I grow weary of people struggling to find a bright spot in the 2018 Reds. You have it. You have it. You’ve had it all along, and you’ve had it every year this team has been in existence: They are one of the few threads that bind us, as a city, together.
For those of you reading from out of town who didn’t grow up here, my occasional asides to Cincinnati’s East Side and West Side are likely confusing. That’s fine. You can learn. I treat my city like every single obnoxious New York filmmaker and TV writer ever has: I’m gonna assume you’re intimately familiar with the greatest city in the world, and if you’re not, then you can just ask around what it means to take the Norwood Lateral. Understand that we aren’t just from Cincinnati and stay in Cincinnati; we don’t wander from our side of Cincinnati. We are literally more likely to go into another state than the other side of town.
I’m pondering such subjects at this particular moment because one of the reasons I am ardent to preserve sports as a politics-free zone is that we are rapidly running out of places to hang out together as a nation. This can’t be healthy. It made more sense in the antebellum era; it took, what, months to traverse the length of the nation? Of course we’re going to come out swinging eventually. Miamians in 2018 can’t conceive of what’s going on in the head of someone from Boston, chiefly among them why they would continue to live in Boston. Imagine what it was like when it took two weeks to send a postcard.
But now we’re able to connect worldwide instantaneously, and instead, we’re pushed further apart. As an introvert, I’m thrilled about this, but as a political science major, I find it extremely worrisome.
So I am feeling generous today, and provide unto you this link, for those of you too young or too sadly unlocal to get it: Local political cartoonist Jim Borgman’s East/West series. I could put the division between us in my own words, but I really can’t improve upon Borgman’s explanation: “A Visa was required when traveling East to West… an American Express gold card traveling West to East.”
I remember reading this when it appeared in the newspaper (an actual newspaper) and nodding because my family, as West Siders, would get dressed up on the extremely rare occasion we’d cross to the East Side to visit the McAlpin’s at Kenwood Town Center as opposed to the McAlpin’s at our local Western Hills Plaza.
You planned your trips to the other side of town. You told people you were going there. “Yeah, in case you can’t get ahold of me this weekend, it’s because I have to go to a wedding ALL THE WAY OVER IN LOVELAND.” And people would act as if you needed to pack MRE’s and a set of outlet converters for a twenty-minute drive to a forty-five minute Mass.
This has changed but little. When my alma mater closed last year, one which had been open for over a century, it was all anyone talked about on the West Side forever and ever amen. We’re still screaming at each other about it. And yet two weeks ago when I traversed to a yoga studio on the East Side (the East Side has all the yoga studios because we on the West Side took up all the drive-thru liquor stores) and mentioned to the desk worker that my school was no more, she was shocked. She had no idea. She simply hadn’t heard, because of course this school was located all the way over here, at least fifteen minutes off, and word simply hadn’t arrived via foot traffic yet. Why? Because outside of me, she doesn’t actually ever come into contact from anyone from the West Side ever, and honestly has no reason to.
Of course, when I mentioned the same fact to a West Side Pilates teacher (WE HAVE A PILATES TEACHER IT’S THE APOCOLYPSE), she said, “Oh, you went to Mercy? Do you know…” and we found the second degree of separation in about fifteen seconds. This was a trick I loved to show off to my non-Cincinnatian husband when we first began dating– introduce two Cincinnatians from the same side of town, say “Watch this,” and stand back as they inevitably uncover that one’s great uncle was the other’s second-grade tee ball coach.
But you know what we do have in common? Watching Scott Schebler get thrown at second. Seeing Gennett stranded on third. Oh, one side might wear much-laundered promo shirts handed out in Dave Concepción’s rookie year while another biked in on their artisanal biodegradable unicycles. But we suffer the same. We win the same.
And we hope the same.
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.