated for her suffering. We will see what unfolds.