Snyder's Soapbox: In defense of Bryce Harper's unabashed Philadelphia sports pandering – CBS Sports

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Welcome to Snyder’s Soapbox! Here I pontificate about a matter related to Major League Baseball on a weekly basis. Some of the topics will be pressing matters, some might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things and most will be somewhere in between. The good thing about this website is it’s free and you are allowed to click away. If you stay, you’ll get smarter, though, that’s a money-back guarantee. Let’s get to it.
As I’ve noted before, the Soapbox doesn’t always have to be negative. I’m generally a positive person, so going negative once a week is tough. This time around, we’re going positive and it isn’t mockery or tongue-in-cheek or anything. It’s totally, 100% sincere and it’s about one of my favorite superheroes of the baseball season. 
All Hail Bryce the Panderer!
I speak, of course, of Philly-through-and-through Bryce Harper. His transformation over the years has been nothing short of remarkable. 
Witness the overwhelming “please everyone make sure to notice how much I love Philadelphia sports” entrance Bryce made for Phillies Opening Day this season. 
Bryce Harper is Philadelphia 😤

He pulled up in a custom jacket today that reps the Phillies, 76ers, Flyers and Eagles pic.twitter.com/gitE880QR2
This drew sneers from a decent number of sports fans, partially because sports fandom is opposed to ever universally loving anyone, which means there has to be backlash to basically everything. I mean, how dare he love the city in which he plays and will be playing for the foreseeable future, right? What a jerk!
For me, I love it with every fiber of my being. He signed a 13-year deal with the Phillies and did not have opt outs in the deal, despite that being a pretty customary inclusion in huge deals these days. The word was that he wanted to throw himself, long-term, into the deal without leaving himself an out. He’s lived up to this in a relatively short time. 
The transformation has been even better knowing that Harper was previously with the Nationals and that Phillies fans hated him. There were plenty of ups and downs in the first two years of the deal, but in the last three, Harper has won MVP, then helped lead the Phillies to an NL pennant and then followed that up with a return to the NLCS. In 30 playoff games for the Phillies, he’s hit .324/.432/.705 with seven doubles, 11 homers, 21 RBI and 26 runs. 
It is, of course, much more than the stats. 
Remember that kid who debuted in the majors as a teenager with some punky tendencies? No need to rehash any of the stuff that turned people off, but he’s a pretty mature player now. Sure, there’s fire but why would we want players to lose that? 
The best part is how he’s dedicated himself to becoming a true Philadelphian. So many players are more like mercenaries in this day and age — and let’s be clear: Most don’t have a choice but to be that. Many just grab the highest paycheck and play it out. I don’t have a problem with that, per se, but I also don’t think it’s too much to ask for a player to throw himself into a long-term deal and embrace everything about the team and the region surrounding it. Some do it well. Harper is among the best. Others don’t do it well at all. Some (cough, Anthony Rendon, cough) aren’t secretive about how much of a burden their job seems
Harper genuinely seems to love his job and makes sure all the Philadelphia fans know that he considers himself one of them. In some ways, he is one of them. He listens to local sports talk radio. Seriously! Remember this story from last season? He heard a caller, and, well, take it away, Bryce: 
“It’s funny, I was driving in today, and I was listening to WIP like I do a lot in the two o’clock hour. A guy named Chuck called in. He calls in a lot. It’s hilarious. He was talking about our team and talking about me and stuff. I walked in the training room, and I go, ‘I’m gonna go deep tonight for Chuck.’ That guy had me fired up, man.”
He went deep for Chuck that night
For real, how many players actually listen to local sports talk radio instead of avoiding it at all costs? Especially a player of Harper’s stature who has a contract worth over $300 million, why should he even bother? 
It’s just what he’s done in Philadelphia. He’s totally transformed himself into an “I bleed Philadelphia sports” guy. Snicker about the obvious pandering all you want, but I’ll take that over “I don’t wanna be here” Rendon nonsense every single day of my life. 
Again, All Hail Bryce the Panderer. He has my full support. 
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