“I have never,” I began to tweet about Ted Lasso last week, “seen a show tumble from Season 1 heights to Season 2 dreck so far and so fast.”

But just before I hit “send,” fifteen years of typing about media stayed my hand.

Desperate Housewives, a tired voice reminded.

Friday Night Lights.

Sometimes lightning in a bottle blinks out when the lid is unscrewed for another go, and that’s okay. Better that it exist and implode than never exist at all.

“This show is so far up its own (posterior),” I once saw someone post about Glee, as a full review of an entire episode, and that single sentence amongst many paragraphs of wrought analysis said far more than all the other paragraphs put together. Such is the danger of a sophomore slump. A creation soars for a space of twelve episodes, and then it collapses into itself like a great star.

This happens when writers become self-aware. They’re watching us. We’d better say something Important. We must stay in their good graces. Miss Emmy is a curse and there’s a reason why her fallen older brother, Oscar, rarely visits a sequel.

Having come late to Ted Lasso but arriving at last thanks to a free Apple TV trial, I watched both seasons in a string. The contrast was breathtaking in its utter determination to swing from entertaining to twelve hours of Very Special. One moment I was watching a show about the raw pain of divorce and the heartbreaking attempts of a generational star managing his inevitable descent, and the next we’re all getting really real for a three-episode arc about the ecological challenges of Nigeria.

They’re watching us.

Pressure plays a part in this, no doubt, but what really destroys the at-bat directly after a grand slam is the unbearable weight of they’re watching us. The athlete who cannot bear this is understood and excused- for a time. The athlete who can overcome and exceed gets boosted merchandise sales. That’s why everyone but Massachusetts and all fourteen people who follow the Bucs hates to hate Tom Brady. His norm is the Super Bowl. That’s the baseline. He’s up in your face whether whether anybody’s watching or not.

The chapter of Wire to Wire Reds I turned to first was the final one, which tracked the World Series champions’ alarmingly swift slide into obscurity. I was a child and hadn’t realized it was happening until it was over. As an adult who aunted a full generation of nephews who had zero idea of what it felt like to win any form of any playoff game at all, I wanted to understand what happened.

What happened is what always happened: Injuries, trades, retirements, sell-offs. But here’s where the real damage was done: The Reds came from the basement to the pennant and the Commissioner’s Trophy and then… they were watching us. They figured us out. We moved to Season Two on Wisteria Lane and it was not pretty.

It’s not an excuse that applies anymore, though. Not when Tom Browning is dropping used car ads for a Chevrolet dealership in Florence.

But wouldn’t you rather have blown the aftermath than not have any happy historical stories to tell at all?

And wouldn’t it be great if the disappointment of a mere second-place finish were our biggest problem right now?

25 Responses

  1. Moon

    I think I saw were the Reds struck out with the lottery yesterday and did not secure any of the picks determined by that lottery. So, par for the course for these Reds. They are still a long way from a sequel and cannot catch a break.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I’m fully on the “gotta make your own breaks” choo-choo train, but yeah, when even random chance tells you to go sit down…

  2. Oldtimer

    Not sure I read that book. I may have it but don’t remember reading it.

    The Reds were 1st in 1990 (duh), 2nd in 1992, and 1st in 1994 and 1995 in their division. Again 2nd in 1999. A pretty decent decade for the Reds. Better than 1960s or 1980s. Not as good as 1970s (duh) obviously.

    The slide started in the 2000s when the Junior Came Home experiment failed. A brief rejuvenation in the 2010s under Dusty Baker but true mediocrity came with Bryan Price and now David Bell.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      auuuuuuuuuuuuGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH that ’99 team was so, so…
      just aaaaaaauuuuGGGGGGHHHHHHHH
      That the Reds could pick themselves up so quickly after the 93 Tony Perez debacle was, in retrospect, pretty impressive.

  3. LDS

    It’s sad for the franchise that Marge Schott was head and shoulders better than Castellini and Sons. I don’t think most of us have any expectations of the Reds left to puncture.

