Earlier this week, Bryce Harper gave a candid interview to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, in which he candidly suggested he might want to have a lifestyle like that of Joe Namath. Much credit for the historical knowledge. But still, an interesting choice. Quoting from Ladson:
“I’m going to be my own person. There are a lot of professional athletes back in the old days that did what they wanted to do. That’s how I’m going to be. I’m going to prove myself on the field, so I can be that kind of guy off the field. I’m not a clown off the field. I just say things....
A football player I can name is Joe Namath. ... He had that city life and everything like that, but he was one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. I can’t say I’m like Joe Namath....He went out, he played, but he had fun. He had a night life, he had his own place, I think it was called Bachelors III. He had his own thing that he wanted to do....He was in the style, he did all those commercials, things like that. He loved it. I think that’s huge. That’s one side of me that I like. I’m not your typical, ‘Hey, I’m going to be Johnny Good.’ You are a baseball player....I’m going to have fun off the field, too.”
Now, it’s kind of unclear if Namath is the example here or not, since Harper does say “I can’t say I’m like Joe Namath.” But it was a juicy enough quote that it got picked up by further outlets, and then former big leaguer Todd Hollandsworth got to talking about it on MLB Network Radio’s First Pitch.
“Certainly [Namath] was his own man in his own right, walked his own walk and did his own thing off the field, and was able to back it up on the field,” Hollandsworth said. “And that’s kind of where this goes. I just challenge Bryce to be real careful here. Listen, baseball is a funny game. I’ve seen many a man try to stand on his two feet in this game with all the ability in the world. You’ve got to get it done, then you back it up.
“Baseball is a very vicious game. You see people come, go, flashes in the pan happen all the time. Listen, he certainly projects out to be a superstar, people love his talent, but you hope it translates and you see it at the Major League level where it matters most. So be real careful where you go with this, because if you start making those predictions, people are gonna expect them. And if you don’t live up to that expectation, well, then you become a disappointment.”
A few minutes later, Hollandsworth came back to the same topic.
“Here’s the thing, there’s fewer examples of Joe Namath than there are of professional athletes who have come along and tried to similarly walk that walk in their own way, and then just went away and disappeared,” he said. “Listen, this isn’t something he can create for himself. The fanbase, the court of public opinion will create it for you if that’s your personality. And that’s number one, what you’re getting done on the field.
“Listen, your personality will open itself up, and if you’re finding that success on the field, you be your own man and go out there and do what you’re going to do. But again, you gotta back it up. You’ve got to go out there and do it. And guess what, you’ve got to do it again the following season, and guess what, you’ve got to do it again the year after that.”
Which, we’ve seen pretty clearly in this town, is the truth. People adore players who are not typical “Johnny Goods” and are their own people and have fun off the field, as long as they’re producing. The moment they stop, so does the love.
In other Harper news, a local fan posed this question Wednesday evening on Twitter: “Nationals or Yankees?”
“Nationals for life!” Harper replied.
(Namath quotes via Nationals Enquirer.)