By Shawn Clarke, MLB Contributor - Archive - Email
An innocent observation
Madison Bumgarner now leads the Giants with 10 wins.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Quarterbacks probably get it the most. Basketball players hear their fair share, too.

But athletes in every sport experience the non-stop chatter from vivacious fans, which leads one to turn the matter inside out.

You see it mostly in football and basketball when a player attempts to impel the crowd in order to acquire an advantage, if any. The Miami Hurricanes in the late 1980s and early 90s were legendary for this type of behavior. Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin loved to perform a 5-yard dance after making a catch with both the 'Canes and Dallas Cowboys.

We don't have to get into the mannerisms of Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco.

Most linebackers and defensive backs can be seen waving their arms like a gaggle of geese when the offense is in the red zone, while an acrobatic dunk and subsequent celebration tends to put a charge into the paid attendance. Kevin Garnett often can be seen pumping his chest on his way down the court to play defense. LeBron James' dunk over Garnett in the playoffs as a member of Cleveland a few years ago is another example (

So why don't sports aficionados see it more often from baseball or hockey players? Does it disturb or taint the social fabric of the sport? Psychology plays a crucial role in sports performance, and creating mental anxiety for other competitors can go a long way. Besides crowd noise, the importance of a particular game and/or meaningful situation can cause a player to make poor judgments. So why not make it even more burdensome by raising the proverbial roof?

A few years ago, Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly touched on what it's like to be a part of that type of atmosphere.

"I think it starts with playing good football, myself," he said. "I think we've got to get the crowd into it. Play exciting football, and I think those other things will naturally come. I think that all of those things are part of the atmosphere you want to create and the home-field advantage."

Wouldn't it be great to see a closer or starting pitcher take a step off the mound to pull a Hulk Hogan-type move with a hand to the ear? Some would argue that it delays the game and shows up the opposing dugout. How about a center fielder acting like Steve Atwater or Ronnie Lott with a couple of two-handed waves toward the seats? That could raise the stakes if done successfully.

It's understandable why actions like these are uncommon on the ice or on the diamond. It's the same reason why hockey players tend to stray from touching either the Prince of Wales Trophy or the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl after winning a conference championship. It's part superstition and part respect for the game.

Hockey players usually don't have enough time to pay attention to the audience unless your name is Tie Domi and a nonsensical fan falls into the penalty box ( Not even during a timeout or an injury on the ice can give someone enough time to skate around trying to energize the assembly. Perhaps a tune from AC/DC or Quiet Riot will get the players going at a stoppage, and you wouldn't know unless you ask.

Baseball players have their moment of pandemonium when they step up to the plate or stroll out of the bullpen. Chase Utley heads to the batter's box with Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" in the background, giving a jolt to those watching.

Former major leaguer Trevor Hoffman was known for coming out to "Hell's Bells" while Mariano Rivera's introductory tune is "Enter Sandman." But you will never see a closer patronize the fans or point to the sky until the ballgame is over and the job has been completed.

Player antics will always be there in football and basketball when it comes to altering the climate. It's always been that way and will never change.

For America's pastime and "the fastest game on earth," it's mainly up to the crowd to acknowledge what's happening in the moment and how it can add to it.

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