I knew my husband, Josh the Pilot, put in a good flight when he called me with a suggestion to enlarge our family.

“I just flew with this interesting captain,” he said, “and he says we need to get a parrot.”

Normally the suggestion of acquisition of pets is my department; it is my job in the marriage to suggest that we should get a hedgehog (“Look, you get to wash them in the sink“) or a miniature horse (“Look, you can braid their hair“) or a small child (“Look, you can train them to mix drinks.”) But although a former Floridian and person with an entirely separate, carefully curated Buffett playlist, I pointed out that no, we were not going to get a parrot.

“This guy says he trained his parrot to sit on his shoulder and then poop when in its cage when he needs to poop,” said my husband, “and that they let you know when someone’s breaking into your house, and that once you’re in the flock, you’re in the flock.”

Well, that’s more of a selling point; with my high school closing and as a woman without a football team ever since I stopped talking to my brother school ten years ago, it would be nice to feel flocked, especially if poop isn’t involved. But flocking extracts a price.

The danger of entwining one’s identity with a sports team was illustrated this weekend by Redleg Nation founder and somewhat noted UVA fan Chad Dotson,  who had, as one might expect, rather high hopes for his alma mater in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. As my interest in basketball consists of watching my nephew lunge for his phone when he receives updates on TheScore, I wasn’t following this weekend’s action until word broke through my figure skating/Thoroughbred racing/baseball/ski jumping bubble that UVA had been upset.

As in all public disasters, my attention went first to those I knew who might be affected by it. That was, in this case, Chad, so in the spirit of triage I checked my Twitter feed to ascertain the exact amount of thoughts and prayers this situation might require. Chad’s account on Saturday night was quite the front seat to the emotional wreckage of a man:  First he’s prophetically #sad, then he’s concerned, then he’s grappling with reality, then he’s bargaining, then he’s steering into the skid, then he reaches the devastated acceptance that turning his attention from baseball was his first mistake, then he regrets passing on this life of disappointment to his issue, and then he for some reason starts retweeting observations about popular jazz singers.

As you can see, becoming emotionally involved in sports is horrible and bad and you should never do it. Except we do it anyway. We value our flock. We draw our children into the flock even though the flock is a demonstrable, decades-long dumpster fire. The flock is us; we are the flock.

It is stretches such as this when we question the value of placing so much emotional toil, cash, and time into people who are handsomely paid to play a children’s playground game. It is also stretches such as this when I remember glancing over at my godchild, not yet old enough to find the closest bathroom unescorted, looking up at me and saying, “Great American Ball Park is my favorite place in Cincinnati, and now we get to have slushes!”

Proud aunt Mary Beth Ellis is a freelance writer and college teacher who lives in Cincinnati, OH. Her home site, BlondeChampagne.com, has existed in at least some form since 2003, and Mary Beth has been a regular columnist with one publication or another from the age of 16. Her first book, Drink to the Lasses, was published in 2006. She currently teaches college, runs personal wine tastings, gives literary readings, and stares into the middle distance.

Join the conversation! 20 Comments

  1. The Reds are part of the (so far) 53 year thread of my life, and it has been a richer life for it. For Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan and the Big Red Machine, for Barry Larkin and Eric Davis and the Nasty Boys and wire-to-wire, for Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and merry clinchmas, for Riverfront and Great American Ballpark, for so many players and games, so many moments and so many lemon ice treats (my slushies). And now for the past several years, for Redleg Nation. My flock. Thank you MBE, and thank you, RLN. And Chad, I’m sorry about your Hoos but I hear there’s a parade next week, and Opening Day, and a new Reds team that just might be pretty good. I can’t wait.

    • Most importantly, if the Reds are not in fact pretty good, you can get a shot of tequila in your slush.

    • If I’m counting on the Reds to be my bright ray of sunshine on the sports landscape, I fear that I’m on the verge of being disappointed again.

      • Adjust your expectations lower, Chad. Then there’s a chance that things will turn out well. UMBC beat the favored Catamounts of UVM(on a last-second 3-pointer, if I heard correctly) to get into the NCAA madness, so I share a little of your pain

      • The good news is that if the Reds disappoint us all next Thursday, a fair likelihood…they will still be allowed to continue playing in subsequent days. 161 more delightful chances at disappointment…and the feel-good glimmers in-between. One-game knockout events produce instant bad memories for everyone but the followers of one lucky, and often good, team. Prepare my lemon slushies…and have the tequila ready at hand!

    • Love this response!

  2. How do I delete this post? Or at least display a crying emoji?

  3. Chad, there’s plenty of room on the UK bandwagon if you’d care to join a winning program 😉

  4. Stay strong on the parrot front Mary Beth. They can be cool but they are also a virtual ton of work. I’ve never owned one but have a handful of folks I know who have them. Most love their parrots but a few don’t care for them so much. Even the ones that love them lament the work involved in caring for them sometimes.

  5. I am in the flock … for good or bad … for richer or poorer … through the lean years and the vivid memories of the glory that was 1990. I am in the flock.

    Good stuff. Here’s hoping for brighter days at GABP this year and beyond. Signing Geno was one of them.

  6. I am in the flock, sort of a grey, scraggly-feathered type, from the dim era of Waite Hoyt,Roy McMillan, Ted Kluszewski, and Wally Post,just to mention a few. And my Mom owned a canary store,with hundreds of canaries and parakeets. I was the Official Food and Water Provider, as well as Cage Cleaner…ugh. So, I know flocks!

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About Mary Beth Ellis

Proud aunt Mary Beth Ellis is a freelance writer and college teacher who lives in Cincinnati, OH. Her home site, BlondeChampagne.com, has existed in at least some form since 2003, and Mary Beth has been a regular columnist with one publication or another from the age of 16. Her first book, Drink to the Lasses, was published in 2006. She currently teaches college, runs personal wine tastings, gives literary readings, and stares into the middle distance.

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Baseball Is Life