There are tons of unwritten rules to the game of baseball. You don’t talk about a no-hitter when in progress. If a pitcher hits a teammate, hit one of theirs. But is not celebrating a long home run or throwing a strike to end the inning one of those rules?
It seems that lately, the older generation of baseball fans have a problem with baseball players getting loose and actually enjoying a game that could last anywhere from three to five hours, day in and day out. With a mentality like that, there’s only going to be this older generation left of baseball fans.
According to ESPN, the average age of a baseball consumer is 53. That’s six years older than the next major sport of football, and the gaps only get bigger from there. With the strict unwritten rules imposed on the game, it wouldn’t shock me if that age gap only grows in the coming years.
Players like Washington’s Bryce Harper have no problem pointing out exactly what’s wrong with the game right now, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Prior to the 2016 season, Harper told ESPN, “Baseball’s tired. It’s a tired sport because you can’t express yourself.”
This isn’t coming from a baseball hater, or god forbid, a lacrosse player. This is coming from someone who loves the game. Someone who was an overall first round pick in 2010, the youngest player to ever be selected for the All-Star game, and the 2015 NL league MVP. He has no reason to dislike the sport that has given him so much.
So why is he saying it? Because it’s true.
It’s not a coincidence that football has replaced baseball as the number one sport in America. It’s a sport that allows for players to have their own, unique celebration dances after a touchdown. It’s also not a coincidence that the youngest average age of a fan of a sport in this country belongs to hockey, the sport that coined the term “celly.”
Why is it that when you throw the perfect strike, or hit a home run (two things that are arguably the hardest things to do in sports) you’re not allowed to pump your fist or flip a bat in excitement? What’s the harm? Bryce Harper doesn’t think there is one and a lot of the younger generation agrees with him.
After the National’s Opening Day game, Harper could be found in the locker room sporting a hat that read “Make Baseball Fun Again,” starting the 2016 season in full swing with his efforts to change the game.
Players like Toronto’s Jose Bautista are also under scrutiny for celebrating home runs by flipping their bat. Something so small seems to affect older fans of the game so much as they feel it is a disrespect to baseball to not be quiet and courteous when succeeding.
With new rules pertaining to base-running and instant replay sparking controversy over the last few years, there’s certainly room for a positive change in baseball.
But some players like Rays prospect Brent Honeywell don’t agree with Harper.
When told that Harper’s message was directed toward players like him, he responded, “If I wasn't having fun I wouldn't play it.” But he’s missing the point. Harper isn’t talking about the players. Anyone who has played baseball knows the feeling of playing baseball. Being on the field, the pop in the glove, the 3-2 pitch. It’s addicting.
Harper is talking about the fans. The die hards who will sit through a 14 inning game that’s had two hits and no score just because they love it. The eight year olds who put their glove up after every pitch, just praying they’ll catch the next A-Rod home run ball. Don’t they deserve a little excitement in their lives? When they get excited after a home run, don’t they deserve to share that with the players they love?
I get it. I grew up learning about a love for the game from generations older than myself. It’s a lot more than just a sport to a lot of people. It’s an extension of lifestyle and it’s hard to break people of old habits, but if a few more bat flips and fist pumps are what it takes to breathe new life into an old game, then what’s the problem?
Since when has doing something just because that’s how it’s always been done, been a good thing?