Sunday, March 4, 2012

Relax. It's okay if Bryce Harper's a punk.

There is an inclination in life to turn a person with great talent into a great person, through and through.  But look -- it's okay if Bob Dylan or Pablo Picasso or Charles Dickens or John F. Kennedy isn't all that great a guy, it doesn't diminish their results in the slightest.  Let's say you met Marie Curie or Susan B. Anthony and just hated them; does that erase their legacies?  Not a bit.

But no, that's not good enough for us.  We want our great talents to be great people, and we're willing to make excuses for them if they aren't.

Here's the latest example on Bryce Harper's behalf, via Tyler Kepner at the New York Times.

Included in the article, along with a listing of Harper's notorious moments, is an apologist argument from All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman:  "People need to realize that he's 19.  What were you doing when you were 19?"  That's like the philandering politician reasoning, "Yes, I've made unwise decisions.  But who among us hasn't?"

Sorry, there's no equivalency.  I was nothing like Bryce Harper when I was 19, and I'm certain he won't be like me when he turns 29.  Last season, I spoke with Mitch Sokol, the scout who signed Harper, and he voiced the general consensus about Harper:  He's remarkably talented and highly immature.

What I'm saying is simple:  People are multifaceted.  I've known ballplayers who were terrible with women but great with kids, terrible with kids but great with women, and terrible with women and kids but great with dogs.  If Bryce Harper plays and goes 2-for-4 with a home run and two errors, both his positives and negatives will be spotlighted.  The same should hold true for his character, and the same for all other athletes.

(Hey, Babe Ruth was a juvenile delinquent who went after opposing players with a knife early in his career.  Harper won't ever be as good as Ruth -- but he also won't ever be as bad as Ruth, either.)

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