Dave and I moved to the Cincinnati area in August 2002 in the final days of Riverfront Stadium. During the off-season, an attorney with whom I worked invited us to join a group buying season tickets in the new stadium, Great American Ball Park. The good news--the tickets were awesome club seats close to the visitors dugout. The bad news--they were pricey. (But nothing compared to the equivalent seats in other stadiums. See my recent FB status.)
And so began our love affair with the Cincinnati Reds. Dave had been a longtime Cardinals fan, having gone to high school and college in the St. Louis area, but had always been a local sports fan. At our first game against the Cardinals, Dave went ballistic heckling Tony LaRussa. It was official. Dave had a new team. Me--I enjoyed the experience of going to the baseball game--drinking beer, eating ballpark food, and talking with friends for three hours in the sun. We called GABP my favorite bar with an outdoor patio.
Each season, we went to more games. Gradually, I learned enough about baseball to be trusted with the scorebook during restroom breaks. We began to travel to see the team. And all this time, the Reds were not good. The 2003 season, our first in GABP, the Reds were 69-93. As of last night's win against Arizona, the Reds have won 70 games, and there are 41 games remaining. In 2007, we traveled to the West Coast to see Cincinnati get pummeled by Los Angeles and San Diego. The Reds were 1-5 on that road trip. Luckily, we saw the win, which was not an easy one with Harang balking in the tying run in the 8th (that's not a typo) and Junior homering in the 12th inning for the win. Through it all--the losses on Opening Day, losing an eight-run lead in the 9th inning to the Cardinals, Janish pitching--we loved our mediocre Reds.
And I grew to despise the negative fans. You know the ones. The longtime Cincinnati Reds fans who know everything about baseball, call in to radio shows to complain, and demand Dusty Baker's firing at every perceived mistake, but don't actually go to the games.
Now, for the first time in my brief history as a fan, the Reds are a contending team--first place in the NL Central. With last night's win, the Reds have extended their lead over the Cardinals to 3.5 games. My feelings about this development are mixed. Sure, I'm thrilled that the Reds are doing well and that the players are getting the attention that they deserve. But every game is stressful. Before, win or lose, I had a great time at the ballpark. Now, if the team wins, good, but if they lose, devastating. Getting swept by the Cardinals last week was heartbreaking. More than that, the sweep brought out those negative fans who quickly wrote off this amazing team. Every negative comment on the Internet feels like a personal affront. I stay up late to watch the West Coast games and check scores in the middle of the night. My favorite iPhone app is the MLB one, as I am constantly checking the scores and standings. What was a fun hobby has now become an obsession.
Do I want the Reds to make the playoffs? Of course. Will I have a heart attack if they do? Likely. Regardless of what happens, I will continue to root for the Reds, and I hope that those other fans will too.