With the Reds dropping 13 of their last 14, I fled the city and took nothing with me but two very large suitcases, many barrettes, and a plastic bag full of other, smaller plastic bags. I went West. I am most myself out there. In Arizona, I got up early, yelled “moo” at baby cows, and did not reflect upon the Reds.
I did receive news a bit of from my mother. “How are things out there?” I asked, stupidly.
“Joey Votto is running around in a donkey costume,” she announced, because of course he was.
I did ponder the aberration that most sports teams who settle in the Southwest tend to be… rather un-legendary. Perhaps this is because their roots have not had the time to anchor as deeply as they are in the East and Midwest. But mostly I think it’s because the Southwestern land is so spectacular, so jagged-y, so unforgiving and so immense that it soothes the soul and forces perspective upon our weak human selves. You walk out of Coors Field going, “I CAN’T BELIEVE HE DROPPED THE—oh whatever, lookit this place.” And, in the winter: “At some point we’re going to have to go around the great snow mounds to forage for food.” You’re just trying to stay alive out there, and the populace simply has not the energy or inclination to burrow deeply into something as ephemeral as BABIP.
The soft rounded hills of Cincinnati, meanwhile, are nice and comforting and snuggly and all, but Katharine Lee Bates isn’t going to haul up to the top of Price Hill and gather the inspiration to crank out the likes of “O beautiful for spacious skies/ For amber waves of grain.”
Conditions in the Midwest and East, with our tiny little city squares and our crooked streets that bend off into nowhere, command that we crunch down over ourselves in anxiety over our sports teams. And little wonder that the likes of Detroit, Green Bay, Boston, and New York all boast dynasties: These are horrible places to abide, with nothing else to do in the winter but glare at ownership and demand a reason to keep a fingernail’s grip on the will to live.
Here in Cincinnati, we are just East enough to suffer squished street corners up against our river basin, just North enough to endure horrid weather 65% of the year, and just South enough for non-flyover cities to glare down upon us because we don’t charge $45.00 an hour to park downtown. This, I believe, accounts for the existence of the Big Red Machine, for in the 70’s it wasn’t just the big cities of the East and North that were terrible. All of America was terrible—don’t try to tell me it wasn’t; I’ve seen the pictures. The grievance crown was up for grabs. We had just enough stagflation and inexplicable hair to grasp it.
Now, with a revitalized riverfront and the ability to park in front of Findley Market with fair assurance that the car would still be there upon one’s return, we find comfort and joy in… Zack Cozart’s donkey. Cozart has gently explained to Joey Votto that he “really doesn’t need a donkey right now,” which probably means he will wind up with five. We grab on to what we can, when we can, here in the rolling hills and the almost-amber waves of corn out by Cleves.
We should name the donkey Katharine.