On a Friday night at 11:30, I sat typing. With Josh The Pilot out of town and the Reds pushing through a rain-delayed game, the work on the laptop demanded just enough attention so that background noise would provide company, but not distraction. So I found my little transistor radio and two batteries and listened to the Reds game.

The Reds were ahead, a scenario I fully expected to implode at any moment. Indeed, in short order, the bases were loaded with Giants, who scored one run when a batter was hit by a pitch. Normally, at this point I’d probably have Cleted Out. But the Reds were not in contention; they will not see the first sign of contention for many, many days at sea. So I typed peaceably on.

This was a first. Instead of anger or bitter amusement, I felt a numb sense of calm. The Reds were blowing it? Well, that’ll happen. It is what it is.

But no matter how inept the Reds were that night, the Giants were worse. The game was held up for several minutes when the manager attempted to play a pitcher who wasn’t even in the lineup.

“That’s just embarrassing,” said Cowboy, who has had a front row seat to embarrassing for every second of every play since March.

But even that didn’t matter. I simply typed on. In my now-peaceful removal from any expectations of any happiness at all resulting from being represented by this team, I have ascended to a higher level of baseball appreciation.

This season has forced a clarification of the very basics of baseball. I focus on simpler aspects of the game, such as “Is it happening?” and “I have to pee, but that’s okay, because I can pee and absolutely nothing will happen in this game that will matter in the standings of this season.” It is the height of irony and I don’t even care. I’m free.

Removing scoreboard-watching and standings checks from the baseball experience may have neutered the visceral thrill of competition, but in its place is the gentle calm of a eunuch’s sleep. Baseball can’t hurt me because I will no longer let it. Withdrawing my attachment has wrested all power from strike zone variations to infuriate me. I am now one with the Jumbotron, watching and yet unseeing.

I don’t think I’m the only Cincinnatian to have discovered this. This weekend, Josh The Pilot and I got into a Lyft. The low crowd murmur and occasional bass speech issuing from the speakers told us that the driver was listening to a baseball game. Four decades of fan behavior are difficult to quash completely, so I asked about the score.

“Oh,” he said, “this is the Mets.”

I noted that he was the third Reds fan I’d heard of who, beaten into submission by this season and all the seasons before it, had taken to tuning in the Mets “just to hear somebody win once in a while.” He said he didn’t really care who was playing. He just kept the car stereo tuned to a sports station, any sports station.

“I like having it on,” he said. “It’s just baseball.”

13 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    “neutered the visceral thrill of competition”

    Wow … what a visual image. And very true for this year. The recent success has been challenging with the highs and lows it has brought. But that is baseball.

    I’m still invested in the Reds, but the level of investment is closer to penny-ante than high-stakes.

    Still, a 47-year-old corpse of a monkey off our backs last night sure did feel good.

    • TR

      And memories of the result for RedSox fans of 47 years ago, although many still feel the Sox won it in the 6th. game.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That was such a long record that I didn’t even register it. Sheesh. 47 years.

  2. Scott C

    Unfortunately I know too well that what you are saying is true, after the debacle of March and April, it was like starting a round a round of golf with 4 double bogeys, the rest of the round you just go through the motions because it really doesn’t matter what you do, you started out 8 over, there is no coming back. Now i watch the games, but if I have to get up in the morning there is no internal conflict of staying up for at least one more inning. Though I much say I prefer the old ABC ideal of “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” That is what makes any sport sweet.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      When the Bengals won, the comparisons of how long it had been shocked me, because I was just so used to it, and at some point tuned out of the NFL entirely. At some point it just becomes so everyday that you forget what it was like to actually be in contention.

  3. LDS

    MB, I think you summed it nicely for all of us longtime Reds fans.

  4. Rednat

    good talking points MBE. AS I age i notice i follow major league baseball less and less but i follow the reds closer and closer. it is kind of strange. I used to be able to tell you all the lineups for every single team in the NL at least. now there are many teams I couldn’t even name one player. on the other hand i try to follow every pitch i can for the reds now, something i never used to do. for some reason the game has become less important to me but the reds have become more important. Maybe it is because they have been so bad i have just lost interest in the game . the game just seems so much slower and boring now than my more formidable years of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. i guess maybe i am just bored of it. I wonder if I were a dodger or Yankee fan would I be more interested in baseball?

    last night was the perfect example. Votto hit a towering ball that hits the top of the wall. i am thinking to myself triple, maybe even an inside the parker. to my surprise he almost got thrown out… AT SECOND BASE…. Yawn

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      “for some reason the game has become less important to me but the reds have become more important.”
      This is insightful, and probably indeed a reflection of how we see life as we get older. I know I look more at the meaning of what I’m watching more than what I’m actually watching… if that makes any sense…

  5. Andrew Brewer

    The psychology of this season makes it different for sure. The Reds have already turned it around from a 3-22 start, and can now play without the pressure of contending for a playoff birth. And they are now winning more than they are losing. Not every team contends for the overall every year, but I’m enjoying what’s going on now. And there is always the unexplainable after the bat hits the ball… (Both of Joey’s doubles in Game 1 at Boston did hit at the top edge of the wall, the one in right field was padded, and the one in left center kicked that high arching richocet back into the field of play.) Yeah, the Reds took it on the chin today, but every game is not going to happen our way… Losing is something all ball players get used to. The ability to overcome striking out when the game is on the line is as much as part of the game as its intermittent successes. The Reds are going to have a fun year, and so should we as part of the Redleg’s nation…

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Exactly, and the mental aspect of the game is something Votto talks about often. It sure can be a grind, especially under these circumstances.

  6. joe henry

    It will be interesting to see if Hunter Green can make the transition from thrower to pitcher. The fastball will be much more effective when he learns to change speeds and location.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I know Chad definitely has an eye on him!