I don’t know how many of you reading this are baseball fans, but I assume at least some are Will Ferrell fans. So you might have heard about him playing every position for 10 different Major League Baseball teams in one day. It’s important to point out that he was playing in Spring Training games. It’s even more important to point that he did this to raise money for charity. Because as much as this was a media stunt, it was for a good cause.
Now, I’m usually the first person to let his cynicism make him question whether he’s allowed to enjoy or approve of something like this. I’ll admit that when I first heard about Will Ferrell doing this I figured he was just doing it to promote Semi-Pro 2 or something. Or he was using his celebrity status to fulfill a childhood dream. But then I watched some video from the day.
Will Ferrell look ridiculous out there. Of course he did. He’s in his 50s. But he still made the play. And more to the point, I enjoyed watching him and clearly so did the players on all the teams. Why? Because it’s Spring Training. The games don’t mean anything. The games are meant to get players tuned up for the season. Sure, some players are competing for rosters spots, but Will Ferrell played for one out at each position. He hardly had any impact on the future of any fringe big league players. He had fun and so did they.
So why, exactly, is John Madden — former NFL head coach and current video game shill — chiming in? Because apparently he thinks what Will Ferrell did “lacks respect” for the “game.” That’s right, John Madden is complaining that a famous comedian isn’t respecting a child’s game played by adults for ludicrous sums of money.
John Madden probably doesn’t care that Ferrell raised money for cancer. Realistically, he probably doesn’t even know. The man’s a fossil that travels the country by bus because he’s afraid of flying. No, John Madden only cares about “respect.” Even though he plays in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am golf tournament which, at its core, is the same thing. But he dismisses the comparisons by saying Pebble Beach has tradition that goes way back to Bing Crosby (himself a shining example of respect).
And with that, John Madden shows why he represents everything that’s wrong with professional sports right now. All the old timers (players and media alike) constantly whine about how things aren’t like they used to be. They say there’s no respect, honour or integrity. Tradition has been forgotten.
Baseball players are too flashy, show too much emotion and look as if they are enjoying being paid millions of dollars to play for three hours a day. NHL players are soft now. There’s no grit in hockey anymore. No fighting. NFL players run their mouths during media scrums when really they should keep quiet. They talk too much shit after games. They should obey the code of silence so they don’t humiliate the losing team.
Put simply: no professional player is allowed to do anything that might give them a personality, make it seem like they enjoy their job or use all of their skill to their full potential.
As a sports fan I ask, where’s the fun in that?
We all watch sports because they are fun to watch. We watch for pimped home runs, end zone dances, emphatic dunks and even breakaway goals. We watch because players that show off are either the ones you love (when they’re on your team) or the ones you love to hate (when they’re not). We don’t watch for cliched quotes, stone faced benches and gentlemanly handshakes after a championship win.
That’s why people were excited to see Will Ferrell to play baseball. It was silly. It was harmless. It was fun.
Fans don’t care about respect. They care about enjoying the game. Something I doubt John Madden (or 95% of sports media) could ever really understand.