Monday with Mitch: Mets player makes the right choice
At some point, most kids ask their fathers, “Were you there when I was born?”
I know my father was. I’ve heard the story many times. Dad drives Mom to the hospital. He sits in the waiting room. Doctor comes out, takes one look at my father and says, “I see where he gets his ears.”
Every kid should have a delivery story. And now, a newborn named Noah Murphy will have one, too.
Noah’s father, Daniel, a second baseman for the New York Mets, missed Opening Day this past week to be there for the child’s birth.
And the next day.
And the next.
Three days. Two games. If I were that kid, I’d feel pretty special. But to listen to some New York media critics, you’d think Murphy committed treason.
“You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse,” decried Mike Francesa, an afternoon host at WFAN radio.
Francesa’s colleague, Boomer Esiason, a former NFL quarterback and a morning host for WFAN, went even further. “Quite frankly,” he said on his show, “I would have said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.’ “
We need to remind these guys of two things.
1) It is a child.
2) It is the Mets.
But no matter what the team, since when did playing a baseball game — Opening Day, second day or any other day — outweigh perhaps the most important thing that will happen to you in life? This was Murphy’s first baby. His wife was in Florida. He flew from New York to be with her and stayed two days — as he is permitted to do under baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.
“My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay for an extra day — that being Wednesday — due to the fact that she can’t travel for two weeks,” Murphy told the media. “It’s going to be tough for her to get up to New York for a month. ... She had surgery (she actually needed a cesarean section) and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot ... to take some of the load off.”
Murphy didn’t address his critics. Why should he? When a player misses two days with a sore groin, nobody says a word.
But being there when your child is born — and staying an extra day with your wife? That’s not important? Murphy didn’t break a single rule. Baseball defended him. His manager defended him.
But media critics pummeled him.
Esiason later apologized for his comments. Generally a good guy, he must have realized that suggesting your wife undergo surgery just so that you can be out there fielding grounders was a pretty insulting concept.
(By the way, what if you did that, and Opening Day was rained out? How stupid would you feel then?)
The sad thing is, many men agreed with the criticism. They saw Murphy as soft. Yes, I’m aware that in the past, women went to the rice fields, delivered their babies and went back to work. We also once used leeches. Anybody want to go back to that?
And please don’t bring up the money. “These athletes are getting paid so much — they shouldn’t miss a game!” It’s all relative. Sure, some players earn $100,000 per nine innings. That’s not normal. But neither is a business bringing in $1 million in ticket sales for a single performance.
I wonder whether people remember that the U.S. actually passed something two decades ago called the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles most workers (men or women) to take off up to 12 unpaid weeks for a newborn. Yet men feel pressured for giving more than a perfunctory appearance.
“What are you going to do?” Francesa opined on the air. “I mean you are going to sit there and look at your wife in a hospital bed for two days?”
I guess the idea of being part of a family is not manly enough when compared to really important things, like shagging fly balls.
Well, here’s some news: Sports isn’t war, we just market it that way. Sports isn’t life, we just sell it that way.
Life is life; it remains precious and magnificent, and years from now, when radio shows are long forgotten, Noah Murphy will be telling people how his major league dad skipped two games to be with him.
Meanwhile, here is Francesa’s memory of his son Harrison’s birth: “Harrison was born at 9 in the morning. I worked that day. ... I didn’t have anything to do.”
Which story would you rather tell?
Mitch Albom is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press.