Living Out Loud: : That Cincinnati Vibe

When outsiders come to visit

I don't want any of you thinking I spend all my time hanging out at Madonna's on Seventh Street downtown. Maybe I do, but I don't want you thinking it.

There I was again on a Friday afternoon, shooting the shit with bartender Christy when four guys came walking in wearing Chicago Cubs T-shirts and hats — obviously in town for the ballgame.

They were young guys and a rowdy bunch, making fun of one another and laughing, but they were certainly friendly enough. Me? I don't know a stranger. I went over and started talking to them.

Mark said he hails from Indianapolis and has been a Cubs fan all his life. He visits Wrigley Field often, and when the Cubs play the Reds here he makes it down to Great American Ball Park and also to Madonna's before and after the game.

"We all like it in here," Mark said. "Everyone is nice to us, and we don't get treated like we're from another planet.

Ya get a strange vibe in Cincinnati. People aren't that friendly. It's like they get pissed off because we're here.

"I mean, we're Cub fans. Aren't we supposed to show it? We just want to have some fun, that's all."

Kurt, also from Indianapolis, echoed the same feeling.

"That Cincinnati vibe," he said, laughing, adding sarcastically, "You can feel all that hospitality in the air."

"You have a nice town here," he then said. "Why are ya all so uptight?"

Being a bit of an outsider in this city and often saying the same thing, I didn't have an answer for Kurt. I can tell you this "vibe" doesn't exist in Chicago.

I've been there so many times I've lost track. The people on the streets, in the restaurants and, yes, in the bars are friendly.

Even when you go to see a Cubs-Reds game at Wrigley Field, there really isn't any hostility from the Cub fans when Cincinnati fans are yelling for the Reds to win. It's all in good fun.

I'll never forget being at Wrigley on a hot August night some years ago. A friend and I had great seats and were next to some very excited young Cubs fans. Also nearby were some people from Cincinnati, mostly young guys.

The Reds fans that night didn't have much to cheer about as the Reds were being handed their asses by the Cubs. Frankly, I didn't care much.

I was enjoying the beer and the company of a young woman sitting next to me. She was telling me where the best seafood restaurants were in Chicago and educating me on their subway/el system.

Suddenly there was a big commotion, and I saw one of those young Cincinnati guys racing over to an excited Cub fan telling him to shut the fuck up. The Cincinnati kid started punching the Chicago kid; security came over and hauled them both out.

After about 10 minutes, the Chicago kid came back but not the guy from Cincinnati, who seemingly couldn't handle the fact that the Cubs were beating the Reds badly. I heard the Cubs fan tell a buddy sitting beside him that he couldn't believe he was getting beat up for supporting his own team.

I could belabor the point and give other examples of Cincinnati people behaving badly in Wrigley Field or in Chicago, but maybe you see what I'm getting at. We're not friendly even in our own city and, when we get out of that element, we can be even worse.

Before you all start jumping on me — no, not everyone in Cincinnati is unfriendly. We have some very nice people here, but there is a tenseness — some kind of a vibe that covers this city.

When outsiders come to visit us and pick up on it, shouldn't that tell us something?

That vibe was no where to be found at Madonna's on that particular night. Those guys from Indianapolis got treated well on that Friday afternoon. Christy the bartender even had an answer for Kurt about why we're so unfriendly.

"Maybe it's because our baseball team sucks," she said.

Cubs fan Mark shook his head and laughed.

"I wish we could all just get along," he said, finishing up his beer.

Mark's words — wishing we all could get along — rang in my ears the next morning. The Cubs beat the Reds on that Friday night 6-0 to clinch a playoff spot.

After the game, I hope that Cincinnati vibe didn't get anyone from Chicago hurt.

CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]. Living Out Loud runs every week at and the second and fourth issues of each month in the paper.