Everybody back off for 900 words, because I’m about to get old up in here.

Watch this video. Crank your device volume.  Like, John Cusack in front of a Chevy Malibu levels.

Do you hear that?

Yes, Obnoxious Troll in the Back, it’s the inexorable noise of the Reds about to blow it against the Cubs in the 9th inning.  I mean before that– right here, right in this moment, with the ball park lights gleaming like the sun off the championship pennant paintings. What do you hear?

You hear… people. And even players. They’re cheering. They’re not just cheering–they are, as one, hoisting a large, spontaneous, very un-2017, unironic “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!” For the pitcher has just popped a double at home against the reigning World Champions, who just happen to be in the division, in a game in which first place is at stake. And so all God’s good Reds fans go “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”

We are able to hear this because the grating noise machine on the Ohio River had fallen blessedly, temporarily, silent. It is this “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!” which connects us in an increasingly fraying line to Riverfront Stadium, and Riverfront to Crosley Field. They went “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”, we go “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”, and we instinctively know to do so without electronic enhancement.

I sit here typing this in my bare feet on a screen the size of a good book as my umbilicus-to-the-planet charges beside me. My cell phone currently holds the phone numbers of pretty much everyone I’ve ever met, a snapshot of a cookie recipe, and notes for my next book. It allows me to instantaneously call forth the glove size of the last left-handed pitcher to throw on a Reds farm team on a Saturday in August. I like me my technology. I like me my fireworks and my old-timey organ. I enjoy the sight of a giant Zack Cozart face looming Easter-Island like over the opposition dugout as much as the next person. I do not like sitting in a Great American Ball Park crowd of 10,000 and hearing Harry Belafonte scream “DAY-O” at Kentucky for no apparent reason.

The ricochet through entire empty sections on these cold and uncertain April nights makes it worse, but I was also present at the rather well-attended All Star Game in 2015 and came to the same conclusion:  Shut up.  Shut up, shut up, shut. up. with the canned screaming.

Perhaps I’m more sensitive to canned encouragement because I embedded for a year with Ohio State’s Marching Band, which practiced very hard and worked very long to…sit motionless in the stands while the Athletic Department blasted clips of pre-recorded pop music,  on the theory that 192 college students with brass instruments and drums don’t generate quite enough noise on their own.  The fans did not appreciate this. Standing beneath the student section, hearing the crowd response of exactly nothing, neither did I.

This is not a horror exclusive to Ohio Stadium or GAPB.  Loudspeaker abuse was present at that august concrete doughnut, Riverfront Stadium, largely in the form of the pixellated adventures of a sliding smoked sausage   (we dealt only in reality, in those blue-seat days there on Mehring Way):


The penultimate panel of this complex plot was accompanied by an extremely loud, extremely prolonged “MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!” I was, at the age of five, acutely chagrined by this: Did the Reds not trust their own to know that smoked sausages were delicious? Must the point be so crudely made? Why must we all suffer so?

Maybe my personality is to blame for the assuming duck-and-cover position beneath the beer taps when it’s time for Fun With Our Many Large Loud Flashing Rectangles. On the Meyer-Briggs personality test, I score as an HSP-INFP, which means that I do not like loud noises not self-created, attending to detail, conflict, itchy clothes, structured tasks, weird food, group projects (I am building myself quite the job application here), tambourines at Mass, sudden upset, disturbing images or situations (perhaps this is why I have utterly shut down on the Bengals), external disruptions, or people.

One of these people-exceptions takes place at ball games. I attend by myself; I attend with others. When they were alive, I went with my father and grandfather. Now that they are alive, I go with my nephews. And when I attend with others, we Discuss. We talk about the game. We talk about each other. We talk about the kettlecorn. We talk. We are the comforting murmur beneath the slightly amplified voices of the broadcasters.

And we listen, for the game replies, always a part of the conversation. The bat cracks and we look sharply as one to the plate; the ball smacks into the glove and we raise our glasses to the general direction of the mound.

We stop talking and listening, however, when forcibly silenced by the likes of Miley Cyrus,  largely because we’re looking around wondering who and what on earth we’ve offended to rain Miley Cyrus down upon us here on this warm, soft summer evening with the river sliding by and the moon up above.

Baseball is built on relationships–between us and the team, between us and the players, between us and the parent in the seat next to us, between us and the stranger in the seat behind when we high-five after the walkoff, between us and the small child with the large glove we once were. Relationships require  time to breathe, to rest, to enjoy one another’s company. The yelling will come when it’s time for the yelling to come. We will know.

Hush, dear Reds, and let us speak to you– just as you speak to us.

17 Responses

  1. cfd3000

    I love the talking and the cheering (but never the “wooooo”), and I hate the sliding hot dog / sausage and the chili bowls behind which the baseball hides. Though when you combine the same chili and the same hot dog and add the cheese in a scenario where I’m eating instead of watching that, that I love. I love that the vendors bring foods and drinkings to your seat so you don’t have to leave and can watch every pitch in person, and I love that the guy behind me thinks Bryce Harper is the best player to ever walk three inches above the ground because then I can secretly revel in the superiority of Joey Votto. And right now I love that we can cheer for a team that is not only the team we love but a team that is pretty good, at times wonderful, and getting better. I’ll gladly cheer for that thrilling play but know that I’m also cheering for the hope of greater achievements and maybe, just maybe soon, some postseason excitement. Yaaaaay.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The Woo has been exported to Pittsburgh, you’ll be interested to hear.

  2. sandman

    When I read the name of this article I thought it was gonna be an article basically chewing out all the Reds fans who were or still are (if any) against this rebuild and maybe, more specifically, those fans you hear (whether on social media, at the ballpark itself or just walking down the street) speak out against one of the new Reds plyrs every time they screw up. Gotta say, I’m relieved it wasn’t that type of an article.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      To be fair tho the fans just walking down the street, it’s tough to figure out who’s actually on the team at any given moment.

  3. sultanofswaff

    Being from Illinois, I haven’t been down to GABP in a while, but I do vividly recall the P.A. system being waaaaaay too loud. All this fake excitement is insincere and forced. It’s baseball for chrissakes, not the WWE!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Loudspeakers are too soft for the WWE.

  4. TomN

    Nice article and I completely agree. What’s with the forced entertainment. I feel the same way when I watch pro sports on TV (though this is mostly with football and basketball), especially when they are on nationally. Bombarded by visuals and over-done graphics, having to listen to a panel of experts, sideline reporters – it goes on and on. I compare these to games that sometimes would be shown on ESPN classic from the late 60s. Then, everything was ‘normal-sized’, even the ballplayers. Just the basic teams, with R/H/E. Now, it’s all gone ‘super-sized just as the ball players are bulked up like never before. So is the production.

    Saying that, I confess I enjoy the Fox Soorts Ohio broadcast. They seem friendly and down to earth,

    But yeah, I still enjoy baseball the most when I can watch and talk about the game with someone who also enjoys it and is knowledgeable. Somehow, if we are able to tune out the blaring, incessant encouragement to make noise, or whatever, even better.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Jim Day and his broom are always permitted. They’re fairly quiet.

  5. Will

    Wow, fantastic read. You hit the nail on the head with one of my biggest pet peeves! Haven’t made it to GABP yet, but this scourge has permeated every other venue I regularly attend. Let Seven Nation Army–and its digital remake–die already. Enough with the shell games, kiss cams, and ear-splitting hype music. If I were designing a new stadium, you know what I’d put up, an old-school playograph! Look it up, kids!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The first time I saw one of those, I had to laugh because it’s pretty much a man-powered version of any game tracker. Only thing’s changed is what’s running it.

  6. Mary Beth Ellis

    You don’t want to know, my friend.

  7. Mary Beth Ellis

    Maybe that’s why I took up choral singing instead of any form of instrumentation. You can only sing so loud for so long.

  8. brunsfam

    Agree. Give me some organ music, a peanut bag-tossing vendor, and time to relate to my friends/family!
    Just be glad GABP is not Miller Field or Rogers Centre. Those venues do the very same “canned” psych-up music but it reverberates through your spine because you’re in an enclosed venue. Open air is a blessing!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s a good point. Sometimes I covet the domed stadium, but now I realize there’s nowhere to hide from EVERYBODY CLAP YOUR HANDS.

  9. Mary Beth Ellis

    Thanks for reading– I haven’t been to another MLB stadium in quite some time, but I noticed some of this creeping into the minor league parks as well.