That day on the third floor of Mother of Mercy High School, Ms. Hawthorne held forth on the importance and value of turds.

Our intrepid World Cultures teacher was discussing her attendance at an archaeological excavation (she was the type of teacher, not uncommon at Mercy, who went on archaeological excavations, and went snorkelling, and journeyed to India, and Rolllerbladed across the stage at the all-school talent show.) She described how everyone was quietly digging and sweeping in their assigned squares, when suddenly a great ruckus arose across the site. People cast aside their trowels and brushes and started running.

Excitement burst through the team. A find! Ms. Hawthorne joined the knot of scholars with great anticipation. Was it jewelry? Pottery? The Ark of the Covenant?

“Ladies,” she said, “it was a turd.”

Ancient turds, Ms. Hawthorne explained, are, to researchers, more valuable than jewelry, arrowheads, or bone shards. That’s because, by analyzing a turd, archaeologists garner information about diet, environment, and potential migration patterns. What were the people who lived here eating, and where? And why? The turd will tell.

Ladies and gentlemen, what the Cincinnati Reds have laid before us in this moment is a turd. But we are not archaeologists (well, the vast majority of us, anyway) and we do not require a microscope to examine this output. It is long since petrified with underspending, disrespect, and divisive ideological meddling. Still, it is awesome in its instructive value.

The fanbase that was long since taken for granted has not yet sold out our great ethnological festival, Opening Day. Yesterday, the Reds announced that our great boy-king, Joe Burrow, will accept the crown of our greatest honor: The first game’s first pitch. (Best Twitter take on the matter: “Don’t let Castellini near Burrow. I don’t want him going to Seattle.”)

We could read the spring presentation of our autumn monarch as a great gift to the people, a cultural feting of a tremendous victory that crosses the lines of sport. Or, we could see it a maneuver for lucre, a panicked alliance with a neighbouring kingdom that somehow blundered its way into discovering the Northwest Passage.

How are we to approach our turd? There are nutrients in a turd, but only as a remnant of having served another purpose. The academic value in a turd is in what’s left over, in what has passed through the system and is no longer useful. We are left, then, to find worth in the traces of what was once whole.

The value, for baseball fans, the comfort of the everyday (at least they’re on the field!) and the occasional sweet berries as we happen upon them (at least Votto’s on the field!) Whoever left that ancient turd behind had no concept that the act of going about his or her life would result in a great celebration of PhDs some seven thousand years hence. He or she was simply tending to a basic bodily function. There was no thought behind the matter. There was no plan. There was just squatting.

So we’re going to have to celebrate the turd, 2022 Reds fans. We are going to have to learn what it has to teach us, or we are in for yet another one. There might be tremendous gold on the other side of the site, but are you still going to be standing by with your trowel and your brush if there is?

20 Responses

  1. NorMichRed

    Leave it to our sage baseball philosopher MBE to accurately compare Vegetable Bob’s offseason body of work to a coprolite! (Look it up.) The difference is, we think we can accurately discern the fetid odor of Bob’s recent offerings, and the experience is not pretty to any of our senses, while the coprolite has long since lost its distinctive aroma and we now must analyze it to dissect ancient history.

    Many years ago, several of us in the Geology Department at the great state institution in the Queen City crafted an off-campus drinking club called CRAP, which stood for Coprolite Research Association of Paleoscatologists. Maybe CRAP should be revived to more analytically parse the current state of baseball in the QC.

    I’m actually commenting here in part because MBE’s posts draw an interesting, perhaps an eclectic, cross section of readers to RLN. And I have a recommendation. If you’ve not yet listened to Jim Day’s recent podcast with Joey Votto, give it a listen. Whether you are a fan of the guy, as I am, or think otherwise, which makes for great hot stove discussion, you’ll leave with a greater respect for the person he is. There’s a lot about this guy that goes far, far beyond the normal stereotype of a pro ballplayer. I sure hope the baseball gods smile fairly on him this season!

  2. Gonzo Reds

    Well… that’s a piece of literary work that would make even Mr Hanky proud!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      that goes on the LinkedIn profile

  3. Pablo

    Vegetable Bob is desperately trying to polish this turd!

    Great analogy Mary Beth! As the noted philosopher Sam Wyche once said, “there’s golf to be played and tennis to be served.” Scrooge Castellini won’t get one penny from my inflation flattened wallet.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I forgot Sam said that!! What a kerfuffle that was.

  4. MK

    Not the most appetizing article as I sat down to breakfast. Thank goodness I now know later I will be fulfilling some future archaeologists dream

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Sorry! Does it help that I did a lot of hitting of the delete key, muttering, “Nope, too graphic for the brunch crowd”

  5. Mark Moore

    MBE … what a piece (the writing and also the piece of turd you reference)!!

    We’ll watch to see if something springs to life, but if it doesn’t, we can refer back to this article and say with authority, “Yep! She called it.”

    Thanks for the chuckle. Some days, it’s all we have to lean on. In the case of the turd, we can only hope it’s petrified enough to hold our weight.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Well said. As of today, we’re in the season now, whether we like it or not.

  6. Daytonnati

    Thanks MBE! You seem to have successfully moved the needle ever-so-slightly on RLN’s vocabulary acceptance standards. Or, more likely, is Doug taking the day off?? 🙂

    • Doug Gray

      No off days for me between mid-February and November!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I think “turd” was always acceptable 🙂
      I’m a LADY.

  7. LDS

    Having spent a summer between semesters on an archeology dig, this analogy was a hoot. Let’s hope that this season isn’t a new pile of but odds are against us.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I am greatly honored to have the seal of approval from a real live (summertime) archaeologist!

  8. Scott C

    Great analogy to reds baseball via our current ownership, or the past few owners for that matter. Whatever value is left in that turd is probably going to be sent to Seattle, or LA, or New York or wherever it is that values actual baseball skill. At least we have Joey.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Joey is having fun. Good for him.

  9. bryant

    I’m sorry, but this article isn’t working for me. Its a tad pretentious and doesn’t really live up to its pretense.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      You have my solemn promise that all future turd-related articles will strive to meet the lofty goals this website sets for them.

  10. hokiebo

    A bit late to the party on this one, but exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you MBE. Another gem.