Being Tony Plush
Finding redemption through Nyjer Morgan's gentleman alter ego.
After stewing for a couple of hours, resentment crept in and replaced the dejection. Morgan's Plush was a pretender, a fraud. Tony Plush would never change his S's to Z's. This was another Plush altogether, one who did not live up the gentlemanly standards I'd so carefully laid out. Not to mention, in the Internet's land grab, I'd staked my claim first. I'd invested far too many hours. Where was his chivalry?
I frantically started Googling wormholes and alternate universes, then sent out a series of tweets explaining how it was entirely reasonable to have a world where two Tony Plushes coexisted. Soon after, someone tweeted at Morgan asking for clarification. His reply: "The person who has been doing da tweetz is brillant and I got nothing but love for him!" Morgan had waved his scepter. I pumped my fist.
It was in the afterglow of Morgan's validation that I realized the true problem. It didn't scare me to lose the Plush I'd created; rather, I was afraid of losing my alter ego. Through a strange mix of serendipity, timing, and hard work, I'd built a captive audience. More than that, a captive audience that couldn't harm me. If someone called me/Plush an idiot—and they did—what did I care? I was one alter ego removed, wrapped in a cloak of anonymity. (Not to mention, most of the bile came from Cubs fans.)
Some writers claim they write not because they want to, but because they have to. There's something inside them that needs to get out, and it's the process that's important. Book sales and page views are only a pleasant bonus. And to that I say, bullshit. I didn't care that @Tony_Plush was riding the wave of excitement induced by one of the Brewers' rare competitive teams. I didn't care that I got lucky in choosing to start a fake account for a player who was having a great season. And I certainly didn't care that a healthy chunk of the love I was transferring to myself came from people sending it out to a baseball player they could only get close to through Twitter.
No, all I cared about was being the only puppeteer in town. And the bottom of the marquee is a lonely place.
As I write this, in early August, @Tony_Plush has 6,779 followers and @TheRealTPlush has 21,363. Both of us are still tweeting, though now I'm content to stand at Morgan's knee. The jealousy is gone. I simply poke out my head once or twice a week and tell another story.
Though Morgan's written words turned out to be not quite what I'd imagined, his persona feels genuine. He thanks the Milwaukee fans repeatedly for being so supportive. When followers send him messages, he replies himself, never through handlers. When paste-eaters scream at him for not getting a hit during every at-bat, he responds with respect and tells them it's a hard game and that he's trying as best he can. When he asks his Twitter followers what he should do on an off-day, and someone tells him he should go fly a kite, he does. Then he sends them pictures of himself, flying a damn kite on the shores of Lake Michigan.
As a result, @Tony_Plush doesn't resonate as much as he once did, for me or for anyone else. Scrolling through his recorded history, it's hard to imagine anyone ever cared at all. Still, I'll always remember that intoxication I felt back in April, when Tony Plush set out to teach Coach Roenicke tai chi. And I feel a tremendous amount of joy when I queue up the post-game interview where Morgan first used the word "Plushdamentals"—giggling, jumping out of his skin, and speaking in a language that we created together.
No matter how the Brewers' season ends and no matter what happens with my unsold book, I'll remember 2011 as the year I co-wrote a fairy tale with a slap-hitting outfielder. Here's the latest chapter: Once upon a time, a lifelong Brewers fan was sitting alone in St. Paul, Minn. He decided to send Nyjer Morgan a T-shirt. When Morgan received it, he wrote right back.
Watz good pimpn jus wanna thank u for tha shirt playa! Where can I send u a autograph bat? Holla wheneva playa! Keep up tha work