There is something about the phenom that attracts us. This is certainly true in baseball, where sizable industries have been built to provide advanced warning of "the next big thing." It's also true of the greater culture in general, where prodigies from Mozart to Picasso to Tiger Woods have become permanently embedded in our collective consciousness.
This, I think, has something to do with the tremendous response to the Bryce Harper signing in Philadelphia. It's been phenomenal, to say the least. Sales for Harper merchandise, particularly his new No. 3 Phillies jersey, have been breaking records. The Associated Press reported that the Phillies' team store ran out of R's -- the presence of two of them in "Harper" proving to be too much. The club said that it sold 100,000 tickets in the hours after news of Harper's decision broke and sales remained high in the days after. Even here on our pages at ESPN.com, Harper-related stories have drawn clicks at staggering rates.
The ironic thing about this is that by the time Harper finally signed, every indication I had picked up on during my online travels was that most people were simply over the prolonged drama of the hot stove season. I'd paraphrase it as, "Just pick a $%@#! team."
But once Harper did pick a team, everybody went nuts. Every other headline on my news feed seems to have Harper's name in it. His comments about recruiting Mike Trout exploded across the internet and social media, then did again when he doubled down on those comments, then did again when he tripled down on them.
Have we forgotten that this is the same player everybody seemed to want to classify as overrated and inconsistent just over a week ago? It's the same guy! It's Brycemania all over again, just like it was when he entered professional ball on the momentum of a seminal Tom Verducci feature story. And whereas that piece called Harper baseball's LeBron, Harper himself has put himself in the shoes of King James by playing the role of high-stakes recruiter, with Trout playing the Anthony Davis role.
What is going on here? I call it the "allure of the phenom." Harper may have been the most criticized player in the game last season, but somehow his decision to move 150 miles from Nationals Park to Citizens Bank Park has rekindled our hopes for him. It seems that we -- the collective we -- actually want to see him fulfill that early promise. We want it bad.