It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re on social media. You’re there, and pretty much every single person there knows all about you, including what you believe and why. You don’t have to ask what they think about this. They’ll tell you all about what you think, and what they think about what you think, even if you don’t think it at all.

No matter how long I’ve subjected myself to this cesspool–I first heard of Twitter during a writing program for the 2008 election, and thought it sounded like a colossally stupid waste of time, and was, as it happens, correct– I am often amazed all over again when scrolling through whichever form of self-hatred my field of employ currently demands that I hurl myself into. Why were these people yelling at me?

Well, not me, personally (although, often enough, it is me, assuming I’ve noted Detroit for being, sadly, Detroit.) They’re yelling at whatever political position I happen to (silently) hold, and others are yelling at the positions the opposition happens to hold, and since the great void of discourse doesn’t have a username, it’s often easier to address it all to the nearest available avatar. Although I studiously avoid such posts on all apps, the yelling is loud enough that it breaks through the timeline.

The upshot is that I often find myself flummoxed to discover that, since I believe X, then I must also think Y, and am therefore a Z, when, in fact, I barely believe X. You like daffodils, so you’re a Virgo, and that makes you a terrorist, thou pox upon democracy.

How did we get here?

Well, for one thing, I used to help it happen. And I can verify that we get here by barely leaving our own thought-orbits. Thanks to follower algorithms, this can happen with zero effort or intention. Sometimes I ignore of the best advice I’ve ever received (“Don’t read the comments”) to tunnel down into the phenomenon, and it’s utterly astounding, the things that people assume I think. I don’t suggest you try it sometime.

I’m often left with the phone slack in my hand: “But… that’s not what I think at all. At all. I just kind of like daffodils, that’s all, because they’re pretty and early in the spring, and it has never, ever occurred to me to mow over all the tulips and fertilize the soil with ground-up puppies to increase the March of the Daffodils because the Pope said so. You’re accusing me of believing things I don’t believe and never did. You’re actually, literally mad at a person you have never met for no reason.”

So guess how I feel about that? Pretty mad, as it happens.

That means it’s time for me to put the phone down and do something constructive instead. Often I find strangers on the street and complain about how the West Side doesn’t have an Olive Garden yet. But the easy temptation is to stay mad, and find a user name across the aisle to accuse of “being triggered” so that they can type “COPE” back in your direction, and then everybody’s Hitler.

And if you think this kind of labelling isn’t happening to you, rest assured that it is, all day long, on all possible channels. No matter what you think, and how you came to think it, there’s someone out there who hates you very, very much– not because you think what you think, mind you, but because of what that person thinks what you think. It’s not like sports, where we all hate the Cubs for good reason.

This problem seems worse at the moment because, at a time when we’re still recovering from a pandemic, frightened about inflation, and uneasy over foreign policy, we’ve decided to calm everything down by bringing abortion into the discussion. If you don’t know where an abandoned Cincinnati subway tunnels is, it’s an excellent time to find one.

I have to wonder if this is why we’re finally seeing the fruits of the “Sell the Team, Bob” campaign that’s been brewing for a lot longer than the national media realizes. Have you noticed that Bob himself is pretty much staying out of all this? That’s his name on the banner tow over Great American Ball Park, but he is not, Elon Musk-style, flailing away in the mud pit he just re-soaked with a firehose.

Then again, why should we? We found an avatar, and it is Reds president Phil Castellini. Phil doesn’t own the Reds all by himself, but he sure as breadsticks is the one standing in front of a microphone on Non-Opening Day, saying very stupid things. Just for the sake of argument… maybe Phil wants to increase payroll. Maybe Phil tried to retain the front-office fleeing masses. Maybe Phil wants to be in one of Joey Votto’s TikTok videos but he’s just not a very good dancer. Maybe.

We’re going by what the man has said, and what we think he thinks. Usually what a man says and does is a fairly good indicator of the rest of it all, but now that he’s issued an apology that absolutely no one accepts, we’re left to fill in the blanks.

Phil made the mistake of saying the worst possible thing at the worst possible time. For the fans were tired. We’ve waited. We were patient. We’ve shown up. We’ve waved our arms at RedZilla. We kept the lamps trimmed while we waited at the locked door, awaiting the bridegroom. And then the son of the rich man pushed over the whole camel and every piece of straw on it. Every loss of every season of every fade comes of the past three decades now comes down to Phil, there in front of the Reds dugout wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day.

And, of course, his partner in crime, the MLB: Who is the MLB, anyway? The team owners? The lawyers? The shareholders? The unions? The PR advisers? Whoever decided that the combination of open cups of pop and giant bags of shelled peanuts was a good idea? Who are we mad at? We don’t know. There’s no one Twitter handle. So we’re mad at all of them, everybody, and we’re taking our ticket money and we’re climbing a reservoir and yelling at Bob and Phil and the rest of them via billboard.

In the absence of a solution, it’s easier to hunt down the cause of the problem. I don’t know how to fix the Reds any more than I know how to stop a gallon of gas from costing more than a Miami Vice yacht. In any case, daffodil season is past, and everybody’s moved on to the next microturn of the planet.

23 Responses

  1. ryan

    I’d also want a Trader Joe’s on the west side, anything as an alternative to Kroger

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Imagine the absolute rioting if they put a Whole Foods on Delhi Pike.

