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OPINION: Using Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ to decode baseball’s love triangle



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Taylor Swift's new album, “Folklore,” was released July 24. Tribune News Service

If you can imagine legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan firing a curveball toward a blindfolded kindergartener fresh out of T-ball practice, you’d have an idea of what 2020 threw at the United States.

In a year marred by the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have craved the evergreen pastimes on which they once relied. Fortunately, one of those cherished cultural touchstones has made its triumphant return. What’s more classically American than Taylor Swift producing sensational music?

Fans have postulated that Swift’s new album, “Folklore,” tells the tangled story of a teenage love triangle primarily through the records “Cardigan,” “Betty” and “August,” each providing a different point of view to the modern-day Shakespearian tragedy. Listening to these dulcet, melancholy tracks, I was reminded of my own complex relationships with Major League Baseball and the Korean Baseball Organization.

These parallels appear in the song “Cardigan,” which is presumably written from the perspective of the aforementioned Betty, who feels neglected and unwanted. In my case, this role is portrayed by MLB. 

The 1994 player’s strike, compounded with the myriad controversies of the “steroid era,” led many to look down on professional baseball, manifesting in rapidly decreasing attendance by the turn of the century. 

“And when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite,” Swift sings with all the heartache of somebody who has swung for a soul mate and struck out more often than Reggie Jackson

When the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven thrilling games in 2016 to claim their first World Series since 1908, the league became suddenly alluring to myself and millions of other spectators. Witnessing a team synonymous with mediocrity ascend to champion status gave way to a brief stretch of total adoration for the sport.

However, the honeymoon phase can only last so long. My partnership with MLB faced its ultimate test when the coronavirus struck and sent everything spiraling. 

In my weakest moments during MLB’s hiatus, I was approached by the KBO. James, the narrator in “Betty,” refers to his temptress and subsequent mistress as “a figment of my worst intentions,” an equally fitting description for the KBO. 

I admired MLB for its traditional values. Yet there came the KBO with bat-flipping and exciting mascots like Dinos, Heroes and Wyverns. Though I’m not proud of my disloyalty, I won’t deny the fun I had.

Of course, MLB has returned, and it knows exactly what I’ve done. I face a crossroads and must declare my allegiance in the upcoming month of August. In Swift’s ballad of the same name, James’ secret companion expresses her anguish at being his second choice.

“So much for summer love and saying ‘us,’ cause you weren’t mine to lose,” she begrudgingly accepts. The KBO endures similar feelings. Did I ever really belong to it, or was I merely lost in a thrill trying to find my way back to MLB?

“I dreamt of you all summer long,” James confesses in “Betty.” Perhaps every time I saw NC Dinos star Park Min-woo belt a home run, I was imagining Freddie Freeman standing in Min-woo’s cleats. 

So I’ve made up my mind. I miss MLB, and though it pains me, I’m content letting August “slip away into a moment in time” for the KBO. 

“Would you have me, would you want me? Would you trust me if I told you it was just a summer thing?” I beg as James does in “Betty.” But simply because I bare my emotions, forgiveness is far from guaranteed. Numerous positive coronavirus tests throughout the league have put its future with me in jeopardy.

“Chase two girls, lose the one,” Betty warns in “Cardigan.” I can’t fault the MLB for ghosting me, nor can I blame the KBO for labeling me as a fake fan after our brief fling.

I’ve learned the same lesson as countless batters before me. I greedily ran for a double, and now I’m getting called out.

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