In 2017, the Reds will probably lose more games than they’ll win. I’m OK with that. Even though I hope to experience another Red October sooner rather than later, the past three years have reminded me that there’s still great joy to be had from losing seasons — I’d rather have bad baseball than no baseball at all, in other words — and I’m excited to see how the next six months will play out, regardless of the team’s final record.
In fact, I’ve learned there’s a certain zen that comes from following a losing team. There’s no pressure, no teeth-gritting, no cold sweats — just pure, unrequited devotion that doesn’t waver based on the outcome of a particular game or the team’s position in the standings. It truly doesn’t matter if they win or lose today, as either way, I’ll still be excited to see what happens tomorrow. (Perhaps this line of thinking explains how Cubs fans survived the team’s century-long championship drought.)
In contrast, I remember being a nervous wreck during the 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons. Living on the West Coast, most Reds games began at 4 p.m. local time. I’m sure my productivity plummeted in the final hours of the weekdays on which the Reds played, but my Twitter usage certainly skyrocketed. From there, I’d monitor in-progress games during the slowdowns of my perpetually gridlocked commutes home; I’d receive angry glares from my wife as I scrolled for updates during dinner; and if they lost, I’d get upset and complain about whatever went wrong, which didn’t make me very fun to be around for about 45% of the season.
Bottom line, I took things too personally, something I’ve tried to avoid doing over the past three years. I still have room for improvement — bunting and peculiar bullpen management remain my Achilles’ heels — but if the Reds win, great. If not, that’s OK too. Don’t get me wrong — I always prefer the former scenario — but nowadays, I try to enjoy the journey regardless of the destination.
That said, here are some tips that might help a few of you appreciate this season a bit more, wins and losses be darned:
1. Hope For The Best, Plan For The Worst
Of course, we’d all love for the Reds to go 162-0. But what if they go 4-158? That won’t happen, of course, but I remember going winless during one of my final seasons of little league and enjoying the experience regardless. If you don’t have high expectations, it’s hard to end up feeling disappointed.
2. Look For Silver Linings
With such a young roster, it’s inevitable that some players will underachieve. Others will experience painful situations both metaphorical (learning curves) and literal (injuries). Surely a handful of players will surprise us, though, just as Adam Duvall did last year. Whether it’s Robert Stephenson finally fulfilling his potential, Devin Mesoraco regaining his 2014 swing, or Bronson Arroyo schooling hitters half his age, there are multiple storylines in 2017 with potentially promising payoffs.
3. Let It Go
One team will win. The other will lose. Either way, they’ll play again tomorrow. Don’t let what happened in yesterday’s game detract from how much you’ll enjoy today’s.
4. Enjoy It While It Lasts
I strongly believe that in life, it’s important to always have something to look forward to. That said, even on the roughest of mornings, I find it just a bit easier to get out of bed if I know the Reds will play that day. Off-days, much less the offseason, simply aren’t as much fun — and before we know it, the 2017 season will be over and we’ll be debating where Eugenio Suarez should play in 2018 instead of being able to watch him play like we can for the next six months.
I imagine there will be plenty of empty seats at Great American Ball Park this year. While it’s exciting to be surrounded by a passionate sold-out crowd that echoes your own cheers, there’s also something to be said for the opportunity to sneak up a few rows and take in a better view.
6. Bragging Rights
Without meaning to sound snobby, rough patches tend to weed out non-believers. By hanging in there during the rebuild, you’ll witness the foundation of the next great Reds team come together and enjoy the eventual payoff that much more. (Yes, the Kool-Aid is delicious, thank you very much.)
7. Remember The Out-Of-Towners
As things stand now, I’ll get to watch the Reds play in person just five or six times this year. I’m jealous of those of you who can see the team more often and who, unlike me, are used to being surrounded by fans wearing red when you do. Even if you can’t make all 81 home games this year, however, don’t discount the joy of being able to root, root, root for the Redlegs in person. Yes, if they don’t win, it’s a shame — but it’d be even more of a shame if that prospect keeps you away.