Bryce Harper. Quite possibly the biggest name in sports right now not named Steph Curry. You could make arguments for a few football players or for LeBron, but right this second, nobody outside of Steph is making headlines day after day like Bryce. And why? Because he’s an enigma. He’s the child prodigy who has lived up to his billing, and perhaps will surpass it. He was on the cover of SI at 16 years old and won his first MVP at 22. He’s bold, electric, and has already won an MVP. Every time he’s at bat it’s a must watch- is he going to hit a HR and pimp it, or is he going to be intentionally walked to load the bases in a tie guy.
And then last night.
Last night he was ejected for allegedly chirping from the dugout, and then gave umpire Brian Knight an emphatic “fuck you!” after Clint Robinson hit the walk off home run. And that, right there, is what makes him the hero. Not the heel, but the face. The player baseball has needed for so long. The anti-authority, the holds nothing back, the voice of the voiceless.
Bryce Harper is 13 year old you who was called out by an umpire in Little League who you weren’t allowed to yell out. Bryce Harper is 23 year old you who does an entire project for a client only to be told you did it wrong. Bryce Harper is the epitome of the kid who followed his dream to play pro ball and isn’t going to adhere to 200 year old “unwritten rules” because “that’s what the old people tell you to do”. He’s going to write his own rules.
Some people like to call Bryce a “heel”. Meaning the bad guy. He’s not though. Not in the slightest. He’s Stone Cold giving Vince McMahon a stunner. He’s the employee who tells the overbearing client to go fuck himself. He’s each and every sports fan who is so sick and tired of umpires and referees making it all about themselves in every game. It wasn’t just Bryce Harper telling telling Brian Knight to fuck himself, it was all of us who have watched Joey Crawford screw over basketball games, watched hardo refs in the NFL announce their presence by calling endless pass interference penalties, and for all of us who have seen umps dictate baseball games like Ron Kulpa just the other night.
Though it could hurt Bryce short-term, keeping bad umpires honest helps the game long term. Drawing attention to umpires who suck benefits everyone. Brian Knight ejected Bryce last night without merit. Knight just wanted to show he was the big bad umpire and could do what he wanted. If you didn’t want to give him a huge FUCK YOU last night, you probably booed Stone Cold when he stunned Vince, angrily yelping “Hey, stop it, that’s your boss, don’t do that!”
I can understand the argument that perhaps it’s a bit immature to scream fuck you at an umpire. I can hear that argument. But when you’re the best in the world, your team is in a tied game, and coming off getting swept, emotion takes over. How many times have you heard someone complain about players just giving canned responses, no players being real, no players being like the rest of us? Bryce is not only the best baseball player in the world, he’s the most like us. He has that emotional side where he plays with his heart on his sleeve. He didn’t apologize in the post-game press conference like the rest of the neutered athletes do these days. He stood up for his comments. He said the ump deserved them. And he said he hopes the ump gets fined. Hero.
And finally, spare me the “think about the kids” bullshit. God forbid kids see an elite athlete keep it real. Sure, you don’t want kids telling rec league umps to fuck off. But you do want them to see a player playing with the tenacity and emotion of Bryce. If the best player in baseball can show up and have that sort of energy and care that much, maybe the kids will copy that. The work ethic, the hustle, and the spirit of the game. And maybe then they’ll read about the type of person he is off the field and aspire to be that person too.
Little by little, people are realizing Bryce is the person baseball has been needing. The person to get eyeballs back on the game in a way we haven’t seen since Barry Bonds cheated his way to the home run record. And if you don’t agree that he is the current and future face of baseball, well then I’ve got two words for ya..