Taylor Swift has magical powers. Telekinesis, for instance: Ordinarily, you’d have trouble getting me out of my seat even if the building were on fire, but throw “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” on the stereo and goddamn if I don’t magically leap to my feet and start dancing.
Taylor Swift also has the power to control Even Year Bullshit, the mystical force that propels otherwise unspectacular Giants teams to victory in the World Series. In 2014, Kelsey McKinney of Vox pointed out that T-Swift’s album releases of Speak Now in 2010, Red in 2012, and 1989 in 2014 were all followed by a San Francisco World Series title within the next week or so. But that leaves unanswered an extremely important question: Why?
Why did Even Year Bullshit start in 2010, not in 2008 or 2006, when T-Swift also released albums? Maybe she didn’t actually have the power to influence baseball games then. Or maybe she simply lacked the motive to use it.
This is a video of Swift, and her lovely bedazzled guitar, performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Game 3 of the 2008 World Series in Philadelphia. Swift was at precisely the point in her career when she might make an appearance like that. Her eponymous debut album had gone platinum, but in October 2008, she was an 18-year-old country starlet on the eve of a follow-up release that could make or break her career.
Pay attention to how she was introduced. The Fox chyron labeled her as a “Wyomissing, Pennsylvania native.” Citizens Bank Park PA announcer Dan Baker called her “one of Pennsylvania’s own” and said she was “back tonight to sing for her home team.”
Here’s her reaction to being called “one of Pennsylvania’s own”: a snap of the head toward the first-base dugout, presumably in disbelief.
And when Baker called the Phillies “her home team,” she looked up and smirked at God.
Swift duly sang a subdued and lovely rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” not only wrapping it up in a tidy one minute, 37 seconds (a fraction of the time it usually takes a multiplatinum pop star) but resisting the temptation to go up the octave on “O’er the land of the free” AND YES I’M LOOKING AT YOU CHRISTINA AGUILERA. Even at 18, T-Swift was a fucking pro.
Here’s the important part: I believe it’s that smirk that swung three pennants in the next six years, and could swing this one, all out of revenge against the Phillies for highlighting her origins on national television.
It’s hard to blame Baker, because there aren’t really very many celebrity Phillies fans. There’s Tina Fey, Joe Biden, and that’s about it. Swift, like Will Smith before her, has shied away from that mantle, which is understandable, because if I were from Pennsylvania west of, say, Broad Street in Philadelphia, I wouldn’t want people to know either. But more than that, in 2008 Swift was trying to pass herself off as being from Nashville — where her family had moved when she was 14 to support her music career — and nothing ruins your country music cred like people finding out you’re from an upper-middle-class suburb of Reading.
On August 4, 2010, she released the first single, “Mine,” off her third album. On October 23, the Giants knocked off the Phillies in Game 6 of the NLCS, and two days later, Swift released Speak Now, and the Phillies haven’t won a playoff series since.
There remains the question of why Swift chose the Giants as her instrument of vengeance, and why she continued the partnership for two more albums. And I don’t know the answer for sure; God moves in mysterious Tays.
Perhaps it’s out of a sense of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” that she timed her next two album releases for the World Series. The 2014 release, 1989, is named after the last odd year the Giants reached the World Series, but Swift told people it was named after the year of her birth to throw everyone off the scent.
A keen observer will note that while the Giants are in line for one of the NL wild-card positions, Swift has not announced an album for this coming fall, which means one of two things: Either Swift is planning a Beyoncé-style ambush release, or she’s planning to let the fall of an even year pass without an album for the first time since 2004, because now it’s no longer the Phillies but the Giants on her shit list.
In lieu of an album, T-Swift has stayed in the news by breaking up with two different boyfriends — Calvin Harris and actor Tom Hiddleston, whom she was totally dating for real and not just posing for photos with — and getting dunked on by Kim Kardashian West.
On July 17, Kardashian released audio of a phone conversation between her husband, Kanye West, and T-Swift in which T-Swift gives permission for Kanye to add a now-controversial line about possibly having sex with her to the song “Famous” on his most recent album, The Life of Pablo. Or at least that’s how it was explained to me.
It’s really the first public black eye for someone who’s managed to pull off the rare double act of being universally known and universally loved. Before this summer, the worst mainstream criticisms of T-Swift were that she was overexposed or that her music was too poppy, to which I say that while I respect your freedom to traffic in bitter rockist contrarianism, would you please take your fedora-wearing, non-TV-owning ass elsewhere when you do it.
Suffice it to say, Swift won’t take this affront lying down. She’s coming back for revenge, against Kimye and everything they touch.
The celebrity alliance that pierced T-Swift’s Teflon body armor for the first time was made official when, on October 21, 2013, Kanye proposed to Kim at no less auspicious a venue than AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.
On July 17, the Giants had the best record in baseball at 57–36. They were 5.5 games up on the second-place Dodgers, who were without super-duper-ace Clayton Kershaw and in the process of disavowing Yasiel Puig. But Swift’s vengeance was just and mighty, and delivered with such merciless alacrity that even when I wrote about Even Year Bullshit 10 days later, I hadn’t yet realized that the Giants had already had their hamstrings cut.
It’s obvious now. Since the Kardashian incident, the Giants are 20–29. They’ve fallen nearly as far behind the Dodgers as they were ahead eight weeks ago. Failing a sudden change of heart, followed by an album release, they’re done for, smote by a goddess they relied on, but later took for granted. Take a look at what you’ve done, Giants. Because now you’ve got bad blood.