Sometimes the horse racing fan in me obscures the etiquette of when it is acceptable to depart your team’s losing effort. If a chosen horse isn’t performing as expected, there’s not long to suffer, unless you’re doing it on NBC while Bob Baffert is carried aloft on a golden litter to the highest reaches of the clouds.

People don’t leave a horse race while it’s still going on. There’s always hope. You hold your ticket, and if you don’t hold your ticket, you can always hold another drink. We may puke on your shoes in the grandstand or abandon our children in an attempt scratch out a living trying to guess which jockey actually ate half a raisin that day, but we have our standards.

This isn’t quite the case in a baseball game. Before you find yourself in the perilous situation of deciding whether or not to change the channel or depart the scene, please talk to  your family about when Cleting out is best for you.

To Clete out is the process of abandoning a sporting event earlier than hoped for or expected. My family has named it in honor of my grandfather, Clete, who lived to be 92 and yet did not have time to waste on subpar efforts. He wielded his remote control the way a Roman emperor used his thumb at gladiator games.

“Holy cats. Look at this,” he’d say, a German sense of impatience and general doom slamming into the suspicion that every single person involved, especially him, was worthy of better than whatever was unfolding at the field at the moment. When thus displeased, the remote was aimed at the TV set and the Cincinnati Reds were no more.

I do not mean to suggest he was a fair-weather fan; my grandfather was born in 1909 and saw everything possible with this team with the sole exception of its founding. Even after Cleting out in disgust on a Monday, he was back on Tuesday for first pitch. Losing alone is not sufficient reason to Clete out; losing due to failure to advance the runners with the bases loaded and zero outs is.

It is, however, permissible to Clete out when stakes are high, or losing is unexpected and therefore intolerable. He missed a good deal of Game 4 of the 1990 World Series, as a matter of fact, during that terrifying first inning when the A’s started loading bases.

“Well, that’s it,” he said as the ball sailed over Jose Rijo’s head. “They’re gonna lose this one and probably the next four too.” The remote was called for, and the Reds were banished from his presence, replaced by Going My Way. My entire family, in attendance of our usual Saturday night visit, sat in the black-and-white aftermath, fully aware that the only way we were going to see the rest of this game was to depart his presence. So we left.

Cleting out can be executed loudly and angrily, or with a calm sense of detachment. There is no “I’m not mad; I’m disappointed” with Cleting out. You’re just done.

I should point out here that Clete’s authority extended beyond baseball. He was also a minor pope, whose judgment on whether or not daily Mass may be missed under a particular set of circumstances was akin to canon law and applied to one’s activities for the next twenty-four hours. If you’re too sick/it’s too icy/there’s too much bombing to go to Mass, then you’re too sick/it’s too icy/there’s too much bombing to go anywhere else for the rest of the day. This also applied to team performance. So if you’ve abandoned the game, the players in question must endure without your presence for the remaining innings, no matter how valiant the comeback.

Techniques on Cleting out vary depending upon the form of consuming the game in progress, some of which I, as Clete’s direct descendant, have refined. When Cleting out from a game on the car radio, for example, I punch the power button so as to cut off the all noise entirely, particularly after a stupid play, so as to better register a highly pained sense of disapproval and allow the resulting silence to give rise to reflection on all who have been wronged this day.

The ultimate form of Cleting out is to physically leave a game one is attending, which should only take place under the most dire of circumstances, such as your own death. Clete’s directives classified an in-person baseball game as a great event that was—and this is key– expensive. It is imperative to stay long enough to get your money’s worth.

While the occasional Cleting out can be excused at a home game, it is never ever permissible when acting as the visiting team, so as not to give the other fans the satisfaction of the sight of your emotional defeat.

The rules of Cleting out do not apply while attending the athletic performance of a family member. You’re in that lawn chair for the duration.

I want to see your own parameters for Cleting out in the comments. I am more forgiving than my grandfather, but less resolutely abandoning. When do you find it acceptable to Clete out?

24 Responses

  1. greenmtred

    Your grandfather sounds like my kindred spirit. I Clete out frequently, and poor play is a criterion almost as much as the score. I find it easier to abandon a game as I get older and more aware of my dwindling hours. And, of course, the increasingly one-dimensional nature of the game provides less fodder for my imagination.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      You and Clete would have been excellent listening-on-the-porch partners.

  2. SultanofSwaff

    My Cleting decision logic is a sliding scale. A 5 run deficit after 7 innings is a no brainer, down 7 after 5 is a safe bet, etc. etc. The only exceptions are if there is a young player who I’m interested in gets an opportunity.

    We have to be careful, however. No one wants to be accused of being a fair weather fan.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh a sliding scale is an excellent approach. Clete approves.

