The concept of the Fame Audit was first pioneered by the fine website Fametracker.com during the early part of the last decade. The snarky, pop culture-based evaluations of relative and deserved levels of fame for actors or musicians were debated by alert writers, many of whom went on to bigger and better things like the Onion AV Club and death.
In my infinite, creatively bereft wisdom, and with Fame Tracker lying dormant for the better part of 4 years (well beyond the internet statute of limitations of 20 minutes), I thought it might be a hoot to re-purpose the Fame Audit and apply it to baseball players. Who is more famous than his playing ability deserves? Who isn’t famous enough? Why might a given player lag behind/receive undue fame?
Back again for 2012 – the Getting Blanked Fame Audits return! And who gets to see their persona under the microscope? None other than Canadian Jesus Himself, Brett Lawrie.
“It is better to flame out than to fade away” are famous words from a famous junkie’s suicide note. While they are as baloney now as they were when Courtney Love scrawled them on a phony letter to fans, the sentiment holds true in our current sporting world. Sort of.
Given the current media landscape and our willingness/desperation to attach the “Next Big Thing” title or any person or event that manages to capture the attention of more than a dozen people for more than a dozen seconds, a different proverb is more apt.
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak out and remove all doubt.” This speaks to me about prospect coveting, about the appeal of the great unknown. About clambering to get in on the ground floor of something exciting hoping that, just maybe, a spectacular ride awaits.
Brett Lawrie wasn’t well known among all baseball fans when he moved from the Milwaukee Brewers system to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum but he carries one thing that immediately distinguishes him: a Canadian Passport.
Like it or lump it, Brett Lawrie’s Canadianness boosts his profile. It doesn’t do the heavy lifting but it is very difficult to ignore. It fuels some of the marketing push behind him and it buys him things no on-field accomplishment ever could.
While Brett Lawrie demolished the minor leagues (both before and after an edict from on-high demanded he become a more selective hitter) the thirst for Lawrie to take over in Toronto reached a fever pitch. An errant fastball to the small bones of his left hand derailed the runaway Hype Express but, finally, Brett Lawrie burst onto the big league scene on August 5th, 2011.
What followed was an insane 43 game coming out party that made Lawrie the toast of Canada and put his name on many, many lips inside the baseball world and out. He wasn’t so much standing at the front of the Blue Jays stage as he was shot there out of a cannon, a cannon pointed squarely at the chest of those wanting to reserve judgement and let the rookie take him lumps.
The Lawrie Comet burst through the chests of non-believes, standing defiantly on the carcasses with the kind of cocky sneer you cannot fake, covered in blood and viscera and maple syrup and sheer joy. Brett Lawrie is a joy to watch for fans of his current team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Despite insistent reports that he is a student of the game and tireless worker, Brett Lawrie plays baseball with a most-appealing reckless abandon. He endears himself to casual baseball fans who long for intensity and passion from their superstars.
This style of play may not be conducive to the long, grinding haul that makes up a baseball season but that is the allure of Brett Lawrie at this moment of his career: it is all possible. With so few big league plate appearances, the sky remains the limit because Lawrie came to The Show and ascended immediately to its highest heights. He hit walkoff home runs and performed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Dreams currently fuel Brett Lawrie’s fame. It is a nice problem to have for both player and fan. Without sufficient exposure to opposing pitchers and wily coaching staffs, swing holes remain masked. Without enduring the soul-destroying lows of a prolonged slump, the praise for Lawrie’s attitude remains effusive. Without too many public relations missteps, the brash muscle-bound Canadian remains a star-in-the-making for marketing departments and ticket agents. It is all possible because 43 transcendent games have not rendered it impossible.
All this hope and deification and socialized medicine makes Brett Lawrie really famous…in Canada. Lawrie has the second most Twitter followers among Blue Jays players, nearly half of superhuman teammate Jose Bautista’s 160K but more than former All Star and Cy Young vote-getting teammate Ricky Romero and more than twice what social media darling J.P. Arencibia.
The biggest question dogging Brett Lawrie’s fame revolves around the 49th parallel: does anybody in the US of A know anything about Brett Lawrie? Fantasy baseball players certainly do, making Brett Lawrie one of the top sixty players drafted according to Yahoo! Baseball fans in Boston certainly know him, making a name by hitting game-winning bombs and colliding with now-retired catcher Jason Varitek at unsafely high speeds. But does he get the nanas? The fans who watch Baseball Tonight but sort of tune out when that team in Canada comes on?
Not yet, he doesn’t. No matter how many people in Canada are familiar with his name, (almost all of whom mispronounce it) he simply doesn’t move the needle in America. Not yet. One day he could, given a cool viral commercial campaign and playmate girlfriend, eclipse the fame of a player like Evan Longoria but, for now, he’s just ballplayer. An electric one but he’s just A Guy to far too many fans. For now.
Fame Assets: Supernova-like statistical achievement in an insignificant sample size, seemingly inexhaustible supply of frenetic energy, gigantic musclebound & tattooed fish in baseball backwater-sized fishbowl, weapons-grade douchebaggery
Fame Deterrents: Canadian player playing in Canadian city, five career games combined at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, not zealous enough in public displays of faith.
Current Level of Fame: Giancarlo Stanton, Alan Thicke
Deserved Level of Fame: Desmond Jennings, Robin Thicke
Nana Index (number of North American nanas, out of 100, who could offer a working definition of Brett Lawrie): 9.