Monday, October 11, 2010

Playoffs

I've been waiting a long time to attend a postseason game that the Cincinnati Reds play in. I had tickets for a 1999 series that they ended up not qualifying for. I've watched them fail to make the playoffs since 1995. So while the Reds entered last night's game in the best of five series down 2-0 via a no-hitter and an embarrassing display of defensive collapse and loss of pitching control, I was still happy to be heading to the ballpark to see my team compete. It's the playoffs! I still believe despite knowing better!

It may have been a lucky break that had me there in the first place. I read that 250,000 e-mail addresses were submitted for the lottery to select those in the general public who would get first crack at buying playoff tickets. Out of my family, my name was the only one drawn for the NLDS (effectively the quarterfinals). I was also the only one to be picked in the second chance drawing for tickets to the NLCS games (semifinals). Come hell or high water, I was going to be at the playoffs.

I ordered tickets for my dad and two brothers, so going to the playoffs was to be a family affair and a fully day. We met at the hotel and went to a sports bar to watch the first half of the Bengals game before returning to the lodging to watch the rest. (The banks of monitors and noise was a little overwhelming for my dad.) That game ended with an unexpected but all-too-familiar disaster--the Bengals found a way to blow it late--but my enthusiasm for the Reds game remained high.

We arrived early on the riverfront and walked by the crowd milling around the stadium on our way to find somewhere to eat downtown. Wendy's was one of the few places open within a couple blocks of the ballpark, so it had a long line of fans waiting to grab a bite before the game. Everyone knew the uphill battle the hometown team was staring at, but the playoff atmosphere had people jazzed regardless.

The weather could not have been much more perfect. Here it was October 10 and one temperature display read 94 degrees at 5:30 p.m. There wasn't any humidity, though, so the heat wasn't felt nearly as much as it would be in July. With it being in the mid-70s for the game itself, who could ask for better this time of year?

The steamboat music playing over the stadium PA was a little strange--it's the Popeye theme!-- albeit appropriate considering the ballpark's location near the banks of the Ohio River. Almost everyone was decked out in red, and it was something to be a part of as the game neared and people waved their rally towels and cheered. To be in a big crowd--the 44,599 attending set a ballpark record--and root for the Reds with something on the line was why I wanted to be there. This wasn't an ordinary game. A loss meant the season was over.

Unfortunately an error led to an unearned run for the Phillies in the top of the 1st, which sort of broke the illusion that perhaps this game might be different. Still, being part of a crowd booing in unison at various members of the opposition and cheering when something went right was a lot of fun in spite of the outcome we all feared and anticipated.

The mood was generally pretty positive, save for the guy in front of me who booed Michelle Obama when she appeared on the scoreboard for a public service announcement about welcoming home veterans and later yelled at a worker collecting recyclables late in the game because he thought it was rude to ask him to pass along the empty bottles under his seat. At least where I was, the ratio of good, respectful fans enjoying themselves to boorish ones was about as good as I've witnessed at a baseball game.

And fine, if the Reds weren't going to win or really even threaten, at least the team turned in the most respectable effort of the three games and featured the Reds hard-throwing phenom (pictured above) nicknamed the Cuban missile. The fans still applauded the Reds on a successful season even when their elimination was complete. A loss wasn't the outcome any of us wanted, but the playing of this game represented a season of wins and hope for the future. All in all, that's not such a bad consolation.

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1 Comments:

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous LittleWit said...

It sounds like a great evening at the ballpark even if they didn't win the game. Maybe next year! :)

 

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