  2. Rut

    Sometimes, though, people actually DO say what they mean. It often is an “unspoken truth”, and that is why people become rightfully angered.

    Phil did not say anything that was untrue — it was just very unkind. The fact that the masses are now being unkind in return is a rare instance of society working properly for once.

    There is a lot of manufactured faux outrage that has infested our every interaction, be political or personal or whatever. I just happen to be among the people who feel that whatever the blowback Phil et al get is well deserved in this case.

    Also, I am not now nor have ever been on any social media platform. As such I cannot assert I am better for it or worse off without it; but I can say that I do not feel like i am missing anything and do not see anything that would make me change course on that.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh he meant it, but what I’m saying is we should know some of what’s going on here. It’s often said that Phil should shut up, but sunlight is the best disinfectant. The truth ain’t pretty, but I’d prefer that to spit-polished PR statements that ultimately tell us nothing.

  3. Allan Chandler

    … I know how to fix the Reds. So do most of us. Because we WANT to fix the Reds. Bob, Phil, and whoever don’t really want to. Because if they did, they would have done it by now.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I am also wondering about the other team on the river. Do you think Mike Brown knew how to fix the Bengals and did it, or he just got lucky with a single draft pick?

      • Michael

        @Mary Beth,

        First thank you again for a well thought out, written article. I would say the Bengals have made a series of very good moves. Was it luck? I think some of it but I can at least look at them and see there was a plan in place when they brought in Taylor. Not sure I can say the same with the Reds.

  4. LDS

    Algorithms like analytics lead to all kinds of false impressions. As opinionated as I obviously am, I’ve never been tempted to join the Twitter cesspool. Your past willingness to do so makes you far braver than I. Sadly, I think the Reds problems are systemic and short of a good spring cleaning from the ownership to the field, the future doesn’t look too bright.

  5. Mark Moore

    “Don’t hear what I’m not saying …”

    It’s frustrating to have other outcomes projected on to what you write or say. It’s the old guilty by association.

    But in this case, Phil screwed it up in a major way at, as you noted, the worst possible time coming off an extended period of angst on (what we hope is) the tail end of a global pandemic. Talk about the perfect storm in which to be publicly stupid.

    Were our guys to go on a hot streak, some of it would tone down. But, as we keep seeing night after night, that looks more elusive dream than possible reality. The injuries, the late Spring Training, and all the rest just add fuel to the fire.

    Thanks for helping ground us, MBE. I’m at the door waiting as you note. But I’m not sure when/if I’ll walk in even if it opens. I’ll find other passions and outlets. I think most of us will. Sadly, things won’t be the same again.

    This is typed as I see my Dave Concepcion bobblehead on the window ledge in my office.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Dave Concepcion fixes a lot of ills, my friends.

  6. Jimbo44CN

    Thanks Mary Beth, another great article. Texts and youtube is enough for me, dont need, don’t want twitter. And I am old enough to remember the great teams of the lates 60s and 70s, Golly how I miss those days.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      You’ve left out the great polyester era of the 80s.

  7. GMan88

    $244 million in payroll separates top from bottom in MLB. In the NFL, it’s about $20 million. That’s fair and equitable. Coaching and other variables actually matter. In 1990 when the Reds won it all $16 million separated the top payroll from the bottom. The Reds roster made $9 million less than the top team, the ROYALS.

    The current system is broken and does not work. Too unfair. The Reds cannot compete. The days of the Twins, Reds, Tigers, and Orioles sneaking up and winning it all are long gone.

    • Rednat

      great point GMan. similar to the 50s/60s with the yankees and dodgers dominated. the question is will these teams allow the smaller market teams to be competitive again as they were in the 70s, 80s and 90s

    • Michael

      Ironically spending a ton has not necessarily translated to winning the world Series. In the last 8 years this in order has been the team payroll rankings.

      11th
      2nd
      7th
      1st
      17th
      6th
      17th

      The on constant has been teams having to spend some money to be good unless you are Tampa, Cleveland or to an extent Oakland.

      • BK

        According to your data:
        – 50% of the last 8 World Series winners have come from the top 7 teams in terms of payroll (23% of 30 teams)
        – No team from the bottom 13 teams (43% of 30 teams) won a World Series

        This data actually shows a pretty strong correlation between payroll and winning a World Series.

  8. Michael

    @BK,

    That is a fair way to look at it. Another route one can go is 3 teams in the middle third have won the world series in the last eight years. Adding in the runner up we have 7th,27th,8th,3rd,1st,23rd and 20th.

    so the question is can you get a world series with a middling payroll and then win from there. 3/8ths have won it with payrolls in the middle 3rd. Another 3/8ths have made it with payrolls in the bottom third.

    In summary and imo spending money definitely can help but in the grand scheme of things being a well run organization will get you chances to win it all.

    Sadly the reds are not spending much and also not well run once again imo.

    • BK

      I certainly agree with your summation. That said, the fact is the Reds could be very well run, spend every available penny of cash-flow and remain 10s of millions of dollars behind the top 8 teams in terms of payroll … and it would definitely affect their chances of winning. Other pro sports leagues have fixed this problem and will continue to win market share from MLB over time.

      • Michael

        @BK,

        You did a great job summarizing the financial issues and I agree. I personally prefer the NBA and NFL model for revenue distribution between teams and also between teams and the players. It looks like the MLBPA and Owners had no interest in doing that so we are stuck with what we have.