BWAGs of Twitter

A look into the dark world of MLB Wives and Girlfriends on Twitter
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Whenever the Los Angeles Dodgers become relevant, especially after a prolonged hibernation, a few names crash through my mind: Bob Welch, Mickey Hatcher, young Frank Howard, the Tim twins (Leary and Belcher). But one stands above all others: Larry Sherry.

With two wins, two saves, and a 0.71 ERA, Sherry was the deserving MVP of the 1959 World Series. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that each Sherry appearance would have set Twitter on fire; after all, it’s a social medium made for relief pitchers (you can tweet about them being needed, warming up, coming into the game and then dominating). We would have all loved watching a pitching staff with young Koufax, young Drysdale, and youngish Johnny Podres somehow having to ride Larry Sherry to a championship. We surely would have tweeted the ever-loving crap out of the whole scene, with the best of us using the moment to make overelaborate wine jokes.

But what I think about the most isn’t how Sherry was born four decades too early for the social media fame he deserved, and not how a character based on him should almost certainly be cast in a Mad Men prequel; what I wonder about the most is this: during the 1959 World Series, when he was living the dream of every Baby Boomer child, what would Larry Sherry’s wife, Barbara, have tweeted?

We can now all admit that Twitter redefines and enlarges the concept of the “vast howling wasteland” to previously unimaginable vistas. If somebody isn’t compiling a Tumblr of thematically racist tweets, #tcot or #BenghaziStandwithCruzGuns is trending. Perhaps in the distant future there will be a golden age of Twitter, like television, but at the moment we’re stuck firmly in the “My Mother the Car” era.

One could ask, in this giant sprawling beast of social media, if there is anything worth seeking out. And sure, there are tons of talented, funny and intelligent people engaged in a losing battle with the tweeting Visigoth hordes. But even more than that there still exists the ability to find a vein of Twitter that exhibits the proper mix of contemporary thought and edifying moments while also allowing for stage five anonymous creepiness. For me, that’s the wives and girlfriends of professional baseball players (MLBWAGs).

With their frequent tweeting, proximity to athletic fame, and proud 1% lifestyle, the wives and girlfriends of Major League Baseball players are the equivalent of reading a paperback bought at an airport that unexpectedly turns out to be fantastic and keeps you up three straight nights. Calling something on Twitter the “equivalent of a paperback bought at an airport” is like calling something not on Twitter “the equivalent of Finnegan’s Wake”; it's a simple QED, then, that reading tweets by MLBWAGS is like reading James Joyce. A more readable, notably shorter, considerably more SMH-prone James Joyce.

And now is the time to get on board, as this was an especially eventful year, ranging from idiot fan altercations to idiot player altercations to being the only justifiable reason David DeJesus received a standing ovation on his return to Wrigley Field. Plus MLBWAGS are just generally more interesting than their husbands who to a large extent have been trained to never say anything interesting ever. For instance take the Scott Sizemores:

Or the Latos family

Mat Latos (No twitter)

***

If you still labor under the impression that Bleacher Report is the most unseemly and generally depressing sports website on the internet, then brother you really haven’t Google searched “WAGs.” When it comes to “WAGs,” most everything on the internet is grossly misogynistic, up to and including the term itself. But I remain steadfast that there is more to following a baseball WAG than sheer leering perv-ery; although this being online behavior, that is certainly and maybe inherently part of it.

At its best it’s like following a real-time, real-life Friday Night Lights, right down to the appreciation of the mundane, the athletic struggles, the triumphs, irrational fans, obnoxious competitors and loving marriages. If you find the right relationship you can briefly leave the dank and find something more meaningful.(I want to stress gender neutrality here also. Does Ellenna Della Donne have a significant other? I would follow the hell out of that person if so.) What I have learned in this pursuit is that, if you want to find a real life Tami Taylor, the best place to start is the significant others of light-hitting middle infielders.

More importantly, following MLBWAGs is a way to eliminate the original sin depicted in the Old Testament of Baseball: namely, the curse applied by Memo Paris (played by Kim Basinger) in Barry Levinson's 1984 film of Bernard Malamud's The Natural. Here, in a film that sets out to establish the stark founding myth of the baseball player, we’re told that the girlfriend rooting in the stands is not just a shallow showpiece but an actual detriment to the success of our hero. The female baseball relation is Eve -- but even worse because Memo is in on the betrayal -- and by associating with her, a baseball player will be so tortured he’ll eventually find himself cast out of Eden and into an O’Fallon Rascals uniform.

The gods in The Natural would clearly have made Memo Paris be a prolific tweeter, and Iris Gaines (played by Glenn Close) would be the last lonely sentinel on AOL Instant Messenger – a more pure and virtuous female. Twitter puts a lie to all of this and shows us strong relationships and more often than not strong females:

This is healthy reality, and maybe some healthy reality is needed -- let’s not default to labeling a MLBWAG the “Bitch-Goddess of the American Dream” and... well, maybe just don't label them at all. At a minimum, a tweeted pic of a wife, her .322 OBP husband, and their sleeping dogs, driving home at the conclusion of yet another season should replace The Natural'sdire warnings from Wilford Brimley about the female “jinx” in our baseball consciousness.

Following a baseball wife or girlfriend on Twitter will of course begin, as most things on social media do, with ironic detachment. But at some point that detachment will transform into something you legitimately, irrationally care and wonder about. When that happens you’ll likely get a brief moment of worldly empathy that flickers brightly at the corner of your eye as you stare into space with older Pete face from “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.”

For me, the crossover happened on July Fourth weekend, when a vacationing baseball wife’s dog sprinted off into a strange land after being frightened by fireworks. Suddenly this was REAL. Lives were at stake. And when against the mightiest of odds, the dog was found 24 hours and many tweets later, it was the most meaningful baseball moment of the year. Omar Infante could have hit a World Series Game 7 walk-off grand slam, be met at home plate by Joe Carter and Bill Mazeroski, and the three of them could suddenly transform into Star Wars Force Ghosts, and it still wouldn’t beat the dog moment for me.

Unfortunately, like most things that hold within them the power to dramatically change our lives -- time-travel, nuclear energy, democracy -- the MLBWAGs tweeting, if corrupted, would become too dangerous. The tweets could shine too bright a light over the Internet and end up attracting the wrong crowd. The last thing we need is to draw attention to an avenue ripe for out-of-control bro-havior or generally disturbing middle-aged-dudes; guy tweeting to college-aged girls of potential managerial hires by the Cubs, we see you, and we are #SMDH-ing right now.

Perhaps we need to take a page from baseball’s New Testament: Field of Dreams. We need to face the reality that the unvarnished tweetwork of MLBWAGS is a necessary counterpoint for a sport that can become choked with self-imposed “the right way men at work,” George Will-ish sanctimony. Soon the stars of MLBWAG Twitter may need to leave for their own good, and because they're sick of the leering and MRA-ish aggression and general nastiness directed at them, and so walk into the great Iowa Cornfield; the group scheduled for next Saturday which currently includes Ben Grieve, Mark Lemke and Glenallen Hill has extra room.

At that point the journey will be complete and those of us stuck here will simply wait for the day when we’re raking leaves or at a pointless late season Cubs game, and we will hear the voice from somewhere up above, reading the tweets to us, letting us know that it's okay to expect something more.


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