Friday free-for-all: OnlyFans 12 has a nice ring to it

On title sponsors, college-football reporting and the Gen X aversion to selling out.

Born in 1974, I am an unambiguous member of Generation X.

I would argue that the defining characteristic of our generation’s cultural outlook was an underlying skepticism of anything that became popular, and an outright hostility toward anyone who strived to be popular and/or commercially successful. We hated sell-outs.

These standards were most often applied to artists, especially musicians, but worked in sports, too. I believe that one of the reasons that Derek Jeter was viewed much more favorably than Alex Rodriguez – even by people like me who dislike the Yankees on general principle – was that we could tell how much Rodriguez wanted to be liked and how hard he was trying to act in precisely the way he would achieve this goal.

I say all of this to point there may be a generational bias in my instant and visceral aversion to the following report:

Now I will admit that when I first saw this, I thought it was talking about the Big Ten, of which my school is now purportedly a member. Silly me. The Big Ten is obviously much too refined and sophisticated to crassly sell its name. It’s too busy spitting game at the two obviously married gentlemen from Southern California at the airport bar, talking about all the gifts and riches that will be lavished upon them should they choose to leave the broke-ass Pac-12 and become part of the midwestern harem.

Oops. I veered off on a tangent there. Where was I? Oh yeah. The Big 12 selling its name.

The purchase of naming rights has been around a long time in sports, and while I’m not going to say I think they’re “good” per se, I accept them as being part of the modern sports landscape. I don’t think we have to take these things seriously, though. Not unless we’re getting money from the corporate sponsor. In fact, I don’t think we should treat these things seriously unless we’re getting money from the corporate sponsor. The University of Washington can try as hard as it wants to get me to call the basketball arena by something other than Hec Edmundson Pavilion, and I’m not going to do it except for those seven years when I was a paid endorser of Alaska Airlines, and then I was happy to refer to it as the Alaska Airlines Arena.

Does this make me a sell-out? Hell yeah. It also demonstrates my expertise in differentiating between advertising and things that actually matter.

I do not give a single solitary rip whether the Big 12 sells its name or not. I do not intend to ever call it by whatever corporate name it takes unless it is the OnlyFans 12, and in fact, come to think of it, I may refer to it as the OnlyFans 12 regardless of what corporate entity pays to affix its name to the conference.

It strikes me as deeply humorous that a naming-rights deal would be reported with breathless urgency and presented as breaking news. There’s no consumer product involved. It’s fairly straight-forward advertising. A company decides that the publicity that will be gained by affixing its name to a certain entity – in this case a college conference – is worth the big fat check it has to write. Twenty years ago, this was the sort of (thing) that was announced in the press releases that reporters ignored. Now, this sort of (thing) is pursued as a competitive news item.

I’m not criticizing the reporter in question here. The reaction to his report — including this newsletter — demonstrates that there is an appetite for this news.

I suppose, given the race for cash that is currently underway in college athletics, you can argue that the Big 12’s ability to sell its naming rights does play some sort of role in the future of the sport. And according to this logic, if you’re a fan of the Big 12, you can find a reason to be happy that the conference has found another revenue source, and if you’re not a fan of the Big 12, you can mock the conference for being so hard up for cash that it’s going to let a company place its brand on the conference’s left cheek.  

I don’t think there’s anything requiring us to take any of this seriously, though. It’s just advertising.

The bunt to reach October

Luke Raley’s bunts are just the best.

This is not just because of the physical contrast between his prodigious size and the delicacy of the bunt itself, though that is part of it.

It is not just because he is a perfect five-for-five on bunt attempts this season, either, though that is very exciting because it should mean we’ll see more of this strategy.

The truth is that I find the bunt to be one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

I may be biased in this regard. Bunting was one of the few elements of the game in which I was decidedly above average. But I believe that my excitement over bunts goes beyond my own self interest.

The bunt itself is an act of precision and delicacy in an activity – hitting – that is comically fearsome by definition. A player stands at the plate with a club, which he swings in a manner that he has refined and practiced in an effort to wallop a spherical object as hard as he can EXCEPT, OH NO, HE JUST USED THAT CLUB MORE LIKE A PUTTER AND DROPPED A BUNT THAT HAS THREE FIELDERS CONVERGING ON ONE ANOTHER.

The bunt is tricky. The bunt is strategic. The bunt often embodies the sacrifice of one’s own chance at glory for the greater good. Unfortunately the bunt has very much fallen out of favor in modern big-league baseball. There are good reasons for this. Turns out the out that you’re often giving up by bunting is too valuable to be justified by the mere advancement of base runners.

All of this is to say that I completely understand why the bunt has fallen out of favor in today’s game, and in fact, I agree with the decision in a tactical sense. But aesthetically … I like the bunt. I like it because fielders converge on the bunted ball and then must discern in real time who should field the ball. I like it because it requires the fielders to follow a system that includes coverage of spots that are vacated by the charging infielders. I like it because it can produce my absolutely favorite throw in the game, which is a third baseman charging in at a dead sprint, reaching down to try and palm the baseball with his barehand and then — in the same motion — throw across his body to the first baseman. This was something Adrian Beltre specialized in, and I believe his ability to execute this was one of the single most beautiful things I’ve seen on a baseball diamond.

Now add to that the fact that it is Raley who is bunting. Raley, who is 6 feet 4, and runs with the delicacy of a bison and who – when he beat out the bunt to tie the game against Chicago on Monday night – celebrated with the kind of muscle-flexing, let’s-go bravado you see from a middle linebacker after a stop on fourth-and-one.

This piece on Raley by Davy Andrews of FanGraphs puts some numbers to what makes Raley and his bunting proficiency so absolutely and utterly beautiful. 

I love it so much.

You know as well as I do which players are supposed to bunt for hits: Scrappy little guys with a chip on their shoulder who make up for their lack of power with a combination of speed and grit. And yes, those guys are represented in the graph, but Raley is there too, towering above them. It’s not only that he’s way taller than they are. It’s that he’s just plain bigger.

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