Every sport has made an attempt to take out their most embarrassing moments. Every one, from football to hockey to basketball, have made adjustments to curb the most childish, crude, and unsightly behavior. Everyone, of course, except for baseball, in which dirt-kicking, arm-flailing, and un-winnable arguments with umpires continue to this day.
Seriously, has anyone ever won an argument with an umpire?
There was a time when line brawls were common in hockey, when bench-clearing brawls were a staple of the game. John Wensink once challenged the entire North Stars squad. Some still want fighting banned from the game altogether. Nowadays, TV executives want to water down the sport to the point at which playoff beards, the most glorious and superstitious of hockey’s many quirky traditions, would be in danger if the suits had their way.
Of course, the Yankees have team policies regarding facial hair, but as far as we can tell, the team has no rules prohibiting wild debates over balls and strikes.
In basketball, players are no longer allowed to wear what they want to games, thanks to the thug reputation of the early-00s. The league long ago cracked down on fashion and asks players to dress professionally. The oversize T-shirts and medallions and hats have gone the way of the hand check, tough defense, and hard fouls. As recently as the 1990s, teams could be built on defense and toughness and actually have a chance to make a deep playoff run.
Ballplayers can actually wear jeans to the games. Wait outside any MLB ballpark to catch a glimpse at players arriving, and you’ll see lots of T-shirts, flip-flops. Anything goes.
Of all the major sports, football is now arguably the most P.C. The list of what players cannot do on the field is as long as their police records off it. The NFL, over the years, has taken out amazing and excessive touchdown celebrations, high hits, defensive tools like bump-and-run coverage, horse-collar tackles, and the head slap. Of course, some of those changes were made to protect players from horrific injuries, but nobody ever got hurt pulling a Sharpie out of their sock or stashing a cell phone in the endzone. This is a league that fines players for not pulling their socks up properly or talking trash to an opponent.
On Wednesday night, Minnesota's Torii Hunter went mad, threw off his batting gloves and wristbands and eventually his jersey, too. We all laughed. The video went viral. It made all the highlight packages, from ESPN to the local morning shows. And it was fantastic.
But this kind of behavior exists only in baseball. The meltdown is as much a part of the game as not running out flies, beanballs, and chewing tobacco. With the exception of the recent crackdown on steroids, baseball is unapologetic that way.
Baseball does what it wants. Always did. Always will. Got a problem with that? Kick some dirt. Turn over a water cooler. Punch a wall. Go crazy. Because that’s totally fine in baseball.