This week, in my continuing effort to flee the season, I wound up in Salisbury, Maryland, and it quickly became a desperate search to understand why anyone lives there. The humidity was approximately eight thousand percent, the hotel washcloths were festively decorated with mosquitoes, and the local hospital hung a giant banner congratulating itself on “outcomes” without, terrifyingly, mentioning what those outcomes might be. In short, it was everything horrible about Florida, until about October, when it immediately becomes everything horrible about the North and Midwest.
Salisbury is close to Assateague Island, which is populated solely by feral horses and people for whom watery air and pestilence is not sufficient to fuel their self-hatred; no, they must also surround themselves with sand and their families in tiny tents. The majestic horses, understandably furious about being stranded in such a place, expressed their angst by innocently standing around in open plains by day and by night trotting to major paths of human transportation in order to relieve themselves. I’m not talking just a stray bomblet or two; I mean giant Costco-sized mounds of processed seagrass it must have taken weeks to cultivate. This was a carefully cultivated art deposit. It didn’t matter if it were a parking lot or hiking path was situated across a major ditch, between two ponds, or elevated ten feet in the air: If a person was likely to step in it, a horse had been there in the recent moonlight to express his opinion of him.
Then I realized what the carefully placed manure piles reminded me of: Sports fans who insist upon sabotaging enjoyment of their own team.
Defeatism is understandable when it comes to the likes of the Browns and the—no, I don’t need to expand upon that list. There is nothing comparable to the spectacular hatred the Cleveland Browns have for their own people, an astonishing story of mistreatment in which leaving the city entirely was not off the table.
Here in Cincinnati, we also have an ability to not-like nice things. Here I don’t refer to general and necessary fan kvetching– what’s happening here is a pathological refusal to shove away the good and throw our arms about the bad. Any visit to any major Reds-centered social media account will confirm this. A certain correlation between fan loudness in this matter to a refusal to believe in the power of math exists: This demonstrably Reds-befitting trade was a disaster, the hurt pitcher is being lazy, we need the club to fail some more before Big Changes are made. For these people, misery is a gift to be endlessly distributed to others.
I was at a Reds game in Joey Votto’s quite-outstanding 2010 season, and he happened to ground into an easy out. The ball was in the opposing first baseman’s glove pretty much before he left the batter’s box, so Votto jogged, rather than sprinted, his way to the man holding his doom.
“JOEY,” screamed someone two rows down, that all of Kentucky should know of his discontent, “WHY DON’T YOU RUN?!?!? EVER??!”
The easy answer to this, of course, is that Joey pretty much can’t run even should his cup burst into flame. The other was that he was obviously out and conserving energy for the rest of the game. The most important one, though, was that deep down, Joey Votto, in his magnificence, knows who these people are, and every now and then he likes to leave a fragrant gift for them in the parking lot, directly next to the driver’s side door.