Tay Tay and the Sports Media

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This has been a lousy season for the Boston Red Sox, but we have not yet sunk to the levels of some in the media. Outlets, big and small, have used the allure of Taylor Swift to garner clicks. Dan Ennis explores the relationship between Tay Tay and the sports media.

When sports and pop culture meet on a website everybody wins. Movie reviews sharing the screen with game recaps, TV episode recaps snuggling up to MLB trade reviews, cats and dogs living together, outdated movie references illuminating athletic observations… it’s peas and carrots, Loggins and Messina, Koufax and Drysdale. 

It also lets grown men read and write about Taylor Swift.

Ever since Bob Dole became engorged at the sight of Britney Spears in 2002, it has been hard for the grizzled, old-enough-to-be-her-father-set to appropriately appreciate the parade of pop starlets that provide the soundtrack for midlife crises. Swift is ubiquitious, attractive and talented, but a creeper of a certain age can’t browse taylorswift.com at work without facing an eventual grilling from HR.

Our workaround is the plethora of sports websites that double as pop culture blogs. They all do it. Take some putatively sport-related material, add a dash of Tay-Tay, and, well, there’s a little Bob Dole in all of us. In such circumstances, the ratio of interest for the website proprietor isn’t signal-to-noise, it is Swift-to-sports. There’s traffic to be had from balding, soft-bellied Swifties.   

If you’re operating a promising-yet-underexposed sports website, you may start off pushing quality content, but eventually you want some eyeballs. Taylor, my friends, brings the eyeballs. If your average baseball blogger, fantasy football guru or unpaid online NHL beat reporter can draw some line between sports and Ms. Swift, the resulting swell in readership will be suggestive and satisfying.

As our beloved Red Sox swoon, interest in them from the faithful wanes, and our pixel-stained wretches have turned to writing season wrap-ups in late July. The actual baseball writers in this joint are going to fill in the last, dead months of this Red Sox campaign with hopeful prospect pieces and farewell to this fellow essays. They’re good, but there are only so many masochists out there who want to read about Rick Porcello‘s alleged fastball. 

But there’s a near-limitless supply of people who want to look at pictures of Taylor Swift with adjacent sports words. Let’s do this, month-by-month. Swift can show the Sox what winning in 2015 looks like, and if she drives a little traffic, we all walk away feeling a little better about things.

January

 
Ben Cherington kicked off January by announcing he was “content” with the Porcello, Miley, Masterson, Buchholz, and Kelly rotation going into the 2015 season. This is a picture of Ben Cherington, probably calling Rick Porcello to offer him a four-year, $83 million dollar contract. Look at his face… you can tell even he thinks this is a bad idea. Taylor Swift started 2015 by being nominated for three Academy of Country Music Awards.  She did not sign Porcello to a four-year, $83 million dollar contract. She also gave SBNation a tiny excuse to run her image atop of what was nominally an NBA column, since she may have direct messaged Chicago Bulls rookie Doug McDermott.  

February

 
Ian Browne surrendered to Stockholm Syndrome early this year, filing a column about a February John Farrell motivational speech that in retrospect reads like a secret cry for help. This is a picture of one of Farrell’s best motivational techniques. Looking good, nice groundout! Great… uh… hustle, Hanley! Good eye, Jackie!   Taylor Swift’s “Style” video had its debut in February. Swift is in soft focus, on a beach, and in a misty wood, in a convertible and so on. There’s a distracting fellow in the video who keeps getting in the way of my enjoyment, John Farrell-style. She’s so luminous Bleacher Report pretends to cover the Brooklyn Nets by reporting Swift wore a Nets jacket on The Tonight Show.    

March

 
One March day at redsox.com someone had the temerity to file a story with the headline “Stacked deck: Red Sox could be holding 5 aces.” I was going to blame the headline writer, but the body of the article suggests that the Red Sox just might have the best rotation in the American League. The 2015 Red Sox. Here’s a picture of Justin Masterson. That fellow in the background just hit an 83-mph fastball a long, long way. Taking a page for the sports websites, Fortune (Sports Illustrated for money) puts Taylor Swift on its “Fifty Greatest Leaders” list. Despicable pandering; to generate clicks, they throw a beautiful, talented, charming, accessible, lovable, witty, amazing woman on a list that includes such powerful-but-lumpy-troglodytes as Chief Justice John Roberts and Pope Francis. It is as if they just wanted an excuse to run a photo of Swift on the Fortune website.   

