I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of getting a little tired of the ‘old school’ vs. ‘new school’ debate that seemingly arises when something happens in baseball. Hall of Fame? Old school vs. new school. Instant replay? Old school vs. new school. Pimping HR’s? Old school vs. new school. Well, as Howard Beale said in the movie ‘Network’, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
I’m not really mad, just wanted to use that line cause I like it. All the back and forth between the two schools of thought is getting tired. Look, I grew in an ‘old school’ household. For those that may not know, my old man played 16 years in the big leagues and did so in an era that embraced the ‘right way to play the game.’ I still, to this day and with my kids, adhere to it. I believe there is a right way to play the game…any game…that’s called sportsmanship. But I’m also not naïve nor close-minded.
I’d be a rich man if I got a nickel for every time I heard my dad say to me, “these kids today…” when talking about something that happened in a game he just called or a highlight that just flashed on his television. My response is still the same, “I hear ya but that’s just how things are nowadays.”
Listen, we live (and have been living) in a highlight, look-at-me driven society. First thing on in our house is either the local news or SportsCenter/Quick Pitch combo, just depends on who gets to the TV first at 5:45am during the week (my son’s getting pretty quick going down the stairs). We have “Top 10 Plays”, “Capital One Premier Plays’, “Not So Top 10 Plays”, etc. That’s how kids have grown up over the last 20-25 years and a good chunk of that generation is currently playing professional sports.
Let’s go back to last night’s NLCS game between the Dodgers and Cardinals. Yasiel Puig, who had been hitless in the series prior to his 4th inning AB, lined one out to right field. Puig thought he got all of it, so he bat-flipped and started to “pimp” his “home run”…except it wasn’t a HR. Once Puig realized it wasn’t going to go out, he turned on the after-burners and had himself a celebratory, stand-up triple. He celebrated. His teammates celebrated. Dodgers fans celebrated. The Dodgers, down 2-0 in the NLCS, had something to celebrate…so they did. Big deal! The story should end there, but it didn’t.
Of course, social media was abuzz. #BatFlip and #PuigMania were all the rage on Twitter and beyond. So after the game, Cardinals players were asked about Puig’s celebration. Carlos Beltran didn’t like it and said as much. Cards starter, Adam Wainwright, when asked about Puig said, “I didn’t see Puig’s reaction. I saw Adrian (Gonzalez) doing some Mickey Mouse stuff at second, but I didn’t see Puig.”
This is just one example but it’s also an example that occurred on a national stage. Everyone saw it. Everyone’s reacting to it. Old school mindset is going to be that Puig shouldn’t be acting this way…he still has a lot to learn, especially since he’s been in the US a short period of time. New school takes a different approach. It, for the most part, believes players are playing a kids game and they should all be allowed to have fun and see nothing wrong with a little excitement and/or players showing emotion. Heck, no one seems to mind when a pitcher pumps his fist after getting the 3rd out after a bases-loaded, no out situation in a crucial game <Cough> Max Scherzer vs. Oakland in ALDS Game 4 <Cough>.
I’m caught in between because of the way I grew up. I was taught to show up, ready to play hard and to respect my opponents. But as I’ve gotten older and as the game itself has changed, I’ve found myself becoming more and more accepting of the personalities as well as the incredible talent I’m fortunate enough to witness on a daily basis. I don’t believe celebrations are bad for the game. I understand both mindsets, I’ve just blurred the lines that divide so that I can concentrate on other things such as the random Dodgers Bear that was on the Cardinals dugout last night or the crush that I may or may not still have on Mary Hart (I can neither confirm nor deny the latter).
It’s a business. It’s a game. It’s entertainment. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone and that’s ok. With all of the celebrations we continue to witness, I’m wondering if today’s players have just gone back in time and taken a page out of the old school’s MTV (that’s still around?) playbook by proclaiming, “We can dance if we want to. We can leave your friends behind. Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine.” (Courtesy of Men Without Hats)
Just livin’ the dream…
As always, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org