Well, I was on the phone for over 90 minutes, and did get referred to tech level 2, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't just an attempt to get me off of the phone. They tried to blame it on HDCP, but since my ATSC receiver (aka set top box) uses HDCP and the TV displays that just fine, I discounted that.
As for the incompatibility, my looking into the differences between the HDMI specifications revealed that the maximum clock speed of HDMI 1.3 is higher than that of HDMI 1.2 or 1.1. My suspicion, which I didn't bother following up on because I can't "fix" it is that the player will only use the higher clock rate, and the TV won't respond to it.
Bottom line for me is that a Sony Blu-Ray player should talk to a Sony TV over HDMI no matter what version of HDMI is in use on each end. That is, after all, what the HDMI specification says. It doesn't and Sony admits that it never will because the player only supports HDMI 1.3. That would make the player non-compliant to the HDMI standard, but I'm just one unhappy consumer who just happens to be satisfied by getting 1080i component video over to the TV.
I does make me very leery of buying any Sony HDMI products again though.
Now if someone knows how to retro an older TV and bring it up to HDMI 1.3 or hack the player's firmware to make it talk to older HDMI components, that'd be cool.