April

 
Wade Miley celebrated April by losing to the Nationals, 10-5. Browne, sensing things could get ugly, throws some shade at the skeptics: “The last thing the Red Sox want to do is create fodder for the peanut gallery that frets about the club’s lack of an ace.” This is a picture of Wade Miley in the fourth inning of most of his 2015 starts. No thumbs up from Farrell. No greatest anything list for Miley. Having conquered Fortune.com in March, come April Swift was named to Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People List. Look at that picture. She is writing a song. Not just another pop tart, our Taylor. She writes, and sings, and plays the guitar. The editors at Time.com took one look at the numbers Fortune pulled in by featuring Swift and they knew they needed to step it up.   

May

   
The Boston Globe’s Adam Kaufman filed the first of a 123-part series about the Red Sox’s pitching woes. The columnist declares that “we’re approaching desperate times. Something has to be done, be it from outside the organization or within.” It is only May, but coverage of the Red Sox has already become a form of aversion therapy. Here’s Farrell, staring off into the middle distance, while Joe Kelly shows him how to call a timeout.   Time.com stole the Taylor traffic for April, but  Forbes.com jumped in for May, naming Swift one of the World’s 100 most Powerful Women. Not to be outdone, the sports world got back in the game. For some reason Swift picked up a golf club during a concert in Japan. CBS.com saw an opening, and next thing you know their golf writer composed this very sentence:  “Here is Taylor Swift spraying #TourSauce all over Tokyo in the opening act of her 1989 tour.”

June

 
Once June hit, John Henry fired off some votes of confidence: ““John [Farrell] has provided the kind of leadership that we need through a really tough period. I just don’t think you can blame the manager for this. I watch these games. They’ve been painful games to watch. To me, it’s not the manager’s fault the way we’ve been playing. I just don’t see that. The general manager is going to be the general manager of this club for a very long time.” On June 28, Serena Williams appeared onstage with Taylor Swift. ESPN.com was all over it. A Red Sox fan perusing the web in June could look left and see a man with pink eyes mouthing lies so outrageous they sounded true, or look right and see what being alive looks like. ESPN collected some Swift traffic. Serena Williams tweeted it. You can tweet when you’ve just kicked some ass. Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval failed at social media, earning a one-game suspension.  

July

 
On July 23, 2015, the Red Sox completed their worst road trip in 64 years. Coming out of the All-Star break, there was a vague possibility the boys could make a run and contend in the mediocre American League East. Eight consecutive losses later, the only silver lining was that Mike Napoli had collected a few hits and might be tradable. None of the Five Aces was very ace-like. This is a picture of Napoli. He is gone now. On July 25 Cole Hamels, long rumored to be coming to Boston, pitched like an ace and recorded a no-hitter. Taylor Swift’s July was much better. Fox Sports got a dose of that sweet Swift web traffic by running a hard-hitting piece about a mid-July Max Scherzer tweet. Swift had performed two shows at Nationals Park earlier that week (The Washington Post didn’t so much review them as ask “Are there any more worlds for Swift to conquer?”). On July 18, a Nationals game was delayed by a power outage. Scherzer put two and two together, and Fox had a cute little Taylor Swift item with a marginal sports angle. Lap it up, fellows.  

August

 
SonsofSamHorn.com is reduced to writing encouraging things about Sox callups, as garbage time begins early this year. Young Henry Owens did fine against the hated Yankees, but the bullpen blew what should have been his first major league win. The Justin Masterson Experiment ended, with $9.5 million yielding a 5.55 ERA. Taylor Swift ran her winning streak to, like, forever by kicking off August with a sold out show in Seattle. Russell Wilson ambled onto the stage, unviolated girlfriend Ciara in tow. This appearance allowed Fox Sports to add a little Swiftian content to their otherwise uninspiring mix of NFL preseason notes and  dead Frank Gifford retrospectives.

We could go on, but what’s left to say? September will bring stories of Sox AAA talent making Fenway debuts. Taylor Swift will continue to thrill audiences across the nation, her hit album selling like Red Sox ducats circa 2004, her next single destined for number one. Sports websites big and small will be seduced by her wide-eyed sensuality and massive pop hooks, and guys who want to read about sports online will linger over the images of Swift’s lithe, graceful frame. But here, on this island of high-quality Red Sox coverage, her image will not be exploited for page views alone. She appears here to provide a grace note, a leavening of what will prove to be a cruel autumn of post-mortems and what’s next essays. Some things never go out of style. Out of style.

Take me home.

Dan Ennis has written a mock review of Fever Pitch 2, an article about Jake Stahl and the Boy Bandits, the Peter Gammons hype machine, a comparison of two Dusty Rhodes, as well as a look at the correlation between his bedroom conquests and Red Sox success.

Follow us on Twitter @SoSHBaseball.

Check out our Pitches and Stuff series.

 

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