From Babe Ruth’s called shot in the 1932 World Series, to Muhammad Ali standing over a knocked down Sonny Liston in the 1965 WBC Heavyweight Boxing Championship Bout, to Johnny Manziel rubbing his thumb and index fingers after each big play on college football Saturdays, the taunt has become part of American sports folklore for generations.
While I don’t condone taunting opponents at the grass-roots level of athletic competition, I find myself uniquely entertained when it is done by professionals or high-ranking amateurs. In my opinion, sports taunting symbolizes the animalistic male ego at its apex, the alpha-dog mentality at its finest moment, and athletic prowess at the most supreme level. The raw and un-cut emotion of Richard Sherman’s rant right after his Seattle Seahawks clinched a Super Bowl berth is one of the main reasons I am so passionate about sports to begin with.
This past weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays nine-game winning streak came to an end when arch nemesis David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox launched a three-run home run into the right-field seats of Tropicana Field. As it turned out, this blast from Ortiz was all the run support Boston would need in the third and final game of their series with the Rays as they went on to defeat Tampa Bay 3-2.
While it was certainly disappointing to see our boys give up a game-winning home run to the hated Red Sox, it was Ortiz’s reaction afterwards that got all of Rays Nation in a frenzy. Immediately after making contact on his home run swing, Ortiz stood at home-plate to admire his work, casually flipped his bat in the air, and took his sweet time rounding the bases.
This blatant taunt by Ortiz even got under the skin of Rays announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson, who both suggested that there may be some retaliation from Tampa Bay later on. Thankfully, no retaliation occurred, and in the grand scheme of things, Tampa Bay still made out alright by taking two out of three games from a divisional opponent over the weekend.
As a Rays fan, I certainly do not like David Ortiz as his history of bad blood with our boys is well documented. Heck, my dislike for Ortiz is so strong, I would find a way to cheer against him even if he played for the Rays for crying out loud! In my opinion, Ortiz is a one-dimensional hot-head who makes his money as a glorified pinch hitter in the D.H. friendly American League.
Nonetheless, David Ortiz is well within his rights as a professional athlete to taunt the living daylights out of Chris Archer, the Tampa Bay Rays, and any other pitcher/team that he can belt home runs against. Like it or not, part of professional sports is the ability of athletes to adopt a kill or be killed mentality within the realm of athletic competition. Those players that have a better handle on this mentality will usually have a higher chance of success than those than don’t. In other words, the same personality traits that makes us Rays fans loathe the very thought of Ortiz are also the same personality traits that allow him to step up in big games against his arch rivals.
Taunting is a part of professional sports, always has been, and always will be. If Chris Archer really feels that offended by Ortiz’s bat flip, I can offer a simple solution next time he faces Big Papi; paint the outside corner of the plate with a knee buckling curve ball on a two-strike count. A pinpoint accurate pitch like that will certainly be enough to send Ortiz’s frumpy rear-end back to the dugout with the bat still in his hands.