Pettiness. Passion. Playfulness.
I don’t care what you call it. Just give us more of it if you want more folks to care about baseball.
They say that hitting a ball with a bat in the major leagues is one of the hardest things to do in sports. That means hitting a home run is even harder. Earlier this week, when Miami Marlins infielder Jazz Chisholm hit one against the Washington Nationals, he celebrated the difficult feat by hitting a James Harden-esque Eurostep as he crossed home plate. The next day, Nationals pitcher Josh Rogers returned the favor as he did the same move when he left the mound after striking Chisholm Jr. out.
This is what baseball needs. This is what someone like me – who only watches postseason baseball – would tune in to see if it happened more.
“I’ve never had a pitcher Euro, like do whatever I did, but I’ve had some pitchers do some celebrations on me,” Chisholm said. “I like it, though, it gets me more locked in, and [it’s] something to really go out there and compete against.”
This is how the game should be played.
“Jazz is a sick player,” Rogers said. “He’s fun to watch. It’s The Show, man, so it’s entertainment for people.”
Do you see that? No harm. No foul. Just fun.
This is what would make baseball cool for a large number of people. As the countless “unwritten rules” and the old regime work hard to keep the game as rigid and boring as possible. But, every so often we get interactions like the one we saw between Rogers and Chisholm that prove the potential for joy.
We saw it when Tim Anderson’s walk-off home run won the Field of Dreams game.
And when the White Sox released their Nike City Connect uniforms, as they provided some much-needed flavor.
Ironically enough, the fun incident would have been probably flagged as taunting in the NFL, as their enforcement of the rule this season feels like it’s penalizing Black players for not “playing the white way,” which is something that baseball’s culture has done to players of color for decades.
“The idea behind the taunting rule is to prevent the bigger things,” Ron Rivera said on Tuesday, as the league has no immediate plans to amend the rule. “We’ve had this example where one guy taunts a guy and then the guy comes back for a little payback. And the next thing you know, you’ve got a big fight on your hands. You’ve got guys coming from left field, hitting each other. And that’s really what, to me, I think the referees are really looking for. They’re just trying to get it quieted down. You can do the celebration. They sent a tape out and explained exactly what’s taunting and what’s not. And I think if you look at the tape and you follow the tape, then it makes sense. I’m all for the celebration.”
According to people like Rivera, Rogers and Chisholm’s interaction would have ended in a brawl in the NFL, instead of friendly banter on social media. Or, maybe nothing would have happened at all, as emotional reactions to making plays are what make sports fun to play, and watch.
In a sport like baseball, where trying to reach a younger and more diverse audience has been to their detriment for decades, it would behoove the powers that be to finally realize what got them into the sport, to begin with. Which is the fact that it’s a game that they had fun playing.