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HRABE: In Defense Of Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals looks on from the dugout before the start of the Nationals game against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park on July 7, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals looks on from the dugout before the start of the Nationals game against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park on July 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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I’m a huge Bryce Harper fan. That’s right, I said it. A huge fan. And I can’t understand why some of you don’t like him.

I’m not just writing this because Harper reached the finals of Monday night’s Home Run Derby. But I did notice a lot of the vitriol thrown Harper’s way on Monday night during the Home Run Derby. It seems like it’s been the same stuff since Harper first jumped into the public eye half a decade ago.

I have actually always liked Harper since then, ever since he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old high school star.

The headline called him, “Baseball’s Chosen One” and the “most exciting prodigy since LeBron.” And he has delivered, over and over again. Yet ever since that Sports Illustrated cover, Harper has been a target. Everything he does gets nitpicked, and he seems to be held to some imaginary standard that would be impossible for any athlete to measure up to, especially one who has never really done anything controversial.

Harper has a whole lot of confidence, for good reason. He has a whole lot of swagger. And he is backing it up at a remarkably young age, on baseball’s biggest stages, over and over again. He is an iconic player, and in my opinion, a future MVP multiple times over.

Harper is called ultra competitive by his peers, the media, and just about everyone. It’s always been like this. But again, the criticism comes. And continues.

He is perhaps the biggest young superstar in a league that should desperately do all they can to keep their young superstars front and center.  But instead, major league baseball seems determined to keep PED accusations and drug-dealing, deal-making scumbags front and center.

Harper is what most baseball fans adore in players, for better or for worse. He runs into walls, slides everywhere, and dirties his uniform. I thought this was the recipe for becoming a beloved scrapper in the eyes of baseball fans!

Yet there is still resentment. People call him cocky, don’t like his honesty in front of the media at all times. Critics point at his eye black, his Mohawk, his clothes. His harmless tweets about “swag.”

At least he isn’t wearing a prison jumpsuit. Harper and NBA players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get criticized for their fashion sense. Ironic that the criticism comes from sports writers in baggy Dockers, free pullovers with corporate logos on them and Reeboks old enough to outdate Harper.

If Harper were a 30-year-old grinder who didn’t create any waves, would he be criticized? Probably not, because he would also be irrelevant.

Harper isn’t entitled because of his quick ascent to stardom. He isn’t relevant because of anything off the field. He’s freakishly talented. And that makes him freakishly interesting, at least to me.

Harper, Puig, Harvey. Young superstars have done their best to dominate the MLB and professional sports landscape this year. It’s a welcome change for me.

I am by no means ignorant to the unsavory storylines in sports, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the fun. Harper is fun. He’s a breath of fresh air, regardless of how he dresses or styles his hair.

It’s too bad some people won’t sit back and enjoy the ride. You’re missing a fun one. But as the driver of the Bryce Harper bandwagon, I’ll save a seat for you if you decide to hop on.

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