Bryce Harper attracts many naysayers. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Brace yourself Washington Nationals fans: you now have one of the most hated figures in all of sports on your roster, potentially until 2018.
Major League Baseball addicts (and even casual viewers) around the country came to that very realization this past weekend, during Bryce Harper's debut in Los Angeles. In a sign of things to come, the 19-year-old was booed mercilessly each time he trotted up to the batter's box at Dodger Stadium.
What baseball player outside of Alex Rodriguez currently gets booed around the major's? A-Rod is a villain because he plays for the Yankees and has admitted to steroid use.
Scratch that. Has there ever been an athlete booed in his debut?
Welcome to the Bryce Harper era, folks.
The haters are going to multiply in size and the pressure will continually rise to a boil. So please, Nats fans, no more whining about the boo's.
Actually, this is only the beginning of the hatred.
Fans love to see "hype" fail. When a media outlet as big as Sports Illustrated features you on the cover as a 16-year-old, sky-scraping expectations become the norm. In today's social media age, fans love to take a particular stance on a young superstar and magnify every misstep the player takes -- in Harper's case, his haircut and eye black are already under the microscope.
Similar to LeBron James, it will also become detestable for non-Washington fans to adore Harper, because his talents are considered too immense. Hopefully unlike King James, Harper will thrive in clutch moments, muting some of the scrutiny. Even with the overall pessimism so far, it's been hard to wipe a smile off of the teenagers face, a good sign for the Washington organization.
The booing will continue, as will creative signs in the stands and obscene gestures. Wait until Harper goes into a hitting slump, says the wrong thing to a reporter or showboats on the field. His naysayers will balloon in size and the hope for his -- and the Nationals -- demise, albeit preposterous, will heavily exist. Fans love proving experts wrong by uniting together against a common superstar. Think of it as checks and balances in the sports world.
If Harper succeeds just like Strasburg has, expect the Nationals to be grouped with the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox as impossible teams to root for. Even with good guys like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and Davey Johnson, Washington baseball, slowly but surely, will be considered unlikable by many baseball fans across the world.
Since the departure of Barry Bonds, baseball has been begging for a polarizing figure. Brace Harper is that answer, in a big, big way.