At 7:43 PM on Monday, January 24, 2002, this was your skyline, Cincinnati.

A crappy frosted iPhone photo doesn’t really transmit how very orange this all was. The Coliseum. The Great American tiara. The 5/3 building. The very sky itself. Orange.

Young and medium-young people, this is what those of use who have experienced this kind of thing before– winning– were so hoping you could experience. This orange sky.  The all-encompassing unity of it all. The yard signs.

Yes, Bengals, the very ads on the winding streets of the West Side proclaim your glory. The excitement runs deep. The bakeries offer Baby Joey King Cakes. You have our attention.

The Bearcats couldn’t do it. FC couldn’t do it.

And the Reds couldn’t do it.

It feels differently this time around; my world is no longer confined to a sixth-grade classroom and the one-mile radius surrounding it.  I’m looking at the same river– although its skyline has radically altered in three decades–but in that time, I have left it, wandered the wastelands of the Nationals and the Marlins, and returned. Found a husband. I lost a father. I no longer care if I win a Pulitzer or not. I saw the towers fall. I am distilled.

And so I’m at a distance. I’m enjoying the enjoyment. I have been hurt; I have been morally disappointed and downright shoved away by every single franchise in this town. So have you, I imagine, but in your own ways and for your own reasons. And I am still coming to terms with attaching my self-worth and happiness to something other the vagaries of the outside world– of which way the coin flips or the wind shifts.

But this didn’t happen by accident:

I do not like that last sentence. You, as a baseball fan, also should not like that last sentence. But how do we demand better from an ownership that knows our fandom is generationally bound– that if we’re so hysterically forgiving after a 31 year drought, it stands to reason that we will also come rushing back to the Reds Team Shop after 26 year silence.

Will the day come when that skyline is red? Is it just a matter of patience? It’s difficult to imagine such a thing when, just as we should be anticipating the packing of the Arizona-bound trucks, we don’t even know if spring training will take place. I am wary of all of it– the Baby Joeys and the way the MLB doesn’t seem to particularly care if I show up or not.

So instead of feeling my heart leap when my husband woke me up after last week’s game by screaming “CAN YOU BELEIVE IT?!” (yes, I fell asleep late in the first quarter) I clapped my hands when I saw that rookie Evan McPherson’s jersey is sold out for at least the next six months. Good for him. Good for the little ones and big ones who have found a new hero and a story to tell those to who will come after. Your lives are different now; this moment, these weeks are now grafted onto your DNA, whether you like it or not.

Perhaps, Reds fans, we’ve simply been making demands in the wrong place and in the wrong way:

What’s interesting here is the timing. The decisive play of that final drive was not the field goal, but the interception that turned the ball around. As the Titans crouched into position, Bengals coach Zac Taylor was frantically attempting to call a time out. The refs didn’t see him. The play went forward. And the whole world shifted. This unfolded on the field just as the nuns bent their heads to pray.

Now this is not to say there weren’t some sisters in Nashville straining mightily to nudge McPherson’s kick out of the uprights. It is to say that the reason the Bengals were even playing that day is the result of good decisions, cultural changes, and a willingness to open a wallet.

Enjoy what you can while you can enjoy it. We do not know when the color of the night sky will change again.

(In case you want to apply what the good sisters did on Sunday afternoon, click here.)

Bonus familial orangeness:

17 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    A city celebrating is a glorious thing. The addition of the Sisters “influencing” the outcome is a fantastic angle – I love it! With the sad demise of the Bills (I am a native Upstate NY’er, though not a true Bills fan) at the hands of a very talented KC team, I will gladly turn my meager support to the Queen City Tigres for their duration.

    Oh to see those lights all glowing Red! But at this point, I’ll settle for baseball in 2022. I don’t know how much of it we’ll have, but I have some hope.

    Thanks for helping us along, MBE. We need it now more than ever.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Many thanks for reading. Man. The Bills, the Bengals, AND the Reds…. I’m so sorry, dude.

      • Mark Moore

        Oh it gets worse. The last NFL team I really followed was the Dolphins. That’s one of the reasons I gave up NFL games some time ago. Insult to injury, I’m also a Syracuse Orange fan, so NCAAB is a complete wash-out this season.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      Mark: As a West-Central NY native (Allegany County), I was hoping for a Bills win but it wasn’t to be. I do follow football, although not as closely as baseball and soccer and at least one of the two teams I root for advanced.

      • Mark Moore

        Central NY native then lived in the Southern Tier for a while.

        That game was amazing. The meme I saw that made it real was about what the real score would have been if the NFL had “better OT rules”. KC still won, but it was 142 to 139 after 19 OT’s.

  2. LDS

    Something tells me that we Reds fans will be waiting many more years before we have cause to celebrate. Unless Bob sells the team and the new ownership cleans out the front office and the field management. These guys just aren’t serious. I hope you’re not still waiting for and writing about the Reds doing something when you get to my age.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      uuuuuuggggghhhhh I don’t even want to think about it… I’m struggling enough as it is right now.

  3. Bred

    The embers of my Reds fandom now only faintly glow covered by ashes of years of losing and poor management. Much like my life the past is longer than my future. For the Reds I can only hope that sooner rather than later my fandom can be rekindled, but none of that is up to me. Others control my fandom fate. A spark of hope is all I long for to reenergize my interest.
    Perhaps your dream of a Pulitzer will be reborn by some random occurrence that rumbles so loudly that it can not be put aside any longer. Listen for it as you have talent, and believing in yourself is the biggest battle we all fight. St. Joe has reminded us that is true.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      aaaawwwww, it’s been a while since anyone cheered for me! Thank you! I’ll do my best.

  4. Old Big Ed

    The pro/college final four thing is a bit underwhelming, because there are only a handful of possibilities, most of which requires something implausible like Vanderbilt or Boston College making the college semis. It could feasibly happen in LA with USC or UCLA, or in Miami (though the U is in Coral Gables). Pitt and Houston, maybe.

    It was certainly an outstanding season for the Bearcats, though.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      It’s important to discern between the Miami in Ohio and the other, lesser Miami in Florida.
      I am amongst my people.

      • TR

        History is with the RedHawks 1809. The U in Fla. 1926.

  5. Scott C

    A lot of things have happened since we had a championship in Cincinnati. I don’t know whether to rejoice or cry over your sentence. “It is to say that the reason the Bengals were even playing that day is the result of good decisions, cultural changes, and a willingness to open a wallet.” I am just not hopeful the Reds are able or willing to make those things happen.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I don’t even know for sure what the Bengals have been up to, but it’s clearly more than the Reds.

  6. Brad

    I always enjoy reading your posts. The one thing that should bother the reds ownership group you put perfectly. ” I am wary of all of it– the Baby Joeys and the way the MLB doesn’t seem to particularly care if I show up or not”. The regular fan has felt this way for a while. I hope that this changes for the better, But I’m not holding my breath.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      They take us for granted. And we let them. And it’s going to catch up eventually, I’m afraid.