I knew my that husband, Josh the Pilot, put in a good flight when he called me with a suggestion to enlarge our family.

“I just flew with this interesting captain,” he said, “and he says we need to get a parrot.”

Normally pet acquisition suggestion is my department. It is my job in the marriage to mention that we should get a hedgehog (“Look, you get to wash them in the sink“) or a miniature horse (“Look, you can braid their hair“) or a small child (“Look, you can train them to mix drinks.”) But although a former Floridian and person with an entirely separate, carefully curated Buffett playlist, I pointed out that no, we were not going to get a parrot.

“This guy says he trained his parrot to sit on his shoulder and then poop in its cage when he needs to poop,” said my husband, “and that they let you know when someone’s breaking into your house, and that once you’re in the flock, you’re in the flock.”

Well, that’s more of a selling point; with my high school closing and as a woman without a football team ever since I stopped talking to my brother school ten years ago, it would be nice to feel flocked, especially if poop isn’t involved. But flocking extracts a price.

The danger of entwining one’s identity with a sports team was illustrated this weekend by Redleg Nation founder and somewhat noted UVA fan Chad Dotson, who had, as one might expect, rather high hopes for his alma mater in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. As my interest in basketball consists of watching my nephew lunge for his phone when he receives updates on TheScore, I wasn’t following this weekend’s action until word broke through my figure skating/Thoroughbred racing/baseball/ski jumping bubble that UVA had been upset.

As in all public disasters, my attention went first to those I knew who might be affected by it. That was, in this case, Chad, so in the spirit of triage I checked my Twitter feed to ascertain the exact amount of thoughts and prayers this situation might require. Chad’s account on Saturday night was quite the front seat to the emotional wreckage of a man:  First he’s prophetically #sad, then he’s concerned, then he’s grappling with reality, then he’s bargaining, then he’s steering into the skid, then he reaches the devastating acceptance that turning his attention from baseball was his first mistake, then he regrets passing on this life of disappointment to his children and children’s children, and then he for some reason starts retweeting observations about popular jazz singers.

As you can see, becoming emotionally involved in sports is horrible and bad and you should never do it. Except we do it anyway. We value our flock. We draw our children into the flock even though the flock is a demonstrable, decades-long dumpster fire. The flock is us; we are the flock.

It is stretches such as this when we question the value of placing so much emotional toil, cash, and time into people who are handsomely paid to play a children’s playground game. It is also stretches such as this when I remember glancing over at my godchild, not yet old enough to find the closest bathroom unescorted, looking up at me and saying, “Great American Ball Park is my favorite place in Cincinnati, and now we get to have slushes!”

12 Responses

  1. cfd3000

    The Reds are part of the (so far) 53 year thread of my life, and it has been a richer life for it. For Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan and the Big Red Machine, for Barry Larkin and Eric Davis and the Nasty Boys and wire-to-wire, for Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and merry clinchmas, for Riverfront and Great American Ballpark, for so many players and games, so many moments and so many lemon ice treats (my slushies). And now for the past several years, for Redleg Nation. My flock. Thank you MBE, and thank you, RLN. And Chad, I’m sorry about your Hoos but I hear there’s a parade next week, and Opening Day, and a new Reds team that just might be pretty good. I can’t wait.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Most importantly, if the Reds are not in fact pretty good, you can get a shot of tequila in your slush.

    • Chad Dotson

      If I’m counting on the Reds to be my bright ray of sunshine on the sports landscape, I fear that I’m on the verge of being disappointed again.

      • NorMich Red

        The good news is that if the Reds disappoint us all next Thursday, a fair likelihood…they will still be allowed to continue playing in subsequent days. 161 more delightful chances at disappointment…and the feel-good glimmers in-between. One-game knockout events produce instant bad memories for everyone but the followers of one lucky, and often good, team. Prepare my lemon slushies…and have the tequila ready at hand!

  2. Chad Dotson

    How do I delete this post? Or at least display a crying emoji?

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Embrace the struggle, my friend.

  3. Ken Goldsberry

    Chad, there’s plenty of room on the UK bandwagon if you’d care to join a winning program 😉

      • Mary Beth Ellis


      • Chad Dotson

        I appreciate the defense, but that was actually a pretty good suggestion. haha

  4. SrHerdFan

    I am in the flock, sort of a grey, scraggly-feathered type, from the dim era of Waite Hoyt,Roy McMillan, Ted Kluszewski, and Wally Post,just to mention a few. And my Mom owned a canary store,with hundreds of canaries and parakeets. I was the Official Food and Water Provider, as well as Cage Cleaner…ugh. So, I know flocks!