Yesterday, we talked about Bryce Harper’s right-on-the-money comments about expressions of natural joy within the game of baseball, and the relationship between those displays of excitement and the future of the game.
Not everyone identified with Harper’s thoughts or the way he expressed them, but the conversation he started is one that has percolated below the surface for years as the sport’s primary fan base gets older and older, and the attentions of youth get more and more fractured. If baseball is to survive in the way we know and love, it’s going to have to incorporate more young fans. And one of the best ways to do that is to allow players – including young players like Harper – to be themselves on the field.
Today, speaking with the Washington Post, Harper wasn’t backing away from his comments:
“I always try to respect the game, because I admire so many people from ages before me. And I know the history of the game, and I understand it completely. But, it’s a new generation of the game. You have to adapt to those circumstances. You have to adapt to that part of life. … You have to live in the times that you’re in. I think everybody’s adapting to that, slowly but surely.
“On the flip side of that, I’m going to respect everybody I play against. If you’re down 10-1, and you showboat a homer, and you jog around the bases, then you deserve to get hit. If you’re in spring training, and you hit a homer and pimp it, what are you doing? But if it’s Game 5 of a playoff series? Hello? Absolutely.”
Harper says a whole lot more in the Post piece, and, while I don’t agree with all of it (in some ways, he actually doesn’t go far enough, in my view – pimping homers in Spring Training sounds like fun to me, precisely because it’s only Spring Training), I’m seriously encouraged that he’s pushing this dialogue forward about the changing culture of the sport.