With the announcement of the Reds’ (named, always named) All-Stars comes the yearly declaration that well, perhaps we need to be more patient with this young team, which has been young since approximately 2014.

Oh, but some years are different. Like last year. Some years the Reds barrel into the All-Star break with strong momentum and the highest hopes in the world, only to lose five in a row, three of which were at the hands of divisional rival Milwaukee Brewers.

A slight rebound came later in the 2023 season with wins against the Giants and Diamondbacks, but the damage was done. The next losing streak, six games long and stretching across the first part of August, pushed their heads beneath the water for good. It was all chasing .500 after that.

The Cycle Begins Anew

Now the cycle begins anew, with the starkest example of this team’s confounding undependability– sweep the Yankees, get swept by the Tigers– acting as a final flourish on the front half of the season.

Can they save 2024? Of course they can. It’s possible.

So is losing your house to a meteor strike.

Such a feat will take a little luck and a lot of divine intervention. We’re talking about a team that had some scares while playing the Rockies, which should never happen, and as I type, Colorado is pushing past slam range at Great American Ball Park, which should never, ever happen.

This leaves Reds fans with the usual questions: Who’s ultimately responsible for this, and how is it salvageable? More to the point, what can we, as fans, do to fix it? Outside of defecting to another team, how do we register our displeasure?

Here is the point at which the argument boils to its essence– what’s a “true fan,” and how does said True Fan behave?

A True Fan

Does True Fan stand by the team no matter what, or perhaps decide to boycott buying tickets? We can’t answer definitively, because it hasn’t happened. We’ve demonstrably proven suckers for a bobblehead and– understandably– some slick baserunning.

I’m most tempted by this argument: “We’ve got baseball. We’ve got bright spots. Enjoy the bright spots of the baseball.” That’s a laid-back, gratitude-first way of approaching the situation. It’s angst-free, and it’s attractive because it’s angst-free. But having completed year after year of angstlessness, we’re ready for a little angst.

We Star Wars fans are in a similar situation. The output from the franchise since Disney took over is quite… Reds-like. A few flares worthy of applause, but mostly a neverending cycle of hype-hope-disappointment.

Consume Product

The minority’s best argument in favor of sitting down, shutting up, and Consuming Product is: “If you don’t like it, just don’t watch. Let it pass you by and let others enjoy it the way they choose to.” But there’s a difference between deciding not to watch a product that’s quality but not to taste, and obediently flipping on the screen because Logo Said So.

As supporters of a franchise who want the best for a longstanding, much-beloved name (sound familiar?) don’t we have a responsibility to guard basic standards of non-sucking?

The obvious answer, for both Star Wars fans and Cincinnatians, is to vote with feet and wallets. But that’s not as simple as it used to be. We can watch the game perfectly well from not just our couch, but anywhere on the planet.

However, streaming means that executives now have a more precise idea of who watches, when, for how long, where, and on what device. We are far beyond filling out Neilson diaries, and bouncing from the stadium but not Ballys Sports isn’t exactly… helpful.

And following the Reds on social media? What about looking up scores on general sports sites and apps?

They do know, you know.

October Angst

Restlessness and apathy once almost cost us the team— one that put in a World Series performance a mere four years earlier and quite near assembling the Big Red Machine. What if we all closed our wallets and our phones?  But to what purpose?

You think the current ownership would listen? If they sold, what if it was to an even worse entity? Must we become Cleveland to gather the team we deserve?

The anxious undercurrent running beneath all this discussion is a tacit acknowledgment that the Reds wasted Votto’s career where postseasons are concerned– must they also waste Elly’s? Four years is a long time, but it’s still a deadline. We cannot go on like this. What is the answer?

We’re ready for some good October angst.

27 Responses

  1. TJ

    Pretty easy in my mind. Follow the team. Put as much emotion into that effort as you like. Whining and bitching is only good for the complainer. Stating ones opinions based on facts are all fine and dandy. Just remember we don’t know many of the facts.
    Are players hurt? Did they plan a day off in advance even though that player has gone 10-15 the last four games? Do players work hard on their craft by taking extra batting practice, fielding practice, and/or go over tapes to learn their weaknesses? Does the manager hold his players accountable in a way that we aren’t aware of?
    Many presume to know the answers to these questions.
    I’ve been a big fan since 75 and will continue to be. I know they are a small market team and will not spend big money or make huge moves. I’m not happy the Red’s owners won’t go the extra mile, but I refuse to beat my head against a wall because the Reds won’t spend like the Yankees, Dodgers, or drunken sailors. I’m the optimist here. I believe winning the division won’t happen this year. I still believe they have good chance of being a wild card team and with the pitching, maybe even making a run and winning a playoff series since 95. So Let’s Go Reds and have fun watching what happens from here on our. Excelsior……

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I think that’s a good point. We don’t really know what happens between Bell and his players. We do see the results, and whether or not the team is performing fundamentals correctly. but beyond in-game calls, it’s tough to know for sure.

      Baseball is easily a matter of “you get out of it what you put into in.” I remember the author of Fever Pitch stating that he stood stone-faced through his team’s soccer games because he was so terrified of a loss, and that, I think, is pretty close to “doing it wrong.” He wasn’t enjoying the sport at all for his focus on the standings.

      And you’re correct that complaining won’t magically make championships fall from the sky. For all the money they throw around, I don’t seem to recall either the Yankees or the Dodgers in the 2023 World Series. You’d think they’d get a better return on their massive investments.

    • Redlegs1869

      Well said , TJ. I always remember the line “Hope Springs Eternal.” That’s what we live on. It’s always “maybe this is our year.” And that’s what keeps us coming back.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        “Maybe this is our year” makes for an excellent opening day, but not yet another August collapse.
        I mean, I’m not obsessed with a championship. And I want one not for me, but this extremely likable team and the scores of Reds fans who haven’t experienced one yet.

        And ffs this basement-dwelling has gone on quite long enough.

  2. Redlegs1869

    Great stuff, Mary Beth. Apathy or angst? That’s an appropriate manner in which to frame a true Reds fan conundrum. I’ve been a fan for over 50 years. I don’t think I can ever leave the “angst” stage. Angst over what’s happened to this once proud franchise. Not the angst of which you speak. Unfortunately, Big Bob’s boy was fairly accurate in his comments. We true fans are addicts. We just can’t kick the bad habit. We won’t switch allegiances. The Reds are our drug. It’s gotten to the point where one of my hopes is only that they win another WS before I die. Sad, isn’t it?

  3. LDS

    Right on MBE. Fans need to walk away. Cost Bob some money and force a sale. Keep filling the stadium with 2M fans per year and nothing will change. EDLC will be a Dodger before he sees the playoffs.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The prevailing sentiment on X/Twitter seems to be for Cincinnatians to enjoy him while we have him. As good as Elly his, imagine him with teammates and conditions maximized to make the most of his tremendous skills.

  4. Pablo

    Apathy is an emotion that Cincinnati fans have tons of experience with. Bengals ownership had sucked all the fun out of cheering for that team until catching lightning in a bottle by having the #1 pick when a generational talent was available to fill their gapping QB hole. There was also a subtle shift in the front office away from scrooge Mike Brown at the same time and they seem to have gotten their minds right about how to run a franchise. (and they moved on from Marvin Lewis)
    Sadly, I don’t see a change in attitude coming anytime soon from the Reds front office. I sure hope I’m wrong and they don’t waste Elly and the young pitchers.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I do think it’s ironic that the generational talent showed up right as the Brown family was shifting power through generations of their own.
      Not one person is complaining about that.

  5. Richard D Fitch

    “Real” baseball fans are those that love the game and choose to consume it. How they consume it, via radio, TV or pushing thru the turnstiles is up to each individual. Beyond that, no one gets to decide who is a “real” fan. You’re deluding yourself if you try.

    Boycotting merely proves you can do without it. For many, their entertainment dollar is only of value when accompanied by wins, so they wax and wane with the standings.

    But for many, baseball is more than that. So, they imbibe, and to hell with the standings. If you know, you know.

    Unlike the NFL, baseball is a regional sport, a reality that gives it a special place in the heart of the fan of this game of ball.

    Baseball owners know all this. It’s why boycotting doesn’t work. They will only sell when owning the Reds no longer strokes their egos.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I don’t think boycotting does much these days either, because you have to be all in and completely shut the team out of your online existence. And for the owners, at the minimum, your losing baseball team is a nice tax write-off.

  6. Oldtimer

    First started following Reds as a kid in mid 1950s. The 1956 Reds are my first memories of that. First game in 1958 versus LAD at Crosley Field. Memorable game was on August 22, 1959 when Gtank Robinson hit 3 HR (and nearly a fourth) against STL at Crosley Field.

    Season ticket holders from 1961 (my family, not me) through 1979. Saw last game at Crosley and first game at Riverfront in 1970. Saw ASG at Riverfront in 1970. Many others linger in my memories.

    I have followed the Reds good or bad for 70 years. And I always will.

  7. Nicole Cushing

    I stopped watching Reds games a few years back after Phil Castellini’s “Where ya gonna go?” rant. (Why support a guy who displays such utter contempt for the fans? I have too much self-respect to give that guy my money.) I sometimes watch highlights on Youtube, but I haven’t put myself through the paces of watching an entire game since 2018 or so. (I’m not into pain.)

    I used to attend one or two games per year. I stopped going after the “Where ya gonna go?” rant. I won’t even go to Louisville Bats games because I suspect Castellini gets a cut of those attendance dollars.

    I can’t quite find it within myself to jump ship for another team. At the same time, I can’t unironically invest myself in this franchise. So, my solution is to treat them as a comedy act. They aren’t good for a laugh *every* night, but there’s usually something legitimately goofy that goes on a few times a week. When they’re funny, they’re *real* funny.

    The only other way I can see getting through Reds fandom would be to see the Reds as an exhibition team that exists as a spectacle for tourists. In a sense, they’re not a real MLB team any more than a civil war reenactor is a real soldier. They don’t exist to compete (just like a reenactor doesn’t exist to fight in combat). They exist to bring money into the Castellinis bank account. They exist to entertain seven year olds for an hour or so at GABP (before they fall asleep in their mom’s lap).

    It’s sad that it’s come to this. But this is the way it’s gonna be, probably for the next ten to twenty years, at least.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Hi, Nicole. It’s always good to see another lady in this house 🙂

      Baseball might actually come to that in a few decades– an exhibition. Ooof.

  8. Jerry Tracey

    I am probably a little older than Oldtimer, and feel the same way about my relationship with the Reds as he does. Although, I have always marveled at how the STL Cards franchise, can continually produce winning baseball, while we get what we get here in Cincinnati.A lot here hate the Cards, but they are always ahead of us in the standings at years end.What do they do that our FO doesn’t do, besides hire less qualified people?

    • Oldtimer

      I’m 73 next month. STL is a model organization in the NL. It’s no coincidence that the Reds most successful decade (1967 to 1977), the Reds were led by GM Bob Howsam from STL (who were WS champions in 1964 and made back-to-back WS appearances in 1967 and 1968, winning again in 1967) and Manager Sparky Anderson who led three STL MiLB teams to first place finishes in the mid 1960s.

      The Reds CAN do it, too. From 1961 to 1981 the Reds had the best W-L record in the NL. Only two losing seasons that timeframe.

      • Jerry Tracey

        Hey young Oldtimer, I’m 79 today,and really enjoy your trips down memory lane. I knew Sparky was in the Cubs system, but did not know that he worked with STL. Keep posting, because you make a lot of sense.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      “What do they do that our FO doesn’t do, besides hire less qualified people?”
      The Cardinals have more pressure to put a viable team on the field. They’re in St. Louis and its citizens desperately need cheering up. Because they live in St. Louis.

  9. Daytonnati

    I can’t quit ’em 🙂

    Lifelong fan. I am too old to change. What is summer without the Reds?

  10. Mark Moore

    My takeaway phrase from you, MBE, today is “neverending cycle hype-hope-disappointment” … it’s an addiction cycle at that and I’m the kind of Reds fan that is completely hooked.

    That being said, I think any turn of fortune comes with new ownership. This group just doesn’t seem to care about the ultimate produce.

    Oh … and I did a quick search on cheaper hotel options again today for the DC series in 2 weeks. I’d have to stay a ways out, but that’s not impossible. Train fare from central VA is about $80 round trip. So maybe I’m up for it. It’s still a pretty large expenditure for me when you add it all up. But just maybe … 😀

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      “An addiction cycle”– well that explains it. We’re for the streets because the unpredictable dopamine hits keep us trying to kick the football.

  11. Andrew Brewer

    One of the reasons baseball is great is that the last place team can beat the first place team, any time. There used to be just two pennants, and those who won their respective pennant went on to play the world series. Last year the two teams that met were not even Division winners. Baseball is like that. When the Yankees were in their heyday they won 100 games one year. Lou Pinella won 116 games with Seattle, but couldn’t get past the Yankees in the playoffs. Learning how to cope with defeat is part of the game. Everyone who has played the game understands this. It’s not a matter of what you think the fans deserve. But the fans do deserve to see good baseball at this level. I think we get to see both very good ball, and some that’s not so good. But winning isn’t the end all and be all of baseball. That’s why we see rising above .500 as a meaningful goal. After that it’s a matter of who’s hot and who’s not…

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Like the gambler in Twilight Zone who kept winning game after game in the afterlife only to discover he was in hell and not heaven, the “any given ballgame” factor is indeed a major attraction of baseball– a repeated guaranteed win quickly becomes emotionally deadening. On the other side, winning certainly isn’t anything– but having experienced both a World Series and a Super Bowl in my lifetime, that’s something I want for other Cincinnatians. The emotions last a lifetime and the bonding with family and complete strangers is a strong argument for being a human being.