If this is all we get, as a city, we need to grasp it.

I have no emotional connection with the University of Cincinnati outside of possessing several family members who attended there and my parents’ curious prohibition that I should even apply there myself. As a high school freshman–the same year UC reached the Final Four– I attended a summer workshop on media there. We were placed in Calhoun Hall. Here is where I discovered that condoms are available via bathroom vending machine. That this was a great shock and tremendous shelter-break should indicate how long ago any team in this town has come anywhere close to championship advancement.

As long as I’ve lived here, Clifton is a thing to be anxiously driven through and avoided. Where do you park? Who’s next going to leap out in front of the front fender, head buried in phone? Why so many hospitals? Stop being one-way!

So I cannot name a single player at a single position on this undefeated Bearcats team save for a friend’s nephew. Yet, I reserved two seats at a local Cotton Bowl watch party for New Year’s Eve Day. I did so despite having zero emotional investment in college football and an even dimmer desire to spend time around other people, 99.999% of whom I have never met.

I did it because winning is fun.

Entire generations have grown up unaware of this, particularly Reds fans. The Bengals will start well, then commit fourteen penalties in a row, enough to back them right up into the opposite endzone and eventually out of the season. The Reds hang around the margins until they actually have to do something about toppling themselves into the wild card race, then collapse immediately.

But I am of a chosen age; I saw a Super Bowl visit and a World Series championship, and I saw them as a child. And these events touched every aspect of every life. There were Who Dey Sundaes for sale at Northgate Mall and prayers in churches for the health of the bullpen. Entire classrooms did the Ickey Shuffle. There were trademarked hairbows. It didn’t matter how you voted or who you loved. We were in this together.

It was rare and it was the very best of humanity, and I miss it. So when I saw an updated AP poll in the grocery store, I bent over my phone and put in the RSVP. It was homemade, earnest– a monolith of hope.

We introverts prefer life on the self-side and to endure our commercial breaks in private. But not when everyone’s backing a winner. When there’s a winner on the big screen, you high-five strangers, slosh the beer, share the humanity.

It happened used to happen in this town, I promise. Perhaps it will happen once more on our baseball diamond. Until then, we take solace in the spiral-bound record keeping in the aisle of the Kroger.

Best of luck to the Bearcats. You made us be in this together.

18 Responses

  1. LDS

    Yes, winning is fun. And no, we haven’t seen much in recent decades. Growing up in southern Indiana (right across from Louisville), I remember the schools setting up TVs so we could all watch the Reds play the Orioles between classes. Reds fans were everywhere and of all ages. In college during the Big Red Machine, there were fans glued to TVs all over campus. The guy next door to me threw his TV out the window when Fisk hit that 12th inning HR. Bad ownership and lousy records have eroded the Reds fanbase. And sadly, I don’t see that changing in the near future.

    • DataDumpster

      During that same series in 1970, our “shop class” teacher rolled in the TV so we could watch the game during the class. Although I enjoyed the opportunity to use saws, hammers and the like to build things in 5th or 6th grade, I still remember that day with all us in rapt attention to the game and not a sound of buzzing or banging on wood to interrupt our developing fandom.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        I was just about to say that this sounded like the beginning of a “and that’s why I have two fingers on this hand” story.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      sounds like that tv has had a better post-Big Red Machine existence than the rest of us

  2. Scott C

    Winning is fun. I have actually been around for 6 World Series Appearances by the Reds, the last three they won. I witnessed two super Bowl appearances with the Bengals (That was before Mike Brown took over and ran the club into the ground). And since I am a UNC fan I have witnessed 5 NCAA Basketball Championships. (I was around in 1957 win they won under Frank McGuire but at 5 years old I had not discovered sports yet. So I have been blessed with being able to see my teams reach the pinnacle and there is nothing like it on this earth. You walk on air for at least a week every time.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      More than a week. I still nod in satisfaction over the 1990 championship: “Nobody thought we could do it, and WE SWEPT ‘EM.”

  3. Rednat

    my favorite local teams in order are

    1. Reds
    2. Xavier Musketeers mens basketball
    3. Bengals
    4. uc men’s basketball

    uc football lies somewhere in between the cyclones and the cincinnati zoo cheetah race as my favorite sporting events but having said that it has been so long since we have had a winner in this town I am somewhat excited.

    i would say the 1991/1992 uc basketball team was the last team i really thought could “win it all”.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      lol I need zoo cheetah spiritwear!

      Further UC Final Four perspective: On the day of the game, I wore black stirrup pants.

      Stirrup. Pants.

  4. Mark Moore

    I’ve kept an eye on the Bearcats football team for a while. The ND fans in my house howled when that smack-down happened up in South Bend. I saw something marvelous. And I continued to watch and track them, right up to their undefeated finish and selection to the CFP Elite-4.

    I know exactly where I’ll be come Friday … watching in my living room with great anticipation. Any one of the teams has a shot, and I include the Bearcats whole heartedly. To see them square up against Michigan a little later would be so very sweet!

    I’m just hoping the games are played and the players stay healthy. This may be as close to a Queen City championship as we’ll come for a while.

    Oh, and the menu for Friday will feature homemade pizza, done on my “big grill” using pizza stones. First time doing it on that apparatus … looking forward to it.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I have many, MANY Ohio State fans on my timeline, and the month of November looked like this:

      Nov 1: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL go Sparty!
      Nov 27: wait

      Enjoy the pizza πŸ™‚

  5. west larry

    i’m changing the subject. mlb rumors is reporting the estimated worth of each majority owner. Mr. C is one of the poorer owners. He is listed as having a net worth of 400 million. Maybe the reds are in a little bit poor, compared to the other owners.

    • Mark Moore

      That’s just his slice of a much bigger pie

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I like this topic change. I’ll take his jet when he fire-sales everything.

  6. Bred

    The Bearcats have already WON! Maybe they will or won’t win another game this year, but to me they are champions! Yes, beyond winning the conference they have up lifted the lives multiple 3 star recruits to heights they were not predicted to attain, united a campus, and brought together not just the Cincy area but also all of us who live around the country and probably the world. Along with all of you I will be watching and rooting for the Bearcats. I might be an island here in Texas, but I hope to hear you all yell and holler at the game, and will do my best so that you can hear me. GO CATS!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Awwwwww, that’s such a good way to put it! They went from “Aw, they’re better than we thought, that’s cute” to the playoffs πŸ™‚ We’ll be listening for you.

  7. TR

    A big football weekend for Cincy and the Metro. Both the Bearcats and the Bengals are underdogs, but who cares? Time will tell.