Mark, you sesame street watching, “we are the world” singing, triple ply with aloe softee. Villains are a cornerstone of baseball. Some of the best players in history have been villains. Barry Bonds. Ty Cobb(at least according to Field of Dreams). Haywood from Major League.
Do you remember when Superman fought off the nice guy you were actually rooting for? Of course you donʼt…because Comic Books and movies need villains just like sports. How boring would Gotham be without villains?
I think the difference is, sports fans donʼt all have to agree on who or what the villain is.
To Tampa Bay Raysʼ fans, the Yankees and Red Sox are villains. Johnny Damon played for both the sox and the evil empire, and now heʼs our DH. Did we jump right in to that relationship and embrace him as one of our own or did we try to keep him away from us like we were Sarah Conner in Terminator 2? He looks like the same guy who was trying to kill us the last time he was around, and now heʼs trying to help us? Cue the Guns-n-Roses and letʼs run from this player, right? Nope. Heʼs no longer a villain, because he switched to the good side.
Tiger Woods. Brett Favre. Jordan. Eddie Martel, QB from “The Replacements”. The Iron Sheik. Ivan Drago. and now Lebron James who is one loss away from making tons of NBA fans extremely happy. (note…obviously since I wrote this he is now 0 losses away, and tons of NBA fans are extremely happy). Dallas jerseys sold in Cleveland this past week like Budweiser at a Nascar event. Lebron has proven to be as popular as a chaplain on a porno set. And you know whoʼs watching? Everyone.
People tune in for once in a lifetime talents whether theyʼre nice or not…but more people continue to watch when the guy is a d-bag. I hope Bryce Harper continues to blow kisses at pitchers and stare at his monster blasts, because that would mean heʼs still hitting monster blasts, and people will watch that hoping that heʼll be a good guy one day as well as being an incredible player. At the risk of making 2 references to the same movie…
People will watch, Mark. They’ll watch these games for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll rush in from their driveways, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll turn on their tvʼs as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, I won’t mind signing a baseball for you,” Bryce will say. “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll ﬁnd they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be
so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. The one constant through all the years, Mark, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This ﬁeld, this game, is a part of our past, Mark. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will watch, Mark. People will most