There isn’t much in this world that makes me angry. In fact those who don’t know me can, sometimes, mistake my being calm for being passive or not actually understanding what’s happening. Those who actually know me can tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A Utah Jazz sportswriter learned that the hard way last night.
Last night the Jazz played the Thunder in a preseason game in Salt Lake City. Late in the game Thunder star Kevin Durant began jawing at a fan who had been giving it to him during the game. Durant, one of the more notorious trash talkers in the NBA, and his trash talk weren’t welcome by one writer who was called on it. After being flummoxed by his trash talk during a “meaningless preseason” game the writer decided to let us know what he expects from stars of sports:
My response was:
The reasoning behind calling into question KD’s “class” was because it was a preseason game. This writer didn’t think it was appropriate for Durant to talk trash during a meaningless contest. As if to say because the season starts next Tuesday being a hyper competitive, world-class athlete who talks trash would be okay then, when the games “count.” Not as classless. Not last night, though. Just be happy, run around and invite that writer over for dinner to show how ‘classy’ you are.
I’ve sat back long enough on this. It’s becoming an unbearable epidemic among writers, analysts, and those who don’t win on the field of play.
“That’s not how you do things.”
“That’s not how the game is played.”
“He/she showed no class, tonight.”
We’ve all heard these sayings before and sometimes they are legitimate, but most of the time it’s someone (or some group) trying to hold on to some relic of sports that any sign of emotion contrary to a fist pump isn’t welcome. That’s #LoserSpeak: when a group or player doesn’t get the desired outcome, they pawn the exuberance off as not being gracious in victory and playing the game the wrong way. It’s a trap the aforementioned writer fell into when he attacked Durant personally, finding ways to take away from the undesired outcome of the team he covers nightly. Even going so far as to attempt to reprimand those who disagreed with his idiotic take:
No, what was weird was the reaction to trash talk from an NBA player and that leading to a discussion on the level of ‘class’ of said player.
Nowhere has #LoserSpeak become more prevalent than in Major League Baseball; highlighting a long history of culture problems in the sport itself.
Let me paint you a picture of your average baseball game in the United States. American flags, hot dogs, organ music, seventh inning stretches, and time-honored traditions. Military and country are, rightfully, honored and respected. It’s Springsteen and Fogerty, cracker jacks and cotton candy, Budweiser, and “God Bless America.” It’s all the National pomp and circumstance you can fit into nine innings.
Between the lines, however, there is a completely different picture.
One that has players and personalities from all over the globe. Asia, Central and South America, and Europe are represented between those lines. The image of baseball games in Central and South America as well as Asia aren’t entirely different at their core to American baseball, but they are celebrated and played differently on the surface. I lived in Panama for two years and can tell you that when Chiriqui plays Panama Metro or Aguadulce it’s not a buttoned down affair. Neither is the Caribbean World Series, where passion and excitement are displayed differently.
Those differences lead to some “Unwritten Rules” of Major League Baseball (and the media that covers the sport). Rules meant to protect a Status Quo that, quite frankly, need squelching. Sam Dyson, who gave up the home run to Bautista, mentioned that Jose Bautista, he of the “Bat Toss Heard Round The Bigs” needed to “calm that stuff” down and that he needs to “respect the game a little more.” Dyson also said that Bautista’s “doing stuff that kids do.” I hate to break it to you, Mr. Dyson, but you’re playing a kids game. Major League Baseball has never been the most welcoming sport, in the sense that it never fully embraces the player and culture or style that player brings with him.
Why is it okay for pitchers like Dyson to “respect” the game like this or this? What point does this accomplish other than furthering the bottling up of players to fit the narrative that this is okay? Why is Madison Bumgarner allowed to tell Alex Guerrero he’s “not that good” after Guerrero spun in frustration over a pitch he thought he missed? Is that the correct way to play the game? Or is staring down umpires a more appropriate way to do things?
Stop #LoserSpeak, Culture Phobia
It’s long past time for it to stop.
Bat flips and trash talk in sports don’t make you classless. It doesn’t. Stop being the oversensitive writer, player, or fan in the room. While trash talk has been a part of basketball for some time, baseball fans (and Major League Baseball) might want to embrace some of the exciting elements players bring to the game itself. There’s a place for bat flips and admiring home runs just like there’s a place for the Paul O’Neill-esque head down and trot style.
For what it’s worth, the fact that this is now a conversation is a fantastic start.
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