Passionately rooting for local sports franchises, chili and other things that people hate on make up significant parts of Cincinnati’s character and the identity of its citizens. Regardless of which part of the city people were born in or where they reside today, they harbor deep allegiances to some local teams and unshakable intolerance for others.
Since the Civil War ended, professional sports have been a part of Cincinnati. We love sports so much we agreed to one of the worst stadium development deals in history just to be sure the Bengals didn’t run off to Jacksonville or some other city that was trying to take what was ours.
When we talk about sports in front of people who act uninterested and display body language that suggests they’d like to change the topic of conversation, we ignore them and keep on talking about what’s going to happen next season and the amount of dislike we harbor toward rival teams and their stupid fans. When you see people who fought in World War II watching the Reds play at Great American Ball Park just the same as you are, it makes something click that the role of sports is not something that lessens over the time of a Cincinnatian’s life.
Local sports writers crank out the same column a few times each year about how Elder football or Opening Day at the ballpark ties into some core element of our personalities and identity as Cincinnatians. It must be true.
Sports is America, and you can usually drink beers that taste as fresh as Coke from McDonald’s while watching them. There’s no reason to not enjoy it, but it seems like a lot of people associate being a fan with being angry and full of complaints most of the time.
Unfortunately, many Cincinnati sports fans put more energy into complaining about players and hoping for the dismissal of coaches than they do rooting for their teams. Reds fans tend to get more hyped up when gathering their pitchforks to lay blame than they do to cheer while attending games in person.
Hindsight is 20/20, but when Marvin Lewis blows an early timeout or loses a challenge while trying to coach the Bengals to a victory, it goes without saying that people on social media or the barstool next to you are going to point out that Lewis is terrible at coaching football and should have been fired many years ago.
After two decades of futility, the Reds and Bengals have improved and started winning consistently. Instead of harboring optimistic feelings related to the recent spike in winning percentage for Cincinnati sports teams, local fans have chosen instead to subscribe to a school of thought that renders them sports critics rather than sports fans.
Instead of being optimistic about having players of the caliber of A.J. Green and Joey Votto on the roster, Cincinnati fans complain more now than they did when the Bengals and Reds were out of postseason contention way before the regular season’s final months were played.
Each loss these days is greeted with allegations of the umpire or referee’s incompetence and/or unfair and narrow-sighted placing of blame for the squad’s loss on a player or manager’s shoulders. No matter how the game unfolds, it never ends with the belief the Reds or Bengals ended up with the short end of the stick because the other team played better and emerged victorious as a result. In Cincinnati, the impulse to identify a culprit often takes precedence over considering that it is possible to lose a game without having to identify and track down a scapegoat with the enthusiasm of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.
Facebook explodes in predictable fashion in the aftermath of every Cincinnati loss. Fire his ass. Get rid of him, he’s useless. If fans reduce these knee-jerk reaction tendencies, they’ll enjoy following the game a lot more. Instead of acting like one of the bags of piss and vinegar who calls into 700 WLW to explain how if they did their jobs the way the players did they’d get fired, realize that the best team usually wins in sports and the reasons for losses are usually complex and not instantly solvable.
The Who Deys and the Reds have made the playoffs regularly over the last few years. That doesn’t mean fans should harbor unrealistic expectations of the teams and spend most of their local sports-related energy fulminating about what is wrong with the teams and how stupid everyone else is for not fixing it.
Besides, one of these years you’ll hate on a Cincinnati team the whole season and they’ll win it all. Then everyone will think you are surly and unknowledgeable about sports.
CONTACT ISAAC THORN: [email protected]