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Friday open thread: showmanship

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Hi there! Today I want to talk about sports. Strange, I know, but bear with me. One of the things people forget about sports is that it’s a form of entertainment - the playing of sports literally does not matter for someone’s existence, and if sports went away tomorrow, life would go on. It would be duller, of course, but sports are very much external to the requirements of life.

Because people forget that, sports often get imbued with a degree of gravitas that they generally do not deserve - everything that happens in a given sport is given a weight that either it does not warrant, or that is so out of whack with what the actual reality of the thing is that it becomes ridiculous.

There’s no sport for which that is more true than baseball. Over the generations, baseball has developed a reputation of being a staid, boring sport in which the players dutifully participate and excel, but in which the players are also not supposed to exult in said excellence should they or their teammates achieve it. It’s a long season, and baseball generally values consistency of emotion (“marathon not a sprint”, etc) over exultation.

Which brings us to Tuesday of this week. Over the winter, Bryce Harper moved from the Washington Nationals to the Philadelphia Phillies. For those who don’t follow baseball, Harper is one of the best players in the game right now, and has been a National his entire career. His departure wasn’t as ugly as some, but it wasn’t really pleasant either. On Tuesday, his new team went to Washington to face his old team, and his reception by the fans in Washington was...predictable?

Late in the game, Harper destroyed a pitch for a two-run home run, after which he did this:

Harper’s bat flip has fired up, yet again, the debate about decorum in baseball. Bat flips are generally seen as a sign of disrespect - it’s ‘showing up the pitcher’. I don’t personally believe that - you hit like that, you do what you want - but it’s one of the dumb unwritten rules of the game that you don’t do that. But Harper did, and for me, it was glorious, because again, sports is entertainment. Dude crushes a ball like that, he should celebrate like that! And as bat flips go, that was an A+.

That brings up my questions. First - where do you stand on showmanship/celebrations like that? Not just in baseball, but in any sport. Are they good for the game, or are they disrespectful?

Second - if you like that sort of thing, what is your all time favorite bit of sports showmanship - be it “correct” by the etiquette of the sport or not? One of my favorites was so long ago, I don’t really even remember who did it. I was a season ticket holder for a minor league hockey team in Seattle in the 90’s, and one game, the opposing team skated out for pregame warmups, and one of their better players tripped and fell as he entered the ice.

Me and my friends, who sat in the front row on one of the blue lines, rode him about that all night, every time he touched the puck. Then, deep in the third period, this guy scored. He wasted no time - he went to the net, pulled out the puck, skated over to us, flipped us the puck, dropped his gloves, and flipped us off with both hands. And he earned every second of that. It was so good.

Any good examples of showboating you’ve seen either in person or on TV?