On the wide spectrum of people running face first into walls, Bryce Harper's crash the other night probably fell somewhere between Gus Frerotte and Larry, Curly, and Moe Howard. Harper is an enormously entertaining player who will do many amazing, effortful things in what we hope will be a very long career. That misplay in Dodger Stadium was not one of them. It was painful slapstick, no matter how hard Harper tried to dress it up afterward as the unfortunate byproduct of Bump Baileyish hustle. A blooper. That's all it was. Clown spatial awareness, bro.
Which is why I'm wondering today if Yahoo's Tim Brown was watching the same play. From his column, entitled "Bryce Harper vows to play as relentless as ever, and what's not to like about that?":
Entirely undaunted, and in a game the Nationals led, 6-0, Harper charged again after the baseball and this time discovered the out-of-town scoreboard. Along with the news the rival Braves were well ahead of the Diamondbacks, Harper discovered that this particular wall held many of the same qualities as other walls, primarily in that he'll never be able to run through one. Except metaphorically.
And for this, Harper found he'd be criticized for trying to make a play when it would have been safer, easier, fully understandable, if he'd pulled up and taken the ball off the wall.
"Undaunted" is just about the last word that comes to mind when watching Harper hit that wall. "Confused," maybe. Or, "Hey, dude, look out for that wa—oh shit how did you not see that wall?" But not "undaunted." Harper was undaunted in the way that I'm undaunted when I trip on a stairstep, or poke my own eye, or crash my bike into the back of a parked car. He was undaunted in the way that all those dudes on all those episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos were undaunted whenever a hard, airborne object hit them in the nuts.
But Brown doesn't stop there. He delves into the past and manages to turn the time Harper smashed himself in the face with a bat into another example of Harper's scrapgrinding grittiness:
Harper has run into stuff before. Other players. Other walls. Plenty of naysayers. To this day he bears a scar over his left eye, there because he ran into his own bat after a fruitless trip to the plate.
Players such as Harper – young, talented, relentless – annoy the status quo. That's because he exposes the status quo as a little soft, a little comfortable, and all too willing to let a moment pass.
Well, this is just remarkable. Bryce Harper, derided not so long ago as a showboating prima donna, is now reckoned a great big hunk of manly virtue in a culture gone irrevocably soft—all because he did objectively stupid things. Amazing. This is what happens when sportswriters get desperate for a new unicorn to hump because Sam Fuld isn't playing every day.