A strange and difficult part of the conversation we are about to have—exploring the delightful world of sports oaves, of course—is explaining just how the hell we got here. It started with Shohei Ohtani, a non-oaf who is expected to sock some truly unprecedented dingers as the top seed in the upcoming home run derby. ESPN published a story Thursday morning with lots of wild tales of Ohtani’s impossible-seeming slugging powers, which caused several Defector idiots to catch serious vapors. Get a load of this stuff, referencing a 2018 batting-practice session in the juiced atmosphere of Coors Field:
The baseball was driven to right-center with backspin, clearing the bullpen, then the first section of seats, then the concourse, then the second deck, then the third, ultimately smashing into the railing that lines the first of two rooftop sections at Coors Field, a place few, if any, have ever ventured.
“Everybody’s jaw dropped,” Angels hitting instructor Paul Sorrento said.
“It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen,” said former teammate and current Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Kole Calhoun. “Ever.”ESPN
Hell yeah! Naturally this led to a discussion of another recent profile of Ohtani, from Rustin Dodd of The Athletic. Disappointingly, rather than gawk at Ohtani’s feats (like other recent, good Ohtani blogs), Dodd and his editors gave him the ultra-worn-out bushido treatment, opening with a couple lines from 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō about “warriors’ dreams” and then tracing an extraordinarily flimsy, cringe-inducing path from a notable journey undertaken by Bashō toward the end of his life to the exploits of a two-way superstar playing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the year 2021. Needless to say, American sports bloggers do not ruminate on any possible ancient spiritual origins of stateside baseball when discussing the exploits of, say, Jacob deGrom. It is considered perfectly unremarkable for a sufficiently motivated and athletically gifted young American to pursue and achieve a successful baseball career; for whatever reason, it is still considered appropriate to whip out the old “moral code of honor developed by the samurai warrior class” when seeking to understand how a Japanese player might land on the same mountaintop. Weird!
More to the point, Ohtani is a poor fit for the whole unbearable “what master swordsmen call ‘edge alignment’” treatment. Yes, he swings the mightiest of lumber. And, yes, ah, possibly you have noticed that he is of east Asian descent. That does not make him a goddamn ronin! Does this man here look to you like he is solemnly bringing The Way Of The Sword to American baseball? Or does he look like an extremely fucking huge and supremely gifted guy just having the absolute best time?
I ask you!
What’s most frustrating of all is, Dodd had all he needed to write a really good and fun and fascinating profile of a goofy young fellow blowing along happily on the jet stream of generational athletic prowess, conquering two hemispheres without so much as a distant whiff of the performative bloodthirst or shrieking egomania of your various Durants and Bradys and Bumgarners. Look at this!
As a sophomore in high school, Ohtani set a goal to throw 99 mph (160 kilometers per hour) and sketched out a road map to get there. (According to a copy of Ohtani’s high school goals obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Ohtani wrote of having a “cool head and hot passion.” One strategy was more straightforward: “Read books.”)The Athletic
Ohtani isn’t a grave, grim-faced samurai! What he plainly is—and finally we are approaching the point of this blog—is a himbo: Large, graceful, and fantastically good-looking, but very much the sort of guy who addresses his desire to throw a baseball super fast by jotting down “read books” on a to-do list. He’s a total himbo! Which is absolutely fine and great, and is exactly what any of us would and should be if we were even 75 percent as gifted and glorious as Ohtani. Waste not even one moment of your life scowling in furious concentration when you can effortlessly smash a baseball from here to Betelgeuse, and also throw a baseball clean through a blogger’s flabby midsection, for a strike. One of Ohtani’s former teammates from his time with the Nippon-Ham Fighters told The Athletic that Ohtani had “a smile on his face every day” and never complained about anything, ever, which gets a big thumbs up from me as well as a big no shit. Absolute serenity is the resting condition of all the world’s great himbos.
As these things must, the discussion of himbos led to an all-too-exacting mapping of the distinctions between the himbo—hot and happy-go-lucky but largely empty-headed—and their humble, less fortunate kin, the oaf, who may or may not be OK to look at but is either clumsy or clumsy-seeming, which gives oaves an unmistakable sad-sack aesthetic. There is no overlap: Both himbos and oaves could be described as “galoots” under appropriate circumstances, but one cannot be both a beautiful himbo and also a bumbling bridge-troll-adjacent oaf. Those are the rules!
Men’s professional sports are loaded down with himbos—the quest for the absolute pinnacle of sports requires an awful lot of sportsing, and leaves somewhat less time in a person’s life and even less incentive for close readings of the works of Franz Kafka—although few are anywhere close to as charming as Ohtani. The same cannot be said of the broader oaf situation. Oaves, due to their constant-toe-stubbing nature, are less likely to make it to the higher levels of sports, but there are narrow openings for men whose sheer corporeal enormity and/or preposterous physical strength more than make up for their Sideshow Bob-esque feet and unwieldy surfeit of elbows. This is good: The sports world requires oaves, if for no other reason than to give the rest of us a fleeting sense that only a few marginal details have prevented us from pratfalling our way into lucrative athletic careers. Also they can be just sort of funny to look at. I’m sorry if that’s rude. It’s authentically a joy and a relief to step back from time to time and confirm that oaves are, in fact, absolutely essential participants in most team sports, and even have their places in several of the more technically challenging individual ones.
Anyway that is how I spent my Thursday: blasting off on a bizarre tangent and finding myself staring at a typed, non-exhaustive list of Sports Oaves. Here are some sports oaves, in no particular order:
All football centers
All baseball first basemen
It is good and rewarding to ponder the sports oaves. Please name some more oaves in the comments down below.