If you’ve read my short story chapbook, The Face of Baseball, you might have figured out that I’m a Reds fan. There was never a lot of choice in the matter. I was born across the river in Kentucky, still safely Reds country. We went to a game every summer when I was growing up. Everyone in my family is a Reds fan and I’m a firm believer in the idea that you dance with the team you showed up with, even if they suck. If you need proof, I’m a lifelong Bengals fan, too.
No one thinks the Reds are going to be any good this year, and so far, everyone seems about right. We’re fourth in the National League Central and our pitching is THE WORST. But none of that matters. I still love the Reds and here’s why.
– Joey Votto. This could be a whole blog post by itself. I love that Joey lost his shit for a while when his Dad died. I love the kind of crazy way he looks up towards somewhere in left field just before he settles into his stance. I love how serious he is about the game, like, really, baseball is this man’s church. I love that when he lost all that weight before the 2015 season, he switched from baggy baseball pants to the tight baseball pants. I love that he wanted to stay with the Reds, even though he knew this was going to be a shit season. I love singing the Concrete Blonde song every time he comes up to bat.
– Pete Rose. Because he’s a son-of-a-bitch in the best way and he should be in the Hall of Fame. Shut up.
– The Reds are the FIRST PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL TEAM. 1869. Suck it, Yankees.
– Our name. We’re the Reds. Not an object or a person or a deeply offensive caricature of someone’s culture. We’re a color. The red–what? Maybe stockings? Maybe legs? Mostly, we’re just red. We were red even during McCarthyism and we’re still red now.
– The Reds have never had a ballpark outside the city of Cincinnati. We don’t move to the suburbs. Crosley Field, Riverfront, Great American Ballpark. And, yes, our stadium is currently named after a corporate entity, but it doesn’t sound like it, does it?
– Billy Hamilton, who looks like that skinny kid with the bad teeth everyone in high school made fun of.
– The view from the park. I was born and raised in Kentucky. I don’t live there anymore, but I like to be close. I like to be able to see my home state from wherever I am. My house is in Indiana, but I can see Kentucky out my window. I can see Kentucky from the college campus where I teach. Sometimes you might have to turn your head, but you can generally see Kentucky from Great American Ballpark. From the best seats, you get a perfect view of the river and the hills on the other side and boats going by. Should you be stuck in an inning with Alfredo Simon pitching, say, the view is more than enough to keep you entertained.
– The Big Red Machine and Johnny Bench, even though dad says Bench is kind of a son-of-a-bitch, too.
– The Reds are not cool. You know those sports teams that are super cool to be a fan of? Like the teams that people who don’t really know anything about sports like to be a fan of? I’m not naming any names, but, um, one of those teams in Chicago? The Reds are not one of those teams. The Reds are the team your grandfather watched in his t-shirt and underwear from his recliner while he was drinking a PBR, back before PBR was cool and your grandfather was definitely not cool. The Reds are one of the smallest market teams in one of the least cool cities in the country. You know that revitalization Pittsburgh and Cleveland had? That passed Cincinnati right on by. But thankfully the Reds don’t belong to Cincinnati. Or Ohio. The Reds are the essence of a flyover state. No one pays us any attention, even though we’ve won five World Series, which puts us tied at number four for the most titles with the Dodgers and the Pirates. Whatever. The Reds are the team of tractors and Indiana cornfields and little kids covered in dirt and barges cruising up and down the Ohio River and car radios traveling down winding Kentucky roads. You can keep your cool. We don’t want it.
That’s why I love the Reds.