Note: I’m sorry for playing into the overuse of “____-gate” for the title of a scandal.
Matt Harvey caused trouble for himself and for the Mets today by tweeting out a photograph of himself in a hospital bed — giving the middle finger. Plenty of sportswriters, reporters, social media strategists and fans are asking why Harvey would do this. But the real question is: why the heck do we care?
Yes, Matt Harvey is a famous and talented athlete with a large following. Yes, children idolize him. Yes, it would be nice for him to be a “proper role model,” but the belief that all athletes should subscribe to the Derek Jeter strategy of ultra-saccharine, say-nothing, vagueness is silly. If every athlete answered every question with “I just try to give 110 percent” and “it’s good for us to get the win” and constantly called their owners and coaches by their last name, we fans would get bored. If Harvey was Derek Jeter-lite, Mets fans would find a way to criticize that. “We don’t want to just imitate the Yankees,” they would say.
I understand the criticism. Harvey putting out a photograph of what many people consider a supremely vulgar hand gesture is — one might argue — the wrong thing to do for any celebrity. But let’s recall that Harvey is a 25-year-old man who wants to pitch in the city that never sleeps. He may take advantage of his “celebrity,” but let’s remember that he didn’t ask for it. That is a key point.
It’s easy to pick up this “story” and to shame Harvey for making an “immature decision,” or for being “inappropriate.” But the truth is, he doesn’t have any responsibility to the fans or the media. His responsibilities lie solely with himself and his organization. The only expectations he needs to meet are those that involve rehab, and one day, pitching again.
That’s why it’s unfortunate that Harvey opted to delete his Twitter account. Because while his wasn’t the funniest, most insightful or most unique athlete Twitter, it did provide his followers with a glimpse into his personality, his life as a star athlete. It was honest. Now, I imagine the pressure on Harvey to be vague, boring and saccharine will only increase. If he ever returns to Twitter, I’d expect his account to be even less honest, to hide his personality and emit a facade that more closely meets the ridiculous and pointless expectations that many people apparently have for him.
Matt Harvey didn’t need to apologize for his tweet. The Mets reportedly asked him to delete the image. He should have done whatever the team asked. But he could have simultaneously owned that image. He could have owned that decision. He could have owned the fact that he, unlikely any number of athletes, does and says the things he does because he feels like it. He could have proved to the public that his public persona is the real him, and not the perfectly-crafted facade that many athletes use.
Instead, we’ll spend the next week hearing about how Harvey’s tweet proves his immaturity and how unlike Derek Jeter he really is. As far as I’m concerned…*yawn*