  3. Richard Fitch

    My best Clete Out came attending a Lehigh Valley IronPigs game to watch Nick Senzel and the Louisville bats dismantle the Pigs. It was 80 degrees at gametime and I was there to see Senzel play second base. While he made a couple of fine defensive plays, he hadn’t done much at the plate, so in the 8th inning, facing a 2 hour drive back to NYC and a temperature drop into the 50s, I headed for the parking lot. Senzel homered just as I was leaving the lot.

    Somehow, you always end up paying for Cleting Out.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I made my father miss many a fireworks display at Riverfront because I had to go to the bathroom.
      Sorry dad.

  4. RojoBenjy

    Clete out criteria for me–when i get disgusted.

    The things that may do that are myriad.

    Mostly terrible pitching and/or bad defense that leads to runs scoring in the context of a large or growing run deficit

    MBE, i used “Clete out” in Sunday’s thread because I learned it from context here, but didn’t know it’s origin. Thanks for making me legitimate with this story!

    I Cleted when the Cubs tied it 12-12 FWIW

    • Mark Moore

      I know you did, sir … and yet we overcame. I’m generally in the same camp you are on when to Clete.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s my bro! Spread the Cleting out joy!!!!

  5. Rednat

    Great stuff Mary Beth. after 30 years of 2 losing franchises in the city i was born and raised in, I basically Clete- out at the beginning of the season to be honest. I do manage to listen to spring training games and love going to minor league games. for me Cleting out is a way to protect my physical and mental Well being lol

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I get it. My grandparents somehow wound up with a teddy bear name Reddy Bear that… well… nobody knows Reddy Bear’s exact origin; probably one of us grandkids. When the Reds were doing particularly badly, he was turned to face the wall.

      Reddy Bear spent a lot of time facing the wall.

  6. Mark Moore

    “The rules of Cleting out do not apply while attending the athletic performance of a family member. You’re in that lawn chair for the duration.”

    That’s priceless!!

    Last evening with the near no-no and complete drubbing was certainly cause to Clete out (and I did very early). I still checked a score hoping for a miracle, but even that ceased when it became painfully clear no miracle was on the horizon.

    I tend to agree that attending in person means you stay (at least until the 7th). I still recall the walk-off David Ross hit against the Cards one night and am glad I stayed for that (general admission). That was in 2006.

    BP level or pending heartburn play a role certainly. It’s probably more variable for me in the end. Kind of “I know the limit when I see it”.

    I’m glad you wrote this piece and have ensured the right to Clete remains for us as a collective.

    • Mary Beth Ellis


      love it

      (It is earned, not granted.)

  7. Daytonnati

    I will Clete out of disgust these days, but sometimes it is after I set the DVR, “just in case.” Is that cheating?

    • Mark Moore

      Prudent … cheating … covering your … all the same and all good.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Not in the slightest. This way, if the team stops Cubbing, you can enjoy its fruits.

      If the Reds didn’t want you to leave, they wouldn’t have started being terrible in the first place.

      I mean that’s on them.

  8. Joe Shaw

    Back when WIFE and I were still dating, the Reds had a mid-summer homestand against the Tribe. We got tickets, our first time seeing our respective favorite teams in action against each other. There was a good bit of trash talking in advance of the game: her being from the Cleveland area and me being from actual civilization.

    We sat in the right field bleachers, where the sun baked us like three day old hamburgers under a heat lamp before the game started. And things didn’t get better as the game progressed, either. By the 6th inning, I was pretty sure I had stage IV skin cancer, and the Reds were down by enough runs to make me wonder whether all that suffering was worth it.

    She took pity on me, suggested we leave early, maybe grab something to drink on the way back to the apartment. I agreed, saying through gritted teeth obligatory congratulations on a game well-played. She took it in grace and stride, refusing to lord the loss over me. Young love can be quaint, sometimes.

    Then this happened:

    I proposed a few months later. We were married a few months after that. We live in Florida, now, with five kids: all of whom are Indians fans.

    “Why can’t you just let me have one?” I asked.

    “Because Adam Dunn,” she says.

    And that is all she has to say about that.

    • Mark A Moore

      Thanks for sharing that clip. Loved that the late Ryan Freel was at the front end with a walk.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      See this is the kind of thing you need to work out before a marriage. First religion and then which team the children will be raised with.

  9. Scott C

    I wanted to teach my boys to never give up, so particularly if went to a game at Riverfront, we stayed to the bitter end. Being a North Carolina basketball fan I had plenty of fodder to work with as I would continually remind my boys that Carolina once scored 8 points in 17 seconds to beat Duke (1974). And Carolina often came back to win games and in the 70’s the Reds did as well. I do have to admit that I am not quite as optimistic with the Reds as I was. I “Cleted Out” the other night when the Reds were down 8-0 to the Pale Sox.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yeah that’s a classic permissible Cleting out. He’d allow it.