For the second week in a row, your regularly scheduled evergreen-style Baseball is Life has been bumped by breaking news. Last week was The Game That Would Not End. This week:  Rally Bird.

The Reds were minding their usual business on Sunday afternoon, losing steadily to the Rockies, when a mourning dove arrived in the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast booth. It alighted on broadcaster’s Thom Brennaman’s chair. And then it became A Thing.

Watch as the saga unfolds.

Broadcaster Jeff Brantley was vital in providing an initial eyewitness account:

Cowboy then spotted the dove’s mate on a nearby cable, and decided they were experiencing marital problems:

This led to Thom confirming the story in a full-blown interview:

Fans watching at home kept all of social media apace of the developing story, which–I feel it’s necessary to emphasize this–consisted entirely of a bird sitting on a chair.

At this point, the game had been well-regulated to secondary status as all of Southwestern Ohio puzzled over why Jim Day seemed to think that a talking mourning dove would sound like a parrot.

Then, as a Votto two-run homer sailed out of the park, Fox’s SABER people ran the stats and posited that the Reds might, in fact, have been visited by a rally bird.

The natives began offering sacrifices.

The Reds ground crew had a request:

Crowd knowledge began to flourish on the potential origin of Rally Bird:

Redleg Nation‘s minor league expert, Doug Gray, seeing the creation of a Rally Bird account, wondered if the social media multiverse had at last attained Peak Twitter.

This was not attained until several minutes later, however, when a second Rally Bird account appeared.

But we need to be careful here because the Rally Bird hashtag has apparently been used in the past by a team…not the Reds.

I dedicate several hundred words to Rally Bird because the incident showcases a network in search of a motivated fan base, a fan base in search of something to cheer about, and a hashtag in search of a meme. The fact that the magnificent two-run bang by the magnificent Votto was overshadowed by a piece of poultry is a topic for another day (as soon as this news avalanche slows, I’ll get to that, but for the moment: Rally Bird.)

We don’t watch sports on our own anymore. The desperately bleeding ESPN has not yet figured this out: We simply don’t need you anymore, Worldwide Leader. You are permitted to feed us images of the sporting events we wish to see, but otherwise, be so kind as to shut up. We can get the score–pitch by pitch– anytime, anywhere, from pretty much anything that will plug in, and social media delivers faster, more local, and better snark than SportsCenter ever could (I actually had to step away for a moment and Google to ensure SC is, in fact, still on the air.) Even sitting alone on the couch, or perched in an airport bar miles from family and squad, we are in no way alone. The second he flew into that booth, Rally Bird became the property of the entire sports planet.

There were several plotlines in this game, all of which we were simultaneously experiencing together and alone:

Bronson Arroyo’s disastrous start, which this time wasn’t mitigated by double-digit support from the offense, and manager Bryan Price’s refusal to state whether the 40-year-old was at last out of chances. Before Rally Bird appeared, this was the bulk of what Reds fans were discussing online.

-The fact that the offense continued to fight anyway.

Billy Hamilton‘s steal upon steal–22 of them, now.

-Rally Bird.

And what got the hashtag from Fox Sports Ohio as soon as its social media team could scramble one up? #RallyBird. Rally Bird had no scary or indecipherable numbers, no ability to depress turnout, and no sad old men on the mound who probably remember when cigarettes were sold in vending machines.  Rally Bird was cute and fun and might even poop on Thom. So: Rally Bird it was.

Personally, I’m a fan. His appearance embodies why we sink into the immense length and breadth of baseball– anything can happen at any time. But if baseball is reflective of more about human nature than the progress of a game, then an errant mourning dove interrupting the broadcast of one certainly prompts discussion.

Watching a baseball game unfold–truly watching it–is a dedicated process. You might hear the voices of the broadcasters and crowd comfortably in the background as the laundry gets folded, but truly appreciating the long, beautiful braid of the game involves a great deal of sitting and staring. To complete the length of it, all nine innings, is these days a massive accomplishment of sustained attention. So when something instantly shareable flies into the broadcast booth, you tell Jim Day to warm up his very best bird imitation, and understandably so. I mean, here I am 700 words later recounting and analyzing all this.

What’s it like to grow up experiencing sports and the world in general in this fashion? Did you know that at the time of the O.J. Simpson white Ford Bronco chase, only 13% of the world’s population owned a cell phone?  I know this because I just watched The People vs. O.J. Simpson, and my first impulse was to announce it:

The void spoke back with shared memories of the trial, opinions of the series, such fun facts as the cell phone stat, and younger readers who had no idea why I was freaked out over a scene between Theo Huxtable and Ross Geller. Can you imagine this trial happening in 2017? O.J.’s gloves would have their own Instagram account within seconds. (They probably, retroactively, already do.) No wonder I feel pummeled and exhausted just by scrolling through my ever-expanding list of media feeds and the furor ignited by the flap of a butterfly’s wing.

It’s not that people never used to become outraged; it’s that we’re outraged and overemoted all the time, every time. And what we used to do to step away from that was– I don’t know– watch a ballgame.

But now, we no longer do that. Pitch by pitch, we simultaneously become more drawn together and more forced apart. It’s up to you which way the fabric frays or tightens. For the internet itself, like a knife, is a dispassionate thing. It can save a life. It can take one away.

It can also give us Rally Bird.

5 Responses

  1. cfd3000

    3 Up: RallyBird, Devin Mesoraco, Asher Wojchejowski (or however you spell his name.
    3 Down: Bronson Arroyo, Jose Peraza, Thom and Jim as Abbott and Costello

  2. Tom Mitsoff

    I thought the whole thing was very cute, spontaneous and creative. It certainly broke the mood of the announcers having to talk so openly about just how hittable Arroyo is and how terrible the starting pitching is.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I enjoy Jim Day (genuine, nice guy) and Cowboy, so I enjoyed the entire unspooling as well. It also struck me that it was a microcosm of how social media is how affecting how we watch sports, especially when I saw the hashtag.

  3. NorMich Red

    Spot-on about the rapidly increasing irrelevance of ESPN. It’s only baseball if it features the BloSux, Yankee$, Mets, maybe the Dodger$ once in a while per their coverage. Hockey is forgotten with EuroSoccer apparently having taken its place there. Their crawl features the Boston Sox starting lineup every night, like the fly-over nation really wants/needs to know this. Yawn. The Sunday night telecast has become completely unwatchable. We buy the Extra Innings package so we can watch (mostly) the Reds, but also other teams/players we have a fondness for. (While living in Denver 2+ decades ago, we were original Rockies’ season tix holders and there will forever be a warm spot there, too.) Even on his crochety nights, M. Brennaman is still a treasure, because he calls a good game and it’s nice when a “company employee” broadcaster doesn’t always sugar coat things. (Too bad he hasn’t embraced the new ways to measure and describe a game, but I can forgive a little bit of old school. WIsh he’d be there to comment more during his nightly “vacation innings,”) Young Thom, by contrast, not much to like there. At least the bird came along in a boring game to stop him from chirping non-stop during a baseball game about the FB team in the Capital City and gushing about its coach. All good things Red in Ohio live in the QC (hooray UC! as well as Redlegs!) and Oxford (Miami hockey). No further north!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The ignoring of us yucky flyover states is just one reason why ESPN is failing. The fact that they cut many actually-needed reporters for sports like hockey and retained a lot of commentators speaks volumes that whoever’s running that show just doesn’t understand why they’re circling the drain.