Boston Red Sox ace pitcher David Price commented on recent remarks by past & present players about the game. He believes that fashion is the answer for players to express themselves.
Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported Price’s comments when the topic of respect for the game was brought into question. Recently, Hall-of-Famer Goose Gossage, on multiple occasions in the media, ripped into Jose Bautista and his famous bat flip from last season, using very strong language to describe how Bautista and the entire Toronto Blue Jays squad acted out of line and disgracing the game. Almost in the same breath, reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper said that the game is “tired” and that other sports have allowed for their players to express themselves, which arguably catches the interests of the young people of today. As far as Price is concerned on the matter:
"“Let us express ourselves with our shoes […] They say the shoes make the man. We need to be able to express ourselves. If we can’t express ourselves guys want to, or we can’t express ourselves to the media like guys really want to, we’re puppets. We don’t need all the control, but we want to be able to control ourselves, and not be a puppet with a puppet-master hanging over us with the strings.”"
Bradford adds that “ESPN reported that the average age of their baseball viewers are 53-years-old, compared to the 37-year-old average for the NBA. Nielson states that more than 50 percent of those watching baseball are 55-years-old, up from 41 percent 10 years before.”
Before judging these comments, let’s get one thing straight: rules are made to evolve.
There are likely many people reading these words who are angrily saying to themselves that baseball is a game of tradition, that it is perfect just the way it is. To change the game’s rules is to change their childhoods and even the heart of America itself, right?
Well, that heart often beats to the drum of the National Football League, now. Jo Craven McGinty of The Wall Street Journal did a study of whether the United States liked football or baseball more and, although she points out that baseball is far from dead, “by most of these measures, the NFL comes out ahead—perhaps arguably in some instances.” Many other studies have been documented with the same conclusions: that baseball is still very popular but is also losing ground to sports like football and basketball as the national pastime.
Many people believe that youngsters are chaffing under the strict rules and codes that baseball has followed for over a century, especially the lack of self-expression. While other sports allow their athletes to show emotion in the heat of the moment, baseball requires what is felt as an almost-robotic response. Older generations would call that just giving respect to the game and the common decency not to show up an opponent. However, many young players like Harper like it when they can express their feelings easily, because they don’t see it as disrespect as much as they see it as earned emotions of triumph.
Wherever one stands on that particular argument, one cannot deny that young people, from elementary school to in their 20s, are attracted to present-day players who demonstrate a flair or who at least express themselves and set them apart from the rest. These young people will become the mainstream viewers, once the older generations are gone, and they will not be choosing baseball, to play or watch, if it does not allow for self-expression, regardless of whether that is right or wrong.
It’s one thing to have morals, but it is another thing to compromise values for the sake of the ultimate goal to keep baseball alive and well.
If we return back to Price, he believes that fashion is an example of how MLB officials can compromise with the players, as well as the potential young fans. Price said that the color of a player’s cleats or other parts of the way that he wears his uniform actually attracts young people to follow a sport: “Guys take a lot of pride in the way they look out there on the field. If you look good, you’re going to play together, that’s something [Price’s former manager in Tampa Bay] Joe Maddon would always say. You should be uncomfortable in your own skin, so do your best to look good.”
Some more traditionalists would read those words and ask for a bucket to throw up into, as they could argue that young people, possibly, are more worried about being different in how they look than the game itself. That could be very true. However, there was a time when Elvis Presley was looked at as the devil for gyrating his hips the way he did and The Beatles were bringing horrible noises to corrupt American youth. There was a time when the government had a problem with their youth reading comic books in the 1950s, which they felt were warping their children’s minds. The traditionalists felt that we needed to eliminate those problems with great haste.
What happened to those problems? Elvis is considered an American icon even after his death decades later, the surviving Beatles are considered music royalty and their music is felt to be much more respectful than most of the music young people listen to now. And comics? Well, you may have heard of the very successful Avengers movie franchise from Marvel Comics.
Let’s face it: times change, people change, and rules must change with them. That’s not to say that young people know everything; in fact, they may be worse than ever, depending on your perspective, in terms of intelligence or respect as a society. Yet, telling them what they should or shouldn’t do hasn’t worked in decades, so forcing values down their throats that they don’t agree with doesn’t seem to be a very successful strategy. The end game to this argument is still to get youngsters to love the game that we’ve been watching and playing for so long. Compromises may help them to take a chance on the game that many of them think is only for the geriatric generations. You know, like 25 and up, right?