That famous Kris Bryant smiling play? He says he wasn’t smiling
Michael Jordan had his trademark wagging tongue, which emerged reflexively whenever he went to the basket.
Kris Bryant has his trademark “stupid face,’’ which breaks out often, and against his will, when he’s playing baseball.
Let the record show that when the Cubs third baseman fielded what ended up being the final out in the franchise’s first World Series title since the dawn of time, he wasn’t smiling. Oh, a smile is what all the replays seem to show, what all the photos seem to show and probably what your mind will tell you for the rest of your days.
But he insists he wasn’t smiling.
“I don’t remember feeling a smile,’’ Bryant said Friday. “I kind of make that stupid face any time I do anything. I’m signing all these baseball cards in the offseason. I’m like, I can never get a good action shot. I’m so terrible.
“I’m going to go with I was smiling and I did it on purpose and I’m glad I didn’t throw (the ball) away. Let’s go with that story.’’
Let’s go with it because it’s never going away.
If there’s a superstar who is more humble and self-effacing than the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, he or she has been in hiding for the last 50 years or so. And if you, Mr. and Mrs. Cubs fan, think the meaning of the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years might be lost on a 25-year-old guy who grew up in Las Vegas, think again.
“Somebody mentioned it last night at dinner that this team that won the World Series is forever going to be attached to this city,’’ Bryant said. “Just thinking about that, it gives me chills. It hadn’t been done in 108 years. Just to be part of the group that did that, it means a lot to me. Just knowing that we’ll forever have an impact on the city and we gave something to the fans that they deserved.’’
“I occasionally find myself sitting on the couch at home, not even thinking about the year, honestly just thinking about the last game and how unbelievable it was. It was one of the greatest baseball games probably ever played. I feel so honored to be a part of that and have those memories that I can take with me.’’
“Just (for fans) to get the chance to shake our hands and express how much the season meant to them, it leaves me speechless at times.’’
If this guy is faking it, there should be early Oscar buzz for his performance.
It has been a crazy two months for Bryant. There was the World Series, and an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.’’ There’s the Cubs Convention, where Bryant and his teammates are mingling with fans this weekend. Oh, and he recently got married. What’s the staycation version of a honeymoon? A honeyhome? Whatever it is, Bryant and his new bride are doing that now in Chicago. The real honeymoon is planned for next offseason.
It’s the whirlwind that keeps blowing. The Cubs will be honored at the White House on Monday. At some point, they’ll have to get back to baseball. And opposing pitchers are going to have to get back to trying to figure out how to approach the MVP.
“I want to get back to hitting the ball to right field,’’ he said. “In the minor leagues, that’s where most of my power was, to right-center. I’ve done a lot of research this offseason, just seeing where I’m pitched to. I’m pitched inside so often. I pulled the ball really well this last year. I’m sure guys are going to start pitching me a little differently, maybe go back on the other side of the plate.’’
On Friday, there were the inevitable questions about how the Cubs plan to handle success. Some teams struggle with it. This team seems to have the emotional makeup to embrace it, although, like a future playoff opponent, that’s To Be Determined.
“I think we can use it as a good tool for us heading into next year and just having that confidence and knowing that we won a lot of tough games in the playoffs, being down to the Dodgers and battling the Giants and obviously being down 3-1 (to the Indians),’’ Bryant said. “So it’s only going to help us next year in knowing that when we hit those rough patches, we did one of the hardest things in sports in coming back from a deficit like that.’’
The Cubs are the favorite to win the 2017 World Series. They were the favorite when a really-not-smiling Bryant threw the ball to first baseman Anthony Rizzo in Game 7.
“We’re hungrier than ever, and we’d love to be that team that goes back to back,’’ Bryant said. “I think we’ll have the right mindset.
“… Hopefully, we’re the team to beat. We certainly feel that way. We’re going to go with it and play our hearts out.’’
This time, he was smiling. Really.