If this month’s first matchup between the Bengals and the Bills was the night the whole city could not sleep, then the past seven days have been the week the whole world could not shut up.
It is a sad irony that the two people on the planet who should stop talking the most– Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Phil, Duke of Going Elsewhere– have quick access to microphones attached to very large sound systems. I realize that I’m typing this as a person who has made an entire career out of oversharing, sometimes in extremely uncomfortable ways, but I also don’t take an entire monarchy or a 154 year old ballclub down with me. I tumble off the highwire all by my lonesome.
Those with a custodial mindset understand that the position they serve overshadows themselves, as well as their impulses to announce the details of a lawn-based deflowering and the absolute fact that a 1.19 billion dollar franchise is a financial liability, actually. I can’t top Doug Gray’s analysis of Phil Castellini’s lament, so I will simply marvel at the jeweled setting of this week’s outrage.
The incident comes more sharply and ignominiously into focus once it is understood precisely when and where Castellini said what he said. This was a prepared speech at a luncheon of the Rosie Reds, a respected staple of Cincinnati society long before the terrifying giant-headed mascot showed up. “The Rosies” were founded in 1964. Why? For the gals to gab?
No. To save the team.
At this point in the decade, the ’60s were still pretty much the 1950’s, and women wore dresses or their very best capris to the ball park. In this moment, Crosley Field wasn’t a source of fond nostalgia, but increasing frustration; the neighborhood around it was rapidly deteriorating and fans were jealous of the big shiny multiuse stadiums popping up elsewhere.
Partially founded by local superstar Ruth Lyons, the Rooters Organized to Stimulate Interest and Enthusiasm in the Cincinnati Reds was designed to help keep the hometown team at home. And get this: The potential departure escalated to the state of civic emergency a mere four years after the team saw the World Series. Imagine the reaction if you told these women that their grandchildren would attain adulthood having never lived in a playoff town until we imported a Heisman winner to get our as-yet unfounded football team there.
The Rosie Reds persisted even after the team remained, happily attached to its new aluminum home by the river. Were it not for our Rosies, the Big Red Machine would have clanked elsewhere, or even not at all.
So here was a group of (mostly) women so dedicated to the home team that they were willing to pay thirty dollars a year to be even fan-ier, the spiritual descendants of the enterprising ladies who first laid down time and tea to preserve the organization. And to honor this connection, the Cincinnati Reds:
1) Sent them the least popular person in a franchise that also once contained Kevin Gregg
2) Informed them that the team was just one of many already eliminated from competition on an Opening Day that is yet three months off.
Did Phil circle his bar graph with a laser pointer and say, “Here’s how and why we are doing our very best to not be one of these teams this year”? He did not. I suppose (1) was the very reason that Phil was even there; the front office must have correctly profiled the Rosies as the warmest and most forgiving possible group to listen to him.
From a fan’s point of view, though, I would gladly pay cash money to sit in a garbage dump and watch Joey Votto silently play chess, but you’d better make a fairly large deposit in my checking account for me report to a conference room and tilt my head up for the latest slap in the face from Major League Baseball. I already know I’m a lost cause of an absurdly romantic human being to continue to foster any interest in this ballclub. I don’t need Phil and his mangled Fangraph visual aid to remind me.
I also don’t know if the assumption was that these (mostly) women wouldn’t check his math, or if he simply figured that not one single person would put down a fork and blast his fantasy league projections all over the Interwebs, but I do know that the viral picture of the back of several unimpressed heads facing down a bunch of statistics that don’t even exist (how are you out of contention on Opening Day?!) is every bit a real-life episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. There were very bad, very poorly produced things happening up on that screen, we are forced to live them, and the only way out is to watch Sam run again and think of better days.