If you read last week’s column, you know the topic was the proliferation of “look at me!” show-off athletes in sporting events nowadays. Those of us in the fuddy-duddy generation prefer the old-school approach, epitomized by the player who simply hands the ball to the referee after scoring a touchdown, as if he does that every day.
If you didn’t read last week’s column, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!
Oh, sorry. As you probably noticed, those of us in the fuddy-duddy generation tend to get cranky easily. At our age, our boxer shorts must be getting a little too tight.
Anyway, there is another aspect of modern sporting events that has gotten out of hand. Along with all the strutting and chest thumping and “look at me” behavior whenever a player does something significant on the field, today’s ballplayers engage in ridiculous celebrations whenever they win a game. And I don’t mean the 7th game of the World Series. They celebrate all the time now, even when they win a weekday afternoon game in Cincinnati, a victory which propels their team into a tie for 3rd place, only 21-1/2 games behind the division leader. (If you don’t grasp my sarcasm here, I’m trying to say the game has all the importance of a company picnic softball game, that is, none.)
When a player gets the game-winning hit, the entire team pours out of the dugout and greets him at home plate. The moment he touches the plate, he is mobbed by two dozen young, healthy athletes, who pound his back, slap the top of his head, splash buckets of water and Gatorade on him, and try to rip his jersey off his back. A recent addition to this ritual is having the entire contents of a baby powder bottle poofed into his face. That must be great for the eyes and lungs.
The level of exuberance demonstrated during these victory celebrations far exceeds the importance of the game. I mean, we’re talking baseball here. They play 162 games each season. Even the worst teams win at least 50 games. You mean to tell me every single victory requires a display of jumping and screaming similar to a squadron of Marines in 1945 who just found out Imperial Japan surrendered? (Note the fuddy-duddy historical reference.)
Not only are these baseball celebrations ridiculous, they’re also dangerous. A few weeks ago, New York Yankee slugger Aaron Judge had half of a front tooth broken off during one of these frenetic celebrations when a teammate’s batting helmet smashed into his face.
A few years ago, major leaguer Kendrys Morales hit a walk-off grand slam home run for the Angels, and during the jumping and pounding that greeted him at home plate, he broke his leg. The injury put him on the disabled list for an entire year.
Frequently, we hear that a player is scratched from the lineup because of “neck stiffness” or “shoulder tightness.” Hmm, I wonder how many of these injuries were really caused during a dopey celebration rather than during game action?
Back in the good ol’ days, when a player made a game-winning hit, his teammates would greet him — in the dugout, not at home plate — and show their appreciation by offering him a hearty handshake, a slap on the back, and a cigarette. (OK, not everything about the good ol’ days was good.)
As a fuddy-duddy who also is a realist, I accept that the self-absorbed, “look at me” generation is here to stay. But if they could avoid injuring each other while celebrating, that would be nice. And don’t waste all that baby powder. Those of us with tight boxer shorts could use it.