I never liked Yunel Escobar. Not ever. He was the kind of player I’m not down to root for. Cocky. Flamboyant. Arrogant, with just a pinch of hubris. When he was with our Atlanta Braves, there were parts of me that just couldn’t get behind being a fan of his. Those parts were my brain and my heart. My thumb was all in with Yunel, totally. I thought of this mental battle I had with my soul while I was watching the Washington Nationals play last night. Two words…Bryce Harper. This guy may be as polarizing as Tim Tebow. By the way, I bet people who like Tebow HATE Bryce Harper and Harper fans can’t stand Tebow. Funny how that works. Someone needs to make “Team Harper” and “Team Tebow” buttons ASAP. Big money maker, I’m sure. For the record, I don’t have an opinion on Tebow, other than I’m not sure why everybody hates him (actually, I totally know why). With Harper, that’s a more difficult issue. He’s a great talent and if he continues on his current pace, he’ll be one of the first great players for the Nationals. But at what cost does a fan root for him? He’s Pete Rose, Don King, Bill Clinton and Howard Stern all rolled into one. One Twitter account I follow had the best tweet I’ve seen in a while. It was one of these “fake Bryce Harper” type accounts. It said “On a scale of 1 to Harper…how much do you love me?”. Sums up what we think Harper feels about himself, right? He seems like a self absorbed jerk, and as a fan of baseball, I’m not sure what to think about him.
What do you do if you’re a Nationals fan OR have a player like Harper on your team? Some fans say “I don’t care about character or bad attitudes, I just want to win”. I assume these people are the same people who like the University of Miami Hurricanes, the Baltimore Ravens, live in Philadelphia and kill butterflies in front of kindergartners. I don’t understand people like this because they have no character filter AT ALL. These fans would take Fidel Castro on their team if he was a “5 tool player”. Too bad one of those tools is handcuffs. Most fans, I believe, suspend their feelings about a player or two because they are a fan of the team. I know a bunch of Pittsburgh Steeler fans that LOVE their black and gold, but aren’t going to buy their kid a Ben Roethlisberger jersey or go to any bars in Milledgeville, Ga. Braves fans do this when they turn a blind eye to David Justice. He wasn’t the worst guy ever, but he went trolling for drugs in Florida (I’m sorry, I mean he got lost in a BAD neighborhood) and broke up with Halle Berry. Breaking up with Halle Berry is cause alone to question his character. Then there are some fans that are total old school. They want to keep their moral high ground at all costs. These fans don’t care if they lose every game of every year. As long as they root for a team that doesn’t have Ray Lewis or the Devil himself. Like the quote from “Usual Suspects”, The greatest trick Ray Lewis ever pulled off was convincing the world he didn’t exist.
We don’t have this issue too often here in Braves Country. John Rocker was a jerk and I’m sure most fans were ashamed of him being associated with the organization. Escobar is the most recent malcontent Braves fans had to deal with. But in the whole, the Atlanta club simply doesn’t put up with those type players. Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz did a great job of indentifying those crumb bums and getting them on the first Grey Hound bus out of Fulton County. And it most likely hurt the team in the wins column. But as a curmudgeon AND a sports fan, I like this way of operating. I love to win. I love when the teams I root for win. But I love being an aloof, snobby “nose down at the great unwashed” fan even MORE. You’re player got arrested? Good. Your team got caught doing cocaine off the belly of a Columbian escort while watching a cock fight and illegally taking the tags off some mattresses? Awesome for us! You like the Phillies and wear jean shorts? Typical. All of this bad behavior makes me feel better about my Braves. Because we haven’t sold our soul to Ray Lewis…I mean, you know who, to win games.
So Braves fans, keep your chin up! We may be the San Antonio Spurs of MLB, but that’s a GOOD thing. We may not get all the press, all the national attention and all the hoopla, but we get something much more satisfying. Players we can root for and a team that, more often than not, does things the way we’re not ashamed of. And that’s no small thing these days.