Flipping bats or flipping people, it’s time to get used to the antics

I have something in common with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.

I have something in common with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.

I am old, too.

I look at sports from an old-school perspective. Like Gossage, I don't have much appreciation for the look-at-me generation. Their antics often make me sick.

Maybe it's time I change my views.

When the Steelers coach tells me it's OK for players to express their emotions on the field — even if it results in the occasional penalty — I probably should listen.


"I understand what game day is," Mike Tomlin said last season. "It's emotional. It's guys playing on the edge. I move very methodically and slowly in terms of judging some of the shows of exuberance that occur in the stadium because that's a natural act. It's a charged environment. To deny them that is inhumane."

This was after Antonio Brown landed a front-flip in the end zone after a 56-yard touchdown catch against the Cleveland Browns. Three weeks later, Brown returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts and, at full speed, leaped crotch-first into the goal post. He was penalized 15 yards for using the goal post as a prop.

"It just amazes me that we, meaning those of us who have interest in sports, can take the life out of a beautiful play and moment by analyzing it and overanalyzing it on silliness like that," Tomlin said. "Hey, how about just appreciate it and move on? Awesome play. Sick celebration. Move on."

It really is a different era.

Gossage, who pitched for the Pirates in 1977 on his way to Cooperstown, hates it. He made news earlier this month when he called Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista — another former Pirate — "a (bleeping) disgrace to the game" in an interview with ESPN. Bautista famously flipped his bat last fall after hitting a two-out, three-run home run in the seventh inning to give the Blue Jays the lead against the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of the American League division series. It didn't matter that the Blue Jays went on to win their first post-season series in 22 years. Bautista was criticized by many for showing up Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson.

"Those are things I have a hard time with," Gossage said. "I was passed the torch about a certain way to act. Flipping the bat isn't part of that."

Gossage's comments led to a national debate about baseball's decorum. The Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper — the best player in the game — called baseball "tired" this spring in an interview with ESPN The Magazine. "It's a tired sport because you can't express yourself. You can't do what people in other sports do."

Harper made it clear he has no problem with Bautista's bat flip or other individual celebrations.


"That's part of the game. It's not the old feeling — 'If you pimp a homer, I'm going to hit you right in the teeth.' No. If a guy pimps a homer for the game-winning shot, I mean, sorry.

"If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I'm going to go, 'Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully, I get you next time.' It's that flair. The dramatic. That's what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days. Football. Basketball."

This seems to be a generational thing. Dinosaurs like Gossage and me see the celebrations as not just disrespectful to an opposing player, but to the game itself. Jim Leyland always taught me the game needs to be respected above all else. Today's players tend to see it Harper's way, although the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout — the second-best player in the game — told the Los Angeles Times, "I just hit the ball and go. I go out there and try to respect the game. My parents always taught me to be humble."

Slowly but surely, the look-at-me generation is winning the day. Maybe that's a good thing for baseball. Television ratings are down. The game is too slow for young people even if baseball continues to tweak its rules to speed it up. The fans want action. They want emotion. They want to see players celebrate their feats. They love it.

Younger Steelers fans loved Brown's flip and leap. Just about everyone remembers his antics more than anything else that happened in either Steelers win. Those antics added — not detracted — from Brown's popularity. Give him credit for knowing how to market himself. It wasn't an accident he ended up on "Dancing with the Stars." His Q Rating will continue to soar.

Gossage and I had better get used to it.

The worst emoting is yet to come.

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