Us vs Them: Admiring the Opponent

When I was young the world had no gray. My home team was good. The other teams were evil. I never doubted the moral superiority of my team. As I grew older I began to realize that some opponents were outstanding athletes and upstanding individuals. (I remember reading about Bill Bates’ exemplary character and thinking: How can that be? He’s a Cowboy.)

Last night Cole Hamels intentionally hit Bryce Harper with a pitch. I must admit I was happy about it; I’m not a big fan of Harper. But Harper earned my respect. He brushed it off and ran to first, then hustled to third on a single, and then stole home when Hamels made a throw to first. After scoring Harper ran back to the dugout (I give him credit for not staring down Hamels or saying something).

In an interview Hamels admitted that he hit Harper on purpose, equating it with old school baseball (“Welcome to the big leagues, kid”). I’m not against pitching inside or even hitting a batter to send a message, but Hamels just looks like a jerk in this situation. His comments earned him a 5 game suspension from MLB today.

I’m sure this event will keep things testy between the Phillies and Nationals for a while.

What I’m left with is more respect for Harper. He might be a cocky teenager with a mullet-mohawk haircut, but he showed some class last night.

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