Thriller was one of the first albums to come into my possession that did not involve animated characters, and it was an actual album, too, which draws into sharp focus the highly disturbing meme I just saw reminding and horrifying everyone that in a scant eight years, events taking place in the ’80s will have achieved golden anniversary status. If that doesn’t disturb you enough, realize that there are only three months left of this year, which means I need to lie down.

But if the ’80s are this far behind us, that means I don’t even want to think about the ’70s, which are now so far in the rearview mirror as to require the Rosetta Stone to translate the hieroglyphics of its age. Have you ever manually changed stations on a television set? Could the children in your family even endure the commercial break involved with the avoidance of doing so? I did. Mine couldn’t. It’s a world without boundaries.

Now that televised baseball games are no longer a state occasion set aside for the playoffs, we are left to assess what we once had, both as a sport and as a city. And, frankly, it could be worse. Imagine life as a Rangers fan. Imagine life as a Tigers fan; when you wake up the morning after a game, you’ve not only lost, you’re in Detroit.)  If Reds fans seem increasingly steeped in nostalgia, it’s because we have nowhere left to go and still maintain a happy connection to the home team.

I’ve often heard complaints that the Cincinnati fanbase has never matured past the Big Red Machine, and why should it? What reason to look beyond the satisfying row of World Series trophies lined up there by the river?

When the primary reason to go to the ballpark is the 39-year-old first baseman, and he just succumbed to an injury of a frayed and increasingly worn rotator cuff, it’s rather difficult to assert that one must wear shades to the ballpark ’cause the future’s so bright (and if you don’t need to look up that reference, you’ve probably received at least one cheerful third-class piece of mail from AARP.)

The Big Red Machine was perhaps the finest dynasty baseball has ever seen, and certainly the most dominent  within living memory. But the problem with unparalleled greatness is the near-impossibility of matching or succeeding it, both for empires as well as baseball teams.

Just so, one of the most striking sentences I took from a documentary about Michael Jackson was a question: “How do you follow up Thiller?” No wonder this guy got weird. He was a Reagan administration Alexander, the origin of the best-selling album of all time at the age of 24. Elvis isn’t in that category. The Beatles aren’t even in that category, and there were four of them pitching in on it.

We know there is no following up the Big Red Machine, the last of the pre-free agency dynasties. Never again can the fanbase relax into the knowledge that if one contract-locked National League Batting Champion fails to reach first, there are two more right behind him in the lineup. And while that might not be healthy, at least it means we’re still here.



9 Responses

  1. Bred

    70,000,000 in sales for Thriller was insane success, but he still kept putting out chart toppers. 35,000,000 in sales for Bad and 32,000,000 in sales for Dangerous. The point is he kept trying. It is hard to judge the Reds over the years because of different ownership groups, but since 2006, there has been enough hot air to carry a ballon across the Atlantic.

    • Mark Moore

      +10,000 for the hot air balloon analogy 😀

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That really put it in perspective, Bred. 35 million and that was considered a “dropoff!”

  2. Mark Moore

    I was ever hopeful that 2020, being the 30th anniversary of that marvelous and miraculous 1990 season, would bring joy to the Queen City Mudville Nine fanbase. Alas, “the Plague” had other designs on our season. And things have been in a slide ever since. Finagled playoffs that didn’t work out. Losing streaks that defied odds and left us on the outside with our noses pressed up against the glass looking in (at the WLB’s no less). The latest rebuild to trump all rebuilds. Cue the heavy sigh …

    For a long-time fan like I am who is on the downhill side of middle-aged, the game is still mostly fun, though it does invoke more Clete-ing for me than I’d have hoped for. Compound that with the fact that next season I’ll have to pony up actual money for my subscription (because T-Mobile finally ticked me off permanently) and I’m going to need this forum and those bright spots that are your columns, MBE, more than ever.

    A little over two weeks and it’s all over. How closely I follow the post-season depends on a lot of factors that are yet to be determined.

    • Bred

      I’m going with the Seattle Reds. Geno is blasting bombs, Wink is struggling but still getting his walks, and La Piedra on the bump is magnificent. Plus they have some young studs. That’s better than the cheaters, dirty birds, or the Bankees.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      How kind of you. I hope you didn’t Clete out today and miss our first baseman making himself known to the plebes in the upper seats 🙂

  3. LDS

    Ah, if things were only 50 years in the rear view window. And while some sites do list Thriller in the 70 million range, it’s certified count is only 34 million, trailing the Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975) by 4 million. And I think Dark Side of Moon has still spent more time on the Billboard Charts. So the music of the 60s/70s was better as was the baseball. And some of us were there to help produce that Rosetta Stone.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yessir, and I am grateful for it!
      I was stunned to see Shania Twain on that list alone, let alone so high. And Carole King but not Garth Brooks? Weird.

      • LDS

        Never got the Shania thing but Gar did sell some albums.