Harper: Make Baseball Fun Again

This was a topical story a few weeks ago and then faded. Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper said in an interview that baseball was pretty boring and he wanted it to get a bit more flashier. By that he was referring to more personal expression and over the top emotion. Needless to say that set off a debate between the traditionalists and, well, other folks (i.e. Hipsters, a lot of media, etc.).

After the Nats’ opening day victory over the Atlanta Braves, however, in the locker room Harper put on a hat that said, “Make Baseball Fun Again.”

I’m curious as to when this Golden Age when “baseball was fun” was going on? When exactly did it lose its way?

One of baseball’s main selling points is its relationship with its lengthy, fairly well-documented history. The game has not evolved a lot. In the past 120 years it has evolved less than its sisters — NFL and NBA — have over the last 50 years. That’s one of the things that makes baseball so fascinating. Some people find fascinating to be fun.

Harper’s a kid, barely in his 20s. Like most kids he finds anything older than him to be boring. (Often because they simply don’t understand it and can’t be bothered to learn about it.)

Now there are some cultural implications here, as well. Various MLB bigwigs, along with sportswriters, political activists and others, worry endlessly that baseball just doesn’t have enough black players or black fans. They do not have the same concern about the NFL or NBA, however. The thinking among many of them is that if baseball would just ramp up the funk, allow some showing off and trash talk because, you know, black people like that stuff, they reason (even the black critics back that stereotype — though no one will publicly express it).

Then there’s the worry that the modern tech-savvy kids — the ones with shorter and shorter attention spans — can’t follow baseball. It requires concentration, possibly some knowledge and even cold reason and control of emotions. All of those things are anathemas to the modern liberal type.

But let me stand back here and throw some water on this idiotic idea.

The last thing baseball needs is showboating — the type of silliness that infects the NFL to a great deal and the NBA to some extent.

Think about it.

Do you want players flipping their bats with every hit? Strutting around like roosters after a home run? Doing a dance after ever single or any other hit? Pitchers doing their “Strike Out Dance” after every strike out?

Think I’m exaggerating? The NFL is filled with peacocks preening after every tackle, every reception they make. Watch a player return an interception for a touchdown and he’ll often strut like a marching band leader the last 10-20 yards. Guys on teams behind by three touchdowns flex their muscles to the crowd after they tackle a runner who just gained six yards. They either aren’t paying attention or have become utterly narcissistic and no longer care. “Hey, look at me! Maybe I’ll be on Sports Center!”

The NBA is only slightly better but has even more recognizable inflated egos — the playing area is smaller and you can see the players’ faces. The trash talking in both leagues is X-rated.

Both might be “team” sports but they often generate into individual stages more like pro wrestling with it’s over-the-top narcissistic behavior.

One of baseball’s blessings is that it doesn’t stoop to that. It is a team sport. A lot of us like that. Does everything have to be glitzy and superficial?

I realize all the high-priced MBA/marketing experts don’t like that and are obsessed with the fans they don’t have rather than pleasing the fans they do. I know they see white and old and think that’s wrong. (Did you see all they older people that filled the Spring Training games? Amazing!) They bellow that the game needs to attract more women and blacks. Why? It attracts a large audience already (with a lot of women and blacks in the crowds). Hispanics/Latin Americans love it and are overrepresented in the game (I see nothing wrong with that at all). The same can be said of the Caribbean. The game is also huge in Pacific Asia (e.g. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) and growing in Australia.

One place where baseball does show some actual “emotion” is “beaning.” Harper should think about that. All you need is one minor league call-up fireballer to decide he’ll get even with Harper for that “Home Run Strut” two innings earlier and Harper’s career could be over. And then the Nats send out their goon to nail Mike Trout in retaliation.

But, “Hey!” it’s exciting stuff! Lots of genuine emotions on display there — and that’s what counts, right? Screw history, respect, self-control, teamwork, humility, unselfishness, sportsmanship — those are old, fuddy-duddy things from, like, the 1950s. You know what else was big in the ’50s? Segregation!

That’s how things are reasoned these days by far too many.

It’s easy for a player as gifted as Bryce Harper to want to be more of a prima donna. He’s the one that will be dishing out much of the humiliation… er… “fun.” It will be his teammates that suffer most of the returning “fun” slings and arrows.

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