I grew up watching baseball more than most other sports. Being born in 94 I never got to appreciate the holy grail of egocentric superstar, Rickey Henderson. It’s unfortunate because I, unlike most baseball fans, love guys like this. Except Harper, I physically can’t support him. But I think baseball is at its most interesting when the athletes are allowed to show some character and be the center of attention.
Baseball has more unwritten rules then it probably has written ones. Don’t watch your homeruns, dont walk too slowly, don’t flip your bat. And it goes for pitchers too. You can’t stare down the batters or can’t pump your first on a strike out. Gimme a break. Fans want passion in sports. They want flare, and… swag (I hate that word). Especially young fans. Especially the people who are going to keep your business running for the next 50 years (hopefully). The attention span for most young people is much smaller than it’s ever been. They need immediate attention and a reason to keep watching. Wanna know how to do that? Let guys be individuals.
Other sports have tried to attack this issue both positively and negatively. In the NBA they love marketing their players like characters in a weekday drama. Each with different characteristics that people love. At the same time they have gotten really bad with allowing players to get hyped on the court. Refs gives techs like Oprah gives gifts. Refs probably have the biggest egos in the entire sports. The NFL is finally waking up and realizing they should allow for celebration. Even the most popular and exciting sport in the US knows it made mistakes. Last season the NFL brought back its touchdown celebrations. Not all of course, can’t let them have too much fun. But they brought back, ground celebrations, using the football as a prop, and probably the best being group celebrations. Fans loved it and the celebrations were creative and made everyone happy. There was no need to get rid of it in the first place but at least they realized their mistake. They are by no means perfect. They may hate individuality more than the MLB. Whenever players show some sort of passion for the game or show any type of none-robot like behavior they are crucified by others especially in the media.
For some players it’s a cultural part of the game. Latino players are often seen are fiery showboats who love themselves more than the game, and it can’t be any further from the truth. What many people don’t understand is that in Latin American countries celebrating HRs or dancing on the field or in the dugout is part of the game. In Japan bat flips are some of fan’s favorite moments.
As much as old MLB may hate guys like Yasiel Puig, Bryce Harper, Jose Bautista, Carlos Gomez, or Manny Machado, new MLB loves them. And sure wants more of it.