For close to fifty years now our world has been committed to the pursuit of self expression. While our parents had been taught to keep their emotions in check and a tight throttle on their tongue, my generation and generations after mine have kicked self restraint to the curb with characteristically reckless abondon. In this new world, express yourself, has been the mantra. Don't keep your emotions bottled up inside! You be you! Cry, weep and wail, gnash those teeth, and by all means...do it in public.
Nowhere is this new brand of comportment more on display than in the sporting world. When I was growing up, I used to watch guys like Walter Payton score touchdown after touchdown, then stoically flip the ball to the referee, with not even a stifled fistpump. I would watch Bob Gibson blowing hitters away in high pressure games with a facial expression which would convince the casual observer that the man was engaged in an activity no more stressful than mowing the lawn.
All of this changed during the 1960's, (didn't everything?), when Homer Jones performed the very first touchdown celebrating spike of a football. Soon after, Billy "white shoes" Johnson performed the funky chicken after a touchdown reception, and it was off to the races. Baseball was slow to adapt to these self congratulatory demonstrations, primarily because baseball has always been slow to adapt to anything, really. But adapt they have.
If you've watched any of this year's baseball post season you have witnessed the overwhelming triumph of the Id. When a pitcher gets out of a tight jam, he practically goes berserk in an orgy of guttural screams and fist pumping. When a batter gets a hit, even an inconsequential one, he can be counted on to gesticulate wildly to his teammates in the dugout, as if he had just won the powerball lottery or split the freaking atom or something. I'm told by all of the smart people that baseball needs more, not less, of this sort of spleen venting. More drama is what people want, more pathos, less circumspection. After all, I'm advised, sports is entertainment, and what is entertainment without emotion?
I can practically feel the eye rolling going on out there among readers thirty and younger. I get it. My day is past, your day is ascendant. But, as I have watched baseball these past couple of weeks I've had a nagging feeling that the antics I'm seeing are merely a reflection of the greater society. Everything has turned into entertainment, even our politics. And what is entertainment without emotion? It's like, fifty years ago somebody made the decision that manners and decorum were somehow bourgeois. Keeping a lid on your emotions was suddenly soul crushing. Courtesy, class and sportsmanship were vestiges of a bygone era inhabited by a generation of repressed suckers.
Then we wake up one day, and Donald Trump is President.
I don't know about you, but I could do with a little self restraint in America about now, a little less drama. A bit of class, grace and decorum would feel like a godsend in 2017. A touch of humility in my public officials would feel like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, wouldn't it?