Remember that week in middle school when everyone in your class came out as bisexual? One day everything was going on swimmingly; Magic: The Gathering and Danny's crush on Ashley dominated the daily conversation. Then, one day, Lauren confessed that she was bisexual. Two days later, everyone in your class, not wanting to miss the trend, had come out. Two weeks later, everyone was playing Magic again, denying that the previous two weeks had ever happened. Everyone who had been earnest in their comings out: ostracized and forgotten.
Here at The Good Phight, our Supreme Blog Mistress, Liz Roscher was our Lauren when she came out as a card-carrying, flag-waving, Hunter Pence fangirl. Empowered by that sincere and difficult confession, I have decided to come forth with my own unpopular confession: I am amused by Jonathan Papelbon. Unlike your middle school classmates' bisexuality, my Papelbon fandom will endure beyond next Friday. Please don't shun me for my difference.
Since he signed a downright silly 4 year/$50M contract prior to the 2012 season, the Phillies internet community has been united in its distaste for Jonathan Papelbon. Not only did paying a reliever $12.5M per season fly in the face of traditional "analytic" baseball dogma, but Jonathan Papelbon, the person, was much closer to Brian Wilson than Mariano Rivera on the Mariano Rivera-to-Brian Wilson Closer Hate-ability Index. Whether it was his crazy on-field persona, publicly voicing his displeasure with the Phillies, or grabbing his crotch, Papelbon does not put on appearances of being exactly a chill dude. Until recently, I fell in line with this view. I hated Papelbon and wanted him as far away from my team as possible.
Then, this happened:
Now, for some this amazing display of school pride, college football knowledgeability, and superficial douchebaggery was just more fuel for the Papelbon hatred fire. "Look at this guy! He should be home mourning the Phillies struggles and working on his game. He doesn't get it," grumbled the guy at your hometown bar.
And that gets at exactly what's right about this: Jonathan Papelbon gets it. He has no significant work-related responsibilities for about 4 months and he's taking advantage of it. If he wants to get drunk on a Saturday morning over 5 months before he will throw his next meaningful pitch, what's wrong with that?
You know what I think? Everyone who took umbrage at Papelbon's guest appearance on College Gameday are jealous. They're jealous because they don't have the confidence to wear maroon jackets with ridiculous striped bow-ties while biting on massive unlit cigars. They're jealous of his ability to engage in weekend leisure. They're jealous he gets to play with the cutest bulldog ever. Most of all, they're jealous that he gets to do this all on national television.
Maybe I'm not sufficiently emotionally calloused to be a Phillies fan, but I experience significant joy every time I watch that video. That's our overpriced closer having the time of his life on a Saturday morning! I don't know where every other Phillies fan got the vaccine, but I'm infected by his YOLO-ness.
Let me now engage in some post-hoc analysis of the crotch grab. It seems that the crotch grab signifies a significant turn in Papelbon. Pre-crotch-grab, he was Jonathan "Douchebag" Papelbon. Post-crotch-grab brings us Jonathan "YOLO" Papelbon. Gone was super (fake?) intense closer-mentality Papelbon; born was this character determined to have a good time who couldn't possibly care less what anyone else thinks about him. The crotch grab was the manifestation of that metamorphosis; we can't say when it actually occured. In grabbing his crotch, Papelbon declared to all of CBP that they can boo all they want, but it ain't gonna kill his damn vibe.
So, why do I love Jonathan Papelbon now? I'm always surprised by athletes who don't live it up during the offseason. While there is a certain charm to players like Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay who seem locked in to competitive athlete mode all year, I find it refreshing to see an athlete who tries to have fun off the field. The Mississippi State bulldog was his World Series trophy; just because his season is over doesn't mean he can't have some sort of prop to hold in his hand and waive over his head. If his team isn't going to help him get to experience a World Series, he'll just drunkenly find his own on a fall Saturday morning.
It's never too late to change your mind about a player. I encourage you to change yours about Jonathan Papelbon. I'll be on the bandwagon chomping on cigars and triumphantly playing with bulldogs. Join me whenever you decide to have some fun.