Every now and then, an athlete infiltrates the realm of professional sports and sends the sports industry into a frenzy.
This athlete is your standard hero and your quintessential villain. You love him or you hate him, but either way, you watch him. He plays with a certain swagger that only resounds from an internal confidence that is as pure as the athlete’s raw talent. He thrives off his haters, yet plays with no agenda. He welcomes the attention he receives and works to retain it. Most of all, he plays for himself and he plays his own game.
The particular athlete I’m referring to in this case goes by the name of Bryce Harper.
I wrote about Harper earlier this year, and I questioned whether or not he was ready for the big leagues. Like it or not, the Washington Nationals thought he was – and so far, it seems they were right.
In his MLB debut, Bryce Harper hit 1-for-3, his first major league hit coming in the form of a double to center. Then he picked up his first RBI in the form of a sacrifice fly for the go-ahead run in the ninth inning. Harper also played solid defense and nearly picked up an assist on a close play at the plate.
In his second major league game, Harper went 1-for-3 again, while also drawing a walk and striking out once.
Of course, all eyes were on Harper – he made sure of that. When rounding the bag during his first double, he flipped his helmet before hitting second base to reveal some sort of mohawk-mullet combination hair-do.
Clearly, Harper was impressive in his debut. He proved he can hang with the men, even if he’s merely a boy of 19. But what irked me was Harper’s demeanor. He’s a rookie with a lot to live up to. He’s no Ted Williams just yet. As I watched the replays of the game and watched interviews with him, I wondered where he received the right to carry such a big ego. Then I asked myself why I even cared – which led me to the realization that the fact I even cared was reason enough to justify Harper’s hype.
Some people love a player with cockiness and swagger. While I personally prefer a pure player, one who remains humble and quiet, one who lets his talent do all his talking, I also believe that Bryce Harper is good for baseball.
Every now and then, each major sport needs a game-changer; someone who creates waves and ignites fires with their every step. Sure, the media hype becomes obnoxious and unnecessary. But the game of baseball needed this shot of life.
Harper is bringing a youthful element to the game of baseball. While there are plenty of young, exciting prospects and rookies, Harper’s game is on another level – not because he’s better than anyone else, but because he brings a new mass of interest to the game.
There’s a new kid in town and like it or not, everyone wants to know him. Harper’s the modern-day Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez. He’s the kid you want on your team because he’s a ballplayer and he knows it. Maybe he’s cocky and overconfident, but at least he isn’t fearful. He’s calm, yet generates intensity with his play. And above all, he’s interesting.
People want to watch Harper. Even if you don’t like him or his attitude, you’re intrigued by the kid. You want to know if the 19-year-old phenom is going to meet the expectations. You want to know what he does and how he does it. You want to see his reaction after his first home run. Will he drop his head and quietly round the bags, or will he blow another kiss at the opposing pitcher? Like him or not, you’ll watch.
And that’s why Bryce Harper is good for baseball – he’ll make you watch. He’s interesting and intriguing and he’s a refreshing, new breed of a player.
You may hate him; you may think he’s nothing but a young punk who has developed a big head and a lot of hype. And while I’ll agree with you there, I’ll also point out that in the very least, he made you form an opinion. While other players fall into the realm of indifference, Harper is a polarizing figure.
Love him or hate him, he made you look. And most of all, he made you think.