It looked, as I crossed the river from Kentucky into Ohio, as if the outside lights of Paul Brown Stadium* were strobing. As the car whipped past post after post of the I75 bridge, the stadium sent bright flashes across the state line and back into the city.
This was the Night of the Miracle of the Five Offensive Linemen, and at 1 AM on Monday, the city slept cradling the knowledge that not only did we need to continue to process the knowledge that we had somehow produced the AFC champions, we were now in a position to do so again, and without several decades in between. “This cannot last,” we firmly remind ourselves, and I so yell into the endless stream of bakery ads offering orange iced cookies, “Then enjoy it!”
The interior of the stadium was uncommonly bright; above me, the Great American building was (without a hint of irony) bathed in orange, as were the P&G towers, the Coliseum, Fifth Third Bank, and the Convention Center letters. But these oranges were pale in comparison, and quickly absorbed by the black of the sky.
The stadium was different. It was remarkably, utterly different. Every flood light and security LED in the place was blazing, and even during games I’d never seen it like this. What was the difference?
As the car bent to the east, I was at last able to glimpse inside the stadium. There was my answer: The light came from within.
Every single pixel of every single scoreboard was burning full orange. No words or logos, just orange. A single person looking on the Jumbotron from the seats could have kept an ophthalmologist in business for years and years. There was no possible way to achieve such an effect from outside.
Someone in that organization was thinking. Someone was using what the team had at hand. Someone wanted the effect to pour out into space. As a result, all three Mars rovers were probably thrown off course.
I glanced inside Great American Ball Park as I trundled past; the Reds had tweeted good luck wishes to the Bengals, then concentrated on a pared-back Winter Caravan featuring a painfully anemic lineup, a birthday shoutout to 59-year-old Rob Dibble, and congratulations to a newly elected Hall of Famer who played for the Reds for exactly three years over a decade ago. Everything happening had already happened.
The ball park’s night lights were on, but dimmed to normal off-season levels. The red neon signs on the outside walls were bright. But inside, it was dark, and deathly quiet.
*Don’t. Just don’t.