    • Mark Moore

      Amen and amen. It’s a very hard pill to swallow when we look up to Marge in any way shape or form (aside from her obsessive love for St. Bernards).

    • Oldtimer

      Marge Schott had two Reds teams make the postseason. 1990 and 1995.

      Casetellinis have had four make the playoffs. 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2020.

      She wanted to hire Dallas Green as manager in 1989. The GM persuaded her to hire Lou Piniella instead.

      • Big Bob's Burner

        How much lower was the bar?

      • David

        The Reds finished 2nd in the NL West in 85,86,87 and 88, as you probably well remember.
        If playoff rules had been what they are now, those teams might also have been in the playoffs.
        And the 1994 team was pretty good, and the strike that season ended the baseball year without any playoffs.

        There are (in my opinion) two big reasons why the Reds have been so pathetic for most of the last 10 years.
        One: The way teams handle players, evaluate players, handle contracts, etc., has changed. The Reds thought that they were being smart in locking up Joey Votto to a long contract. And remember Homer Bailey; who could forget? This is a structural finance problem in baseball, that obviously favors richer teams (well, that’s a surprise, huh?) and which could be helped by smarter ownership/management, which leads us to

        Two: Bob Castellini and the ownership group really doesn’t know what they are doing. This goes beyond spending money. The franchise is just poorly run. Dick Williams (the younger) tried to change that, and that pesky 2020 season wrecked his ambitions and got him “fired”.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s the thing!!!! Why do people keep giving this franchise money?!
      I do not understand.

    • Votto4life

      Meh, Marge was a Nazi sympathizer. I will reluctantly take Casetellni over Marge.

  4. Mark Moore

    Thought provoking once again. I’m struck by how pervasive mediocrity has become across the board. And, as noted, the look back to that magical 1990 season continues to increase in time and distance. That just makes all the blather about “we’re a small market” that much more distasteful, at least to me.

    Still, we keep at it, don’t we?

    • LDS

      2020 doesn’t count. Had the season gone longer, they would not have made it.

      • Doug Gray

        Cite your sources for this clearly improvable statement.

      • Mark Moore

        I tend to discount 2020 entirely just because of the “weirdness” of it all. We have no idea what would have happened in a full season or even a longer one that what we had. The 2021 collapse was definitely in the “epic” category.

      • Harry Stoner

        So you’re basing your latest Eeyore on the season lasting another 162 games?

        This is some Silly Billy stuff.

        What if it had lasted another 130 games? Or 100?

        The Reds finished 10 games behind in 1977.

        And finished second to LA in 1978.

        If the 1976 season had lasted “longer” they wouldn’t have won then, either.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      We do, Mark, we do.
      We are fools for tradition. I’m sure that can be spun either way….

  5. Jon

    The day that it is announced that the Reds are being sold will be a day of celebrations in Cincinnati and beyond. It is abundantly clear that Bob Castellini is by far the worst owner in baseball. While other teams (including the Cubs and Pirates) make moves to improve and at least be mildly competitive and interesting in 2023, Bob Castellini sits back counting down the days to Moustakas’ and Votto’s contracts ending next fall. He has done absolutely nothing to better the Reds for next season. By the time the Reds are ready to contend again, Stephenson and India will be in arbitration and getting too expensive for the Old Produce Man.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      There has got to be somebody worse out there.
      There’s GOT to.
      Doesn’t there?

  6. Scott C

    When was the last time the Reds even sniffed at a second place finish? I am fortunate I was here in the 70’s celebrated 75 and 76 and 90. Wish my grandkids could.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s what bothers me the most about it. I had no idea how blessed I was to have both a Super Bowl and a World Series as a child, and at a time when I could remember it, too. One nephew is already out of the nest. The other two are climbing their ways to the rim of it. It just doesn’t mean as much without watching a little kid you love feel such utter joy and civic pride.
      Sappy aunt, I know.

  7. Steve

    any hidden billionaires in Cincinnati?