By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA–Suffice it to say that Domonic Brown is playing lights out baseball for a Phillies team that has managed to get back to .500 after Wednesday’s win over the Miami Marlins.
If you look at the raw numbers, Brown has hit home runs in 10 of his last 13 games coming into Friday’s games and leads the National League in homeruns with 18 including a two-run shot he hit in Wednesday’s game. He was named the National League’s Player of the Month for May and has been the National Player-of-the-Week in two straight weeks.
For a young man that had fans and media people calling him a bust and demanding that he be traded after a disastrous stint with the Big Club in 2011, Brown has more than proven his critics wrong with his performance, putting some energy into a Phillies offense that has looked lifeless at times.
On the field, he plays with enthusiasm and is finally looking like he is enjoying himself.
It’s that exuberance that seems to be rankling some folks.
Apparently, Brown’s home run celebration, a low-key martial arts number complete with a high-five with fellow slugger Ryan Howard has some unnamed scouts, opponents and executives a little peeved according to a story in Wednesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer.
When Brown hit his 17th homer on Monday, he flipped his bat and then did his martial arts handshake with Howard after he crossed home plate. Shortly before the postgame press conference I heard some of my colleagues saying that he shouldn’t be showing that kind of swag because he’s only been hot for a month and that he’s coming off too cocky.
Ironically, another white reporter that covers the Phillies said admonished his colleagues and said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘Wow! A Black guy showing personality and you guys are complaining. Really? At that point, I told him, “I’ll let you say it because they don’t want to hear it from me.”
One of the things that have always bothered me about sports is the reaction that the mostly white press corps tends to have whenever a Black athlete shows some sort of self-confidence, or as the kids call it, swag. To many of them, even the most liberal and fair-minded of my colleagues, this kind of self-assuredness, which is often viewed as a positive when it comes from a White player, is seen as a form of arrogance when it comes to players of color. Even if that player, like Brown, is quick to credit his teammates and admits that he still has much to learn.
That’s why I tend to scratch my head when guys like Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon and others pump their fists every time they get the final out in a game for the win and no one complains, but Brown’s home run trot, usually the symbol of a Phillies win, rankles.
But this double standard isn’t a new one. It’s as if the Athletic Entertainment Complex has never been able to figure out what to do with the Black Athlete and what he brings to the table.
From heavyweight champion Jack Johnson smiling at his opponents as he was whipping them in the ring, to slam dunks so flashy that the NCAA once outlawed them in the college game, to Ken Griffey Jr. wearing his baseball cap backwards during batting practice, folks seem to get bent out of shape when Black athletes bring a little panache and showmanship to sports.
Isn’t this, after all, the entertainment business?
As I was writing this piece, I went to where you can find quick opinions on everything…Facebook…and saw the reaction from Blackworld to what was written about Brown. Most folks saw it as another case of white backlash against a Black player showing a little swag and self-confidence in a sport where self-expression is often frowned upon.
It was also another example of why baseball is still a hard sell to young people. Unlike football and basketball, baseball is mired in so much so-called traditionalism that it has no flair.
In the Inquirer article, it was implied that Brown might soon be giving Phillies Second Baseman Chase Utley a run for his money in the team’s “hit by a pitch” race due to his home run antics.
While an opposing pitcher might feel justified in throwing a ball at your head because he thinks you’ve shown him up by hitting a home run and doing an intricate dance with the guy that took him yard before you did, it’s not cool.
What opposing pitchers should do to Brown if they’re really that upset about what he does after he’s hit a home run is, well, keep him from hitting home runs. Put it over the plate in a place where he can’t get his arms extended. Strike him out. Make it so that if he does connect with the ball, all it does is go to one of your teammates.
This way, he’s just another out, the bat goes back into the bat rack, and all is well.
You’ve done your job.
And isn’t doing your job the best revenge here?