8/27/2013 - Cardinals starting pitcher Joe Kelly tags out Cincinnati Reds SS Zack Cozart (right) after catching RF Jay Bruce in a run down to end the fourth inning at Busch Stadium. (Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Fandom in Cincinnati: An Exercise in "Comparison"

The perceived “rabidity” of the Cincinnati sports enthusiast can only best be described as “fickle” or “indifferent” … possibly at many times “aloof”.

Yes, for all of the believed enamoring with teams like the Cincinnati Reds or Bengals professionally in this city, there is likely as much if not more passion displayed for collegiate (University of Cincinnati or Xavier University, among others including the University of Kentucky) and/or prep sports (the GCL (Greater Catholic League) comes to mind) in this region.  Why? The complexities of that statement probably lie in one common denominator: money.

What have been the topics du jour in recent weeks? Certainly not how the Reds, at many times “left for dead” by media, pundits, and fans alike over the past two months, have managed to just *hang around* third place in the NL Central for what feels like forever this season … and only find themselves 3.5 games behind first-place Pittsburgh and just 2.5 games behind second-place St. Louis. Oh, yeah, not to mention … 7+ games ahead of both Arizona and Washington for the 2nd Wild Card spot.  No, the focus of the attention has been any number of the following topics:

  • Should Dusty Baker keep his job? What person(s) would better fit as Reds manager over this “chump” who can’t even motivate his team?!?
  • Why can’t Joey Votto count the number of outs?
  • Why does Brandon Phillips only seem to care about Brandon Phillips AND call out a “stout” beat reporter for his stature and disposition?
  • Why can’t this team beat the St. Louis Cardinals consistently?!?
  • Why can’t players play a “children’s game” with any better ability than this bunch of bums?

Maybe the pessimism, the cynicism, the negativity is a product of this region. Maybe it is our “blue-collar, industrial” heritage that makes us view professional athletes with such relative disdain.  I mean, my goodness, how hard can it be to do that “JOB” every day and get paid millions of dollars every year to do it?!?

The reality: Most people truly are *jealous* that they can’t be out on those fields doing the same things themselves.  THAT is the dichotomy of sports in a place like Cincinnati, where an expectation of hard work doesn’t result in base-running mistakes, poor discipline in plate appearances, and an inconsistent to getting the job done EVERY SINGLE DAY they take the field.

“God Bless America” during the 7th Inning Stretch at Comerica Park. (Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Something struck me in Detroit over the weekend, where I attended a home game for the Detroit Tigers against the Cleveland Indians.  For one, the stands were PACKED – a sell-out night with an electric crowd of truly *rabid* and *enthusiastic* fans.  Yes, it was a Saturday night and, yes, it was a holiday weekend.  For comparison, did the Reds sell out the ballpark on Monday (Labor Day, a federal holiday) for an afternoon game against the division co-leaders? Nope.  Was the product on the field for BOTH games exciting? Yes.  Which home team had fans that didn’t NEED to be encouraged to cheer or make noise (although *both* teams had A/V operators who did their respective bests)? Detroit.  The atmosphere was buzzing throughout the game, and, much to my amazement, people didn’t leave the game early.  They stayed … all the way to the end even with a final blow-out score of 10-5 coming from a big bottom 8th where the Tigers made a close game not close anymore.

Cincinnati fans, by and large, frustrate me.  They come when it’s “convenient”, they often leave the games even with the outcome far from undecided if not in the balance, and then complain that other fans don’t have as much passion as they do. Yes, I’m guilty of some of the same things, but here I am making a point about it.  If you interact with me on social media, you’re likely to get my opinion on the matter.  Does the number of games I attend each season make me a better or lesser fan than anyone else? No, it really doesn’t.  Many people don’t have the financial wherewithal to attend very many games, especially large families, and, although ticket prices are far cheaper per game than comparative football games or other professional sports, many people can’t justify dropping hundreds of dollars PER GAME for a family of four or more.

I have a simple request: stay engaged DURING THE GAME when you’re ATTENDING THE GAME.  I observed so many Tigers fans doing just that. Not on cell phones by and large, not leaving their seats in droves, and cheering / clapping / *standing* at appropriate times, even in the “expensive” seats around the lower bowl.  I’m not saying Cincinnati fans don’t have it in them, but some other places in MLB are putting us to shame.

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