Everyone loves a winner. The Cincinnati Reds are currently on a surprising uptick, and just like Manager Bryan Price, I want to ride this wave of improbable victories for as long as I can. That’s why I’m headed to the Queen City to watch the Reds before they plummet into the abyss of seasonal obscurity. This unexpected surge of momentum will no doubt fade into the stark reality of mediocrity, so I want to catch the Redlegs while they’re still pumping life and before the remaining games this year become totally meaningless.
You see, it wasn’t always this way. I fell in love with The Big Red Machine growing up in the 70’s. Rose, Morgan, Griffey, Bench, Perez, Foster, Concepcion, Geronimo…I had the entire lineup down. I knew all the stats and kept every single box score before anything was remotely electronic. The love affair with my beloved team was not only intense, lustful and steamy—but both of us were also committed and sacrificial. I rooted like crazy for the Reds, and in return they filled me with unsurpassed contentment and joy. I vividly remember Pete Rose hitting the game winning homerun in the face of the Met’s fans in game four of the 1973 playoffs in New York, Joe Morgan’s back to back MVP awards in ’75 and ’76, and of course, George Foster and all his towering, game-winning homeruns. Can anyone say “Yahtzee”?
When the Red’s fortunes subsequently went south, though, my obsession with Major-League Baseball did likewise. I still watched with great interest as Pete Rose broke the all-time hits record, I still occasionally tuned in to Marty and Joe broadcasts during the dog days of summer, and I still felt glimpses of pride when the Reds resurfaced to win the World Series back in 1990. But it was never the same. Something was terribly missing, especially after Sparky got fired and Pete became a Philly.
I guess you could say that our relationship wasn’t an actual breakup. I didn’t start dating the Cubs or Cardinals. There was no infidelity or cheating on my part. I think we simply drifted apart, the initial spark and exuberance of youth gradually extinguished by the passage of time. I still cheered half-heartedly for Eric Davis, Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr., but by that time, the passion had soured. It wasn’t genuine, born more out of a sense of filial responsibility rather than true love.
I want to recapture that passion of yesteryear, but I know that reconciliation often takes an arduous path—especially when dealing with unknown entities. I’ve got a bit of a jump start as I’m already somewhat familiar with Billy Hamilton, Zach Cozart and Joey Votto on the current roster. However, I know I’m also going to need some help as I probably couldn’t distinguish between Eugenio Juarez or Jose Peraza if my life depended on it. I still know more about Julio Iglesias’ song lyrics than Raisel Iglesias’ ERA. You mean Bronson Arroyo is still pitching? You have to be kidding me. Are Jack Billingham and Don Gullett still available also?
I do know one thing. Relationships take time to repair, and you have to start somewhere. Great American Ballpark provides the perfect setting to reconnect for an amorous tryst—the surrounding riverfront promenade and postgame libations beckoning to this love-starved geezer. Even though I’m older, more jaded and weathered this time around, if given a chance I know I can still hang with these youthful Cincinnati hipsters. I’m not talking about a short fling with a little blue pill. I’m talking about falling in real love again—the type of love that’s patient, kind, trustworthy and everlasting. It’s exactly the kind of love I expected from The Big Red Machine the first time around. Hey Cincinnati Reds, I’m coming for you again.
This blog posting was originally submitted as an exclusive column for Bluegrass Sports Nation publications.