Media people on the coasts like to look down on Ohio because our state has straight edges and we don’t fancy paying $27 for a cocktail. They operate under the assumption that we are stodgy, slow, and backwards, grasping desperately at the tail ends of the trends they deem to set.
What they never take into consideration is the wildly fluttering freak flag that is Ohio. We are, in fact, extremists.
By this I don’t mean we carry about intense loathing (much) or stockpile decades worth of toilet paper. By this I mean that we rarely do things by halves, which makes us far more interesting than states which pride themselves on sailing along with all weirdness all the time, or all flash all the time. It’s boring.
This is most apparent, appropriately, on the edges of the state. You’d think a state’s capital would pitch the most fits of unevenness, but it just doesn’t. For outside of the fact that the entire city is powered solely by hatred of Michigan, Columbus’ center of gravity well and boringly established. Dragged by the nose by Ohio State, there’s nothing much else for it to do but huddle about a medium hockey team, a medium fickle soccer franchise, and the occasional statehouse to-do.
When Cleveland decided to be terrible, it didn’t just sink into an urban gravity well of decay, losing, and badness, as Detroit did. Detroit has no imagination. Cleveland did terrible properly. Its river burst into flames. Its teams went decades and decades not without a playoff run, but without so much as a winning season, or a win, period. Not content with merely acting as a metaphor, dumpsters in their downtown district spontaneously combusted. It laundered through quarterbacks the way we toss losing Bars and Bells tickets to the blacktop during festival season. It was art.
And Cincinnati is even better at it. Plunk our new left fielder? Our new right fielder will take on your whole entire team even though he wasn’t involved in the first place. Our baby hippos are the most premature, the smallest and the cutest. Our obnoxious microbreweries are the most numerous and the beardiest. We’ll build a big giant train station that challenges the Moon for size and crecentness a mere decade before trains begin a steep and rapid decline. Driving from one side of the city to the other is like passing through the cultural hubs of several different continents.
Our pro soccer team won’t exist, then all of a sudden it does and the support marches startle even the Brits. Floods last for weeks, run differentials are the worst in the league and then best in the division overnight, and radio signals pulse so strongly that farmers hear the music in their fences.
So it was with a perverse sense of serenity that I watched the Reds’ long, dark losing streak that lasted well into the first month of the season. And with the same deep rootedness, I beheld the breaking of it with three home runs in a row and a score more appropriate for football. Our edges are our center.
It’s who we are.