Obsession or even mild fandom of any kind means handing our happiness over to another entity, even if he/she/is completely unaware of our existence. It’s worse when the fandom becomes the religion of politics– then we offer it with full consent to not only the sways of public opinion, but also every single idiot you know who can make their way to a ballot box.

Expanding this to a national or worldwide scale means that our self-esteem, our emotions, and our satisfaction in life is almost utterly out of our own control. And then you get– well, you get where we are now, when crap beer is a delicate cultural flashpoint.

If this sounds as if we are an unstable people with a sad lack of shared ethical compass, consider that we do this every single time we place our peace of mind in the hands of athletes and those who direct them. Confess: Your life became one glimmer, one tiny iota better when you figured out that as of publication time, the Reds were holding steady above the garbage pile that is the 2023 Cardinals and tied at five games for second-last with the stupid Cubs.

I would tell you not to get excited, but you are, aren’t you? One particle of sky is sunnier?

And, even more than the political situation, you had absolutely nothing to do with this. Home field advantage is a thing, but not when it’s the middle of May and still 58 degrees with sullen rainclouds. Beyond maintaining a personal boycott, defecting entirely from social media, or clapping really loudly from your Great American seat/drink holder, there is no possible way to affect what’s happening on the diamond. (And in the rare instances in which it does, you will not be surprised to learn that often either beer or the Cubs are involved.)

So why do we do this? Like the beleaguered “Factory of Sadness” Browns fan, why do we insist upon screaming into the void for 62 seconds only to end the conversation with “I’ll see you next Sunday”? Why do we cling to family traditions or even casual game-dipping that, like the Ohio air in January, will doubtless hurt our faces in the end?

It’s because when it’s good, it’s very very good. Winning is a group project. There’s a pre-made hashtag on the socials. Busken’s sells orange and black king cakes. You may enter the chat with aplomb. You don’t feel you must apologize for existing on national Zoom calls or spot a fellow fan wearing team gear in a distant city only to drift together to exchange sympathies.

The problem with an external locus of identity is that we share that identity with many, many other people,  26 of which hold our hearts in their gloves. You can try not to care even as you distance yourself for your own sanity or moral dignity, but you know, deep down, the 2015 All Star Game hat is coming out of the back of the storage bin. Sports is one of the few identification luxuries in life that allow us to tune out when it’s bad and jump back into the ring when it’s better. In many cases, the populace has earned this.

So no matter whether you’re game-tracking the balls and strikes or opening your newsfeed some morning to discover with a warm feeling of surprise that We’re Not the Worst, consider that somewhere in St. Louis, a lot of people are having a lot of sadz. Remember that when we’re once again bursting with pride when professional baseball players manage to turn a double play without panicking.

27 Responses

  1. LDS

    Excellent, it seems like an introvert’s existentialist view, one I readily understand. And Bud was always a crap beer – Anheuser-Busch just didn’t know their customer base.

  2. Mark Moore

    More good stuff, MBE. I’m reminded of a recent road trip with my dear wife. It was overcast most of the way and we took to looking for breaks in the clouds. We designated them “blue holes” much like one might use the term “black hole”. The sky there was clear. And yet, at least on that trip, the inevitable downpour came.

    The name “blue holes” has stuck. It’s both good and bad. It speaks of hope (which is a dangerous thing, Andy) but also of reality. No “blue hole” is completely safe. Playing at Coors, no lead is completely safe until the last out is recorded.

  3. Brian

    This article screams that the writer feels superior to their readers. “Aplomb”? Seriously, less than 1% of the readers will ever use this word. The majority of us will enjoy a good hotdog or bratwurst over a king crab, this isn’t Boston. Of course your wine is superior to any beer that the average baseball fan may drink and anyone that doesn’t vote exactly as you do would be an “idiot”. Right? The Reds and Cards fan experience isn’t the same at all. One team has been pathetic over the last 30 years and the other has been Consistently good during that time. It’s a weak division and a long season. The Cardinals are probably more likely to win this division than to finish in last place. Cardinal fans know this too! Maybe they are “aplomb” while in last place. Smh

    • Doug Gray

      Wow, Brian. Whatever it is that’s hurting you…. I hope it gets better.

      • LuciusRuber

        you handled that with aplomb

      • David

        He could have made his point with more aplomb. 😉

        Mary Beth is our resident baseball philosopher, and is much beloved by almost all the readers. Almost all…..

        To Mary Beth’s point: We cherish certain things in life, and for those of us that are lifelong Cincinnati Reds fans, we do it for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, watching the games and remembering, the memories are so thick you have to brush them away from your face. This field, this game reminds us of all that was good, and could be again (yes, you know where I stole that).
        It’s sometimes not just the wins and losses, but sitting in the stands on an early summer evening, as the sun turns to gold and red in the sky, and there is a game going on. And sometimes it’s so beautiful it almost hurts.
        I kind of grew up being a Browns fan, before there were Bengals around, and it was something I shared with my late Dad, on cold Sunday afternoons, watching football. Sometimes we laughed, sometimes we were amazed, sometimes disgusted. And I cherish that memory, too. Frank Ryan, then Bill Nelson, Paul Warfield, Milt Morin, Leroy Kelly, Jerry Shirk, Walter Johnson, and on, and on….

      • Ted Alfred

        I agree… I thought it was a great article and really well written. I was laughing pretty good inside quite a few times…so much of it is so true.

    • AMDG

      By the way, the article doesn’t say “king crab”, it says “king CAKE”.

      Those are entirely different foods – yes, there is more than one food containing the word “king” in the title.

      And in my sangfroid reply, I’ll simply offer up that nobody is eating king cake during a ball game. It’s a traditional treat for the feast of the Epiphany. And the Reds typically don’t play baseball on January 6.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        ? My proofreading is so crap that when I saw that, I immediately thought “… did I actually type king crab up there?”

    • Richard Fitch

      Oh, Brian. I remember when I had my first beer, too.

      • RedsMonk65

        Lucky duck. I don’t remember much at all from that period of my life. 😉

        (Mary Beth — as always, thanks for your insight and humor!)

    • LDS

      I was not aware the ‘aplomb’ had become a rarely known and used word. When I was in school, it was rather common. But, like the Reds, I guess school isn’t what it used to be either.

  4. JayTheRed

    Doug, or whoever hurry up and post today’s Lineup. It’s going to be a fun day of comments!

  5. MLieb

    Wonderful work as always MBE! When we hand over the happiness, we also release our responsibility for that happiness. It is far easier to rise or fall on the actions of others than to own the happiness as ours and do what is needed to find and hold it ourselves.
    For tomorrow our “happiness surrogates” who or whatever they may be, will have another opportunity to provide the ray of sunshine we all are looking to see.