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.

19 Responses

      • Joe Blow

        And the Almost Cut My Hair reference – genius!

  1. Gary Clements

    Brilliant. Just friggin’ brilliant.

  2. Scott L

    Born and raised in Cincinnati, resident of Columbus for the last 18 years. You are spot on!!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks. I was stunned when I followed Ohio State’s band for a year and saw how the entire upper half of the state swung towards 1) Ohio State 2) Cleveland teams. I met a small handful of Reds fans but most everyone leaned north. It was weird.

  3. Eric

    “I like Columbus!”
    — Andy Travis, WKRP in Cincinnati

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I don’t recall Andy liking Columbus, but OK. I’ll take his word for it.

  4. Scott C

    Enjoyable read once again Mary Beth. Even though I do not live in Ohio any longer, I have all four corners of the state covered. I was born and raised in Athens and Meigs County. Went To graduate school in Cincinnati and worked in that area for three years. Took my first post graduate job in Findlay, where the wind never stops blowing. And my wife is from Canton. The majority of my In-laws are Indians and Browns fans. How bad is that.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I learned a lot while following TBDBITL. I found myself in a lot of little towns and odd middle areas. I’m ashamed I knew so little about my own state and learned how important it is to get off the interstate to get to know a place.

  5. Ardeith

    Mary Beth, I usually love your writing, but why the hate for the Columbus Blue Jackets? I think we Reds fans would be happy to see the Reds be “medium” again, if that meant making the playoffs for several straight years. (Okay, not advancing, but playoff appearances, winning records are better than medium.)

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh I don’t hate them at all. They’re just medium. I was thrilled for their come-from-behind victory this week and hope they are medium no longer 🙂

  6. Daytonnati

    I did pay $27.50 for two Moerlein lagers at the ballpark yesterday afternoon. They weren’t THAT much better than the two Bud Lights for $21. Perhaps saving $6.50 added to the experience?

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      but $27.50 for TWO! That’s a deal!

  7. Mary Beth Ellis

    “life in the swirls” is so pretty! I like that!

  8. Mary Beth Ellis

    I will not do Toledo. I rather cherish my venereal disease-free record.

  9. Mary Beth Ellis

    There is no Jeni’s. Only Graeters.

  10. Mary Beth Ellis

    Much as I support exporting the Cardinals, Mexican food and I do not get along. It just wouldn’t work.