Are You Not Entertained?

A recent tweet by @O3jfrye (found here) triggered some of the #LetThemHaveFun crowd which seems to exist for the sole purpose of identifying members of the #FunPolice and calling them out.


The context behind the tweet is that a player had just hit a big time go-ahead home run to bring his team back from the edge of defeat. That's awesome. That's fun (unless you are on the opposing team which makes it slightly less fun). Less awesome is the level of sportsmanship that followed. Granted, we won't all agree on the definition of sportsmanship, so here are a few examples from a Google search:


Oxford Languages (Google-driven result): "fair and generous behavior or treatment of others, especially in a sports contest"


Wikipedia: "Sportsmanship is an aspiration or ethos that a sport, or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake. This is with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one's competitors."


You may think of these as starting points if you are so inclined. If not, then I'm open to hearing other definitions as long as they aren't sourced from a gum wrapper.


So is staring at the ball in flight, pointing (presumably at your own bench), throwing the bat, repeated chest beating, and an emphatic plate stomp good sportsmanship? Need a ruling here from the fun experts. I'm just trying to understand the rules of the celebratory road.


Ideally, hitters should pause to admire every single ball they strike for the sake of consistency. Follow through is all about keeping the head steady and having the rotation of the arms and hips cause the head to turn. Why not do this for all contact? That ball down the line just past the left fielder? Treat yourself to a lengthy gander before traipsing down to first. You've earned it. The drive you pulled down the line that may hook foul? Pause for a selfie and then proceed 90'.


Why wouldn't you turn and point at the bench/fans/concession workers? If you want immediate feedback and the kind of fulfillment that can only be found in flexing, then you must. Everyone should be made immediately aware of the greatness of your deed. There is no reason to be satisfied with clearly demonstrating your superiority when you can make people witnesses to your life's defining moment. If anything, those witnesses should spread your lore so that even more people can make you the focal center of their trivial existences.


Throwing the bat? That's just baseball's equivalent of smashing a dish on the floor after consuming its contents so that it can never be contaminated with a lesser substance. By gosh, you've done it a favor my by honoring it as a piece of baseball equipment with no equal. Huzzah!


The bat throw deserves categorization to differentiate it from the more pedestrian bat flip and bat toss.


The bat flip seems to have some defining characteristics. A flip is usually an underhand maneuver intended to rotate the bat on a single axis. One variation is to flip and spin the bat at the same time to intentionally rotate the bat on two axes. This requires some wrist and hand rotation, so maybe it deserves its own subcategory. The bat toss is also commonly an underhand maneuver as well with the arm movement distinguishing it from the flip. The flip requires a bit of a curling motion while the toss requires some arm extension. Combine the two and you have the rarely seen bat "floss".


The bat throw is next level. It is most definitely an overhand throw with an arm motion similar to that of an axe thrower. The bat throw is all about the release point. Premature release means that the bat may go higher than intended. Late release means risking the bat hitting the ground and bouncing back into a groin (yours or that of another person). Ideally, a good bat throw is like an overhand toss but with slightly less conviction that one would use when attempting to forcefully embed an axe in a piece of wood.


The repeated chest beating requires attention to detail. A single chest thump could be mistaken for a sign that you need medical assistance of some kind. Go overboard with too many thumps, and you could create the need for medical assistance. Somewhere between 3 and 5 chest thumps is in the healthy range for the attention seeking among us.


After you hit a home run, you can rest assured that no one noticed, and you need to bring attention to the moment. Beating your chest is really a public service of sorts. It's not like all attention is on you. As a bonus, the chest thumping combined with the home plate stomp gains you a certain measure of respect among the more knowledgeable fans.


Thank goodness you aren't showing up the pitcher after already showing up the pitcher by hitting the home run. Your show of empathy at a particularly sensitive moment provides an insight into the type of character you have. Kudos.


I can't think of a better way to respect the game and your opponents than by celebrating all that is good in this world by expressing yourself in every way your small mind can imagine. I guess you could backpedal or even moonwalk when circumnavigating the bases in a counterclockwise fashion, but that would delay additional celebration. Better to pregame that celebration as an attention seeker in motion so you won't need a hype man to take the stage before you reach the dugout.


This can't possibly go wrong. It's not like such things can be handled poorly or result in retribution.


After all, baseball regulates and polices itself....sometimes. Younger players take their cues from MLB players they emulate, and that can't possibly go wrong, right? Those same young players can police themselves as well. No doubt about it.


At the MLB level baseball does a terrible job of policing itself. If someone hits a no-doubter and pauses near home plate to admire their handiwork, there is a decent chance they draw the ire of others. Players remember that stuff. It's taunting even if it's not really taunting, because that's often how it's perceived. Maybe it's a nuanced perception which explains why pitchers never glare at the temporary status or file away the incident for future reference. Never.


There may very well be an intentional hit-by-pitch looming. I'm not saying it's right, but I am saying that it happens. Retaliation happens whether the cause is just or not, and the unwritten rules demand justice (or maybe they don't). Baseball has unwritten rules. It doesn't matter if you or I agree with them, know them all (I certainly don't), or abide by them. They exist, and some people take them seriously.


Perhaps many of the "old school" baseball people still lean on these rules. Maybe the members of the newest generation are familiar to varying degrees. Then there is a full generation of people between the two generations that knows many of the rules and has to translate and educate the younger folk while also explaining to the dinosaurs that they are indeed dinosaurs. As a result of mixing these generations we get inconsistencies during the best of times and absolute chaos at the worst of times.


If adults can't get this stuff right, what are the odds that kids do? Does anybody really want to see kids (and by "kids" I mean everyone from Little League to high school) throwing retaliatory fastballs for perceived slights? Doubt it. I do think there is a slow trickle-down effect, and the velocity of the trickling has been slowed by rules, coaching, and other external pressures to act a certain way. That cannot be the state of affairs forever.


The more celebrations go over-the-top the greater the risk that someone is going to retaliate and escalate as tempers flare. Testosterone and adrenaline are bad enough when combined, but anger is the worst kind of catalyst. Leagues can get ahead of this with some rules, but it's hard to do it in the current #LetTheKidsPlay climate. It's a tough choice between draconian rules that nobody likes and weak rules that lack the bite to have an impact.


It's not like MLB has really tried and gotten it right. Warning both benches after a batter gets hit just means that the team that strikes first can get a free one. The opposing team can't retaliate without the risk of incurring a penalty. Maybe the rule minimizes retaliation or at least allows time for cooler heads to prevail, but there is a fairness factor that fuels frustration. MLB has a rules committee that spends at least 15 minutes every year thoroughly considering this and a hundred other proposed rules and rule changes.


The result is that you get what they didn't pay for. At least the NFL, NHL, and NBA have fair systems and are good at handling celebrations and retaliations.


Wait.


They don't and they aren't. *sigh*


Ultimately, all of these excessive (or not excessive) celebratory shenanigans come down to the players involved and sportsmanship. The same can be side for retaliation. Respecting the game and your opponent is a really great foundation. Teaching kids to win with grace and accept defeat with dignity is on the parents, guardians, coaches, and managers. Maybe they are failing, or maybe they joined the #LetThemHaveFun movement already.


I'm not telling anyone not to have fun, and I could do without people telling me what to do. I'm not actually eliminating fun. I'm not directly or even indirectly responsible for your fun or theirs. What I am doing is pointing out that I personally feel there is a better way to handle noteworthy accomplishments. Players can celebrate exuberantly yet tastefully. Or not. I'd prefer the former, but I'm not empowered to change the sport and make it into my personal sportsball utopia. I'm just an infrequent maker of loosely organized words who would rather spend 45 minutes writing a blog post than reply to people telling me what to do (#LetTheKidsPlay & #LetThemHaveFun).


Was baseball so boring before the bat flip/toss/space launch that fans were clamoring for something to spice things up without actually scoring runs?


-@gr33nazn (but Dennis is my government name)


Highly opinionated side note: I feel like pitchers should get removed if they hit a batter at shoulder level or higher. If the incident is deemed intentional, then make it an ejection. If it was an accident, then removal without an accompanying suspension is fine. The automatic nature of the removal/ejection is interest of safety for all involved, and it could help defuse the situation.




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