It’s a slow news day so I’m going to tell you a story about a conversation that I had this morning.
My brother, Curt, who lives in San Diego, called me at 6AM his time. I was worried that, at that hour, it was some sort of an emergency. I answered.
“Who’s Scott Boras?” he said. He pronounced it with the accent on the wrong syllable — “Scott borAS” which made it pretty clear he had literally no idea. I explained that he is baseball’s most famous agent and that he’s kind of a big deal in my world.
“Oh, OK, that makes sense,” he said. “He’s blowing up in K-Pop circles right now.” K-Pop, referring to pop music coming out of South Korea, is my brother’s world.
At least at the moment. My brother tends to cycle through musical obsessions with a fierce, singular passion for a given genre for a period of time before moving on to something new. When we were kids it was speed metal, then Rush of all things (in case you were wondering why I feel about them the way I do), then hardcore punk. There was some rap in there too (old stuff like Whodini, The Boogie Boys and Kurtis Blow). After he went into the Navy it was industrial/dance, then hardcore goth stuff (complete with dressing up and makeup when he “went to club”), then some throwback 80s synth, back into his old punk/hardcore stuff and now he’s super, super into K-pop. He’s 48. I don’t know. People like what they like.
My brother was calling me because Scott Boras got a shoutout this morning on the Facebook page of, what I have learned in the past couple of hours, is probably the most popular band on the plant: BTS. BTS is what we’d refer to here as a boy band, along the lines of NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys, but I gather they’re considerably bigger and have a worldwide reach.
The short version of the Boras/BTS connection is that, on Tuesday, Suga — a rapper/producer/member of BTS — was in Los Angeles and wanted to watch his countryman Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s start against the Braves. Suga’s people reached out and eventually got to Boras, Ryu’s agent. Boras, who has seats right behind home plate at Dodger Stadium, obviously, gave Suga his seat. Pretty simple story, but it’s way cuter the way the person on the BTS Facebook page wrote it:
SG needed ticket to see Ryu Hyunjin’s match so he contacted RHJ’s former interpreter Martin Kim, who requested help from RHJ’s agency Boras Corporation. The agency’s presisent [sic] aka legendary sports agent Scott Boras then willingly gave SG his seat at Dodger Stadium.
According to s/o close to Boras Corporation, Scott Boras was unaware of BTS’ full popularity at first. Only after the Dodgers’ SNS channels announced SG’s visit & BTS’ fans from all over the world showed fervent response did he realize how popular SG/BTS was.
Scott Boras took a photo w/ SG after the match & it’s said that was the first time he took a photo w/ a celebrity who’s not a baseball player. Said source showed the reporter the photo & said “Even SB was astonished at BTS’ popularity.
He didn’t know a Korean idol group would generate such popularity in the US. It so happened that RHJ pitched a shutout, which gave RHJ & SG’s meeting an even bigger spotlight. Even Scott Boras, who witnessed it on site, couldn’t help but smile delightedly.
The photo in question:
Back to my brother.
Curt was once a pretty big baseball fan but he’s let it slide over the years. He knows the broad strokes of what’s going on but he doesn’t know who Hyun-Jin Ryu is and doesn’t know Boras, obviously. As we were talking about all of this, his girlfriend, also not a baseball fan, grabbed the phone, just as excited as he is because she’s totally into K-pop too, and yelled out something about HOW COOL IT WAS THAT THE PITCHER THREW ONLY 93 PITCHES IN THE GAME AND SUGA WAS BORN IN 1993!!” At this point I will note that Curt’s girlfriend is also around 50 as well. We’re not talking teenyboppers here.
My brother took the phone back at this point and explained to me that, perhaps, I should “bond with Boras” over his BTS/K-pop connection and that it “might be good for [my] career.” I have spoken with Boras before — I have interviewed him and he has called me when I’ve messed things up to make sure I knew that I messed things up — but I let the sheer implausibility of me ever initiating that conversation with Scott Boras slide. I left it at telling my brother, for the 20th time, that I am not now nor will I ever be into K-pop. I had to do that because part of his obsessive dives into new genres of music involves him erroneously assuming that everyone else is just as into it as he is, so he forgot.
The call ended and, amused by it all, I tweeted about it this morning. My mentions have since been inundated by hundreds — by this point likely thousands — of BTS/K-pop fans liking and responding to my posts. I’d say 99% of it has been cute and amusing, even if there was a bit of chafing at me calling BTS a “K-pop” band which, apparently, is VERY controversial among hardcore BTS fans as K-pop, in their minds, is manufactured and soulless while BTS is LOVE AND THE TRUTH AND THE WAY, etc. It reminded me of some old traditional or two tone ska fan getting insulted if you asked them if they liked Reel Big Fish or something. Every fandom has its . . . politics. Either way, I still can’t use my Twitter at the moment because of “The ARMY.” Which, by the way, is what BTS fans call themselves, God love ’em. It’s all caps, too.
At this point one might think I’m offering all of this up as some gentle mockery of my brother and his obsessions and, perhaps, some mockery of a Korean boy band or their fans. Nope. Not in the slightest. I’ve found the whole thing to be absolutely lovely on a number of levels. Why?
- There aren’t a lot of stories about Scott Boras in which he’s not the biggest name in the story, so it was enjoyable to see such a thing;
- It’s also fun because everyone talks about Boras being a hard-nosed negotiator, but you can’t be an agent without doing people a solid from time to time, and it’s nice to see that side of him as well. Also: Boras smiling, as he is in the photo above, is not something we see every day. At least not a genuine smile. His “I just got my client $180 million” press conference smiles seem a tad sinister at times;
- It’s lovely because my brother, even though he’s a 48-year-old boy band fan, apparently, is still the same guy he’s always been. His life is not easy. He has worked 2-3 jobs at a time, constantly, for twenty years, yet he never complains and has never gotten jaded despite having some reasons to become jaded. He works 15 hours a day and, when he’s not working, he dives into some pop band and it makes him as happy as a pig in slop and there’s something amazing and instructive about living your life like that;
- It’s refreshing because, even if they’re totally messing my my social media feeds right now, the BTS fans seem impossibly sweet and positive. They want you to like their band but they’re not pushy about it. They think Scott Boras is a saint. They think my brother is wonderful. They think Hyun-Jin Ryu is the best pitcher on the planet. Given how ugly the world is right now and given how ugly fandom of a given thing can get at any time, it’s positively adorable. Maybe it’s because they’re mostly young. Young people are better than us olds, even if it doesn’t always seem like it to us olds.
Anyway, that was my morning. Here’s hoping Hyun-jin Ryu can convert some of those K-pop fans into baseball fans too.