The Big Red Headache

Opening Day is white people's equivalent of the Jazz Festival. Think about it. People take a day off work, they dress extravagantly -- or scarily, depending on your vantage point -- traffic is night

Opening Day is white people's equivalent of the Jazz Festival. Think about it. People take a day off work, they dress extravagantly — or scarily, depending on your vantage point — traffic is nightmarishly clogged and everywhere you look it's all you see. The Jazz Festival, however, offers no "behind-the-scenes" faux news stories on lineup changes or other festival-related minutiae. And we're not inundated with those annoying "man-on-the-street/in-your-face" stories that proliferate Opening Day coverage.

For my buck, the two events are eerily similar. There's little difference between an old, confused white couple sporting snug Ken Griffey Jr. gear and riding the bus for the first time and an old, confused black couples from Detroit wearing a week's salary in garish silk short separates.

I am not a baseball fan. Neither am I one of those women ignorant to sports. I love sports and I respect gifted athletes, but there's just something about Opening Day that grates on my nerves like a cheese grate on the elbow.

To me, Opening Day is not about the revelry, majesty and history of baseball. From my vantage point as a regular passenger of the proletariat chariot, Opening Day looks like Metro detours, clogged traffic, confused suburbanites wandering the streets in a daze asking every other pedestrian for directions and goofy white businessmen in Griffey regalia.

But because I live in this city, it's one of those things I must tolerate. I must also take it all in.

It helps to have a sense of humor.

Yeah, it's hilarious to me that downtown business proprietors don't arbitrarily close their doors like they do during Jazz Festival. It cracks me up that drunken fans, returning from an afternoon of beer swilling in the sun, make their way to Main Street to continue the party and turn it into a miniature Mardi Gras. It's a knee-slapper that there are no media stories on the overtime manpower hours shelled out to the cops on the streets after the game.

What's genuinely funny is that white people complain (covertly) about the Jazz Festival and how it paralyzes the city and all the trouble "they" (blacks) cause. Conversely, I overheard plenty of black folks on Opening Day do little else but grumble about traffic jams, drunken white people and the sorry Reds.

It's the evil of the two lessors.

I guess I could swallow the whole pill of Opening Day if there were something about it that was carried off a little more creatively and with some sort of imagination. If the day is meant to be a party, why not treat it like one?

Start with the parade. Why was Anthony Munoz, a former football player, the Grand Marshall? Why not invite Chuck Harmon, the Reds' first black player and former star of the Negro League, to head the parade? Hell, bring in Pete Rose. At least his appearance would make for a more interesting story than the new grass at Cinergy Field.

And how about some local musical talent at the ballpark? Why not have Jazz vocalist Kathy Wade, the poetry/rap trio IsWhat!? and/or Jazz trumpeter Mike Wade do the honors with the National Anthem?

If you really want to include local talent, why not tap Bootsy Collins to be Grand Marshall? With his wardrobe, it wouldn't be a stretch for him to dress for the occasion. Bootsy has about as much to do with baseball as Munoz.

Wouldn't it be fun to hear people saying, "Ahh, Bootzilla, Baby!" along the parade route? Sure, white people would be confused, but it wouldn't be the first time.

I know it'll never happen. That dream's too hip for the room.

It's like hoping there'll be three nights of real talent at the Jazz Festival and that black folks will wear stylish shoes and sensible hairdos to the event. Yeah, right.

Oh, well. One good thing about Opening Day and the Jazz Festival is that, as quickly as the city morphs into a surreal nightmare, it smacks right back into its old, quiet and mundane self just as quickly. That's not so bad. It's not so good, either.

Maybe the organizers of one event could learn something from the organizers of the other event. Oh, wait a minute. That would mean people in this city would have to work together cooperatively. Just forget it.

I'll just grit my teeth until July. And once Jazz Festival is over, I'll have nine more months until Opening Day.

Did I mention I'm not a baseball fan? Then again, I'm not wild about the Jazz Festival either.

I am an equal opportunity curmudgeon.

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