Unless under extreme circumstances such as attaining the occasional Super Bowl, we don’t welcome New Things very well here in Cincinnati. The tinsel Christmas decorations in downtown Cheviot are exactly the same ones from my childhood and for all I know date back to the first actual Christmas.
This is why, when the Reds rocketed to a first-place start despite expectations of –well, exactly the nightmare we saw on Opening Day—we didn’t trust it at all. We still don’t. “I’m frightened,” I typed on Facebook over a screenshotted tweet celebrating the fact that the Reds had the best record in all of baseball. (“You are an amateur,” a Cleveland reader commented.) The team chalked up a two-game losing streak over Easter weekend, losing its first series of the season, and the general attitude on social media is that of immense relief: “These are the Reds I thought I knew.”
Winning is rare in these parts, and it’s uncomfortable. Images of the Reds sitting alone atop the Central Division, at one point 1.5 games over the reigning World Series champion Cubs, are not to be trusted. We regard such a thing warily, circling it from a distance. This top-most position will surely lose its balance and fall upon our heads. It will tumble at any moment. It will hurt us.
We’re also accustomed to bitter and instantaneous disappointment. I forget which season it was, as recent Reds history is one giant green blur of bullpen pitchers watching baseballs sail over their heads, but recently they clawed their way to first place just before the All Star break, went home, and proceeded to completely disintegrate over the next 81 games, as though the 96 hours off the field gave them time to reflect upon their proper position somewhere in the Paleolithic ooze of the division.
This is also why riots did not erupt just outside of Mason, Ohio when Kings Island opened this weekend to the giant hype of a new roller coaster, Mystic Timbers. Much was made of Mystic Timbers and some sort of shed at the end of the ride, which in turn housed some sort of super-amazing secret. This went on for a solid year: #WhatsInTheShed accompanied much of Kings Island’s social media, and roller coaster enthusiasts from across the world mused long and deeply over the matter. (The next sentence, by the way, spoils what is in fact in the stupid shed, but if you’re a Cincinnatian, you already know: Disillusionment, anticlimax, and contemplation on the universal emptiness of life.)
And then, when a local television station broadcast what was in the shed, it revealed itself to be… video clips of bats and the central chorus of “Maneater.” Yes: What was in the shed was Hall and Oates and a 16-year-old telling you to get off the ride because it was the another person’s turn to sit in butt sweat en route to inevitable disenchantment.
If this is what happens to us at our amusement parks—places literally designed to make people happy—then I beg of you to kindly excuse our timid cheering, our population of four guys and a beer vendor in the park on a rainy Easter Sunday. We’re used to butt sweat, false starts, and chipping frost off the windshield at 5:30 AM.
We’re not at all used to this.
But we could learn, and we’re not exactly ready to leave this ride just yet.