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Ghost Fans

By Jeff Beyer · October 2nd, 2013 · We, As Humans
This past Saturday, as I was watching the Reds fall apart against the Pittsburgh Pirates on national TV, my hometown pride was hurt when I heard the commentators say they were broadcasting from “the Hinterland” and then laugh after mentioning that Ghost, the Musical was playing at the Aronoff, as if to question the sophistication of the Queen City’s populace. 

I acknowledge that much of southwestern Ohio is land of the pastoral type, but metropolitan Cincinnati’s 1.6 million residents indeed have access to many cultural events that include but are not limited to Hollywood-movie-based theater and ballet. After all, these broadcasters have most likely only seen the city from flyovers to CVG and from the stadium press box, places where it’s much easier to judge the drone of a crowd rather than the idiosyncrasies of a culture.

However, after rethinking the drama of this past week’s run up to the National League Wild Card playoff game, perhaps I was wrong in my knee-jerk reaction to this seemingly insensitive snub on national TV, and maybe the commentators were right about the culture, at least that of some in the Reds’ audience. 

I have been to quite a few Redlegs contests, and often the crowd seems more of a ghostly manifestation of a country meadow rather than a rumbling arena in a metropolitan area. Perhaps the commentators’ choice of words — Hinterland: a region where there are few people and where the infrastructure is underdeveloped — was simply a rehashing of what Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick said Sept. 25 about the sparse attendance at Great American Ball Park and his desire for more fan support during the crucial final three games of the Reds’ regular season. 

I was at the Sept. 27 game during which Ludwick was booed over what was construed by some as blame put upon the fans for the Reds’ poor performance.

He was booed on Saturday, too. That same day Bronson Arroyo, who has been the Reds most reliable starting pitcher for the past eight years and who possibly pitched his last game at GABP, was also booed after a rare, albeit ill-timed, poor performance on the mound. 

Ultimately, the Reds lost the opportunity to host the one-game wildcard playoff game. Still, I can’t help thinking that the “fans” who booed Ludwick were the very same ones ghosting around Great American Ballpark all season aloofly eating $5 coneys and remaining silent until there was any opportunity to express dissatisfaction with the game and money spent on it. 

I think that we, as humans, are natural participators, but maybe we, as Cincinnatians, are isolated in the Hinterland. We are so self-conscious about making a good impression that when we are finally in close contact with other humans we become afraid to break convention and make noise in support of something we purport to love. 

Still, we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves — something that represents who we are as as a collective. This is why many of us like sports. Similar to theater, sports afford us the opportunity to become emotionally involved in a drama in which we have a vested interest in the outcome. But in theater the outcome is guaranteed. In sports, it is not. 

If you don’t like that situation, then buy a week’s worth of tickets to Ghost, the Musical. Try booing when (spoiler alert) Sam gets stabbed to death. He’s still going to get killed the next night and the night after that, and so on. Although entertained, you’ll have no influence over the outcome. You are a non-participant. What’s more, after you’ve been ushered out the back door for your attempted participation, you’ll most likely end up getting drunk at the Righteous Room while you wait for your wife to finish watching a Patrick Swayze look-alike have simulated pottery-sex on stage at the Aronoff. 

While Ludwick probably doesn’t want to see you at the Righteous Room any more than you want to see him hit into a double play, he probably does know that it’s more fun to help someone win than it is to be mad at someone for losing. Upon the Reds’ return from the Sept. 20-22 series in Pittsburgh, Reds manager Dusty Baker said Pittsburgh’s PNC Park was “downright hostile” and the Reds were “glad to be