Yordan Álvarez hit a massive home run for the Houston Astros in ALDS Game 3 against the Minnesota Twins.
On the surface, it was not particularly surprising or newsworthy. Home runs are what Álvarez does in October, the same way McDonald’s does hamburgers or Los Angeles does traffic.
After circling the bases for the fourth time in just three postseason games, Fox cameras caught Álvarez planting a celebratory kiss on teammate Martín Maldonado’s neck.
It was a cool moment partly because of what was not said. Specifically, no one flipped out or called attention to the kiss as anything outlandish.
No viral social media hot takes about “the decline of masculinity.” No news pundits losing their minds about hidden gay agendas in sports or wokeness gone amok in baseball clubhouses. Perhaps most blissfully, no hysterical morality police demanding, “Won’t SOMEBODY think of the children?!”
Not since Depeche Mode’s heyday have I enjoyed the silence this much.
Álvarez has been planting post-homer kisses on Maldonado’s neck since at least May. The fact that it hasn’t become a flashpoint in this summer’s endless anti-LGBTQ culture war is an indication that we’re making legitimate progress in accepting public displays of affection between men, especially in sports.
In an era where players are encouraged to demonstrate emotion and personality when they do something great, showing affection for a good friend with a quick peck on the neck looks less out of the ordinary.
As far as home run celebrations go, the Mariners have their trident, the Reds have a viking costume, and Álvarez has smashing the barriers of toxic masculinity.
His affection for Maldonado is reminiscent of a photo from last season where St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Turner Ward planted a kiss on outfielder Lars Nootbaar’s cheek to celebrate his birthday.
In both examples, there was no sense of hesitation or fear about “What will everyone say about me if they see this?” Álvarez and Ward wanted to convey affection and joy with a kiss so they just went ahead and did it without fear.
That’s a beautiful thing.
To this point, no one has asked Álvarez or Maldonado to discuss the origins of their home run kiss tradition. Honestly, I kind of like it that way and I hope they never feel the need to explain themselves because that’s the best way to show how accepted such a gesture has become.
Given how Álvarez dominates this time of year, they might demonstrate enough public displays of affection to air Astros playoff games on The Hallmark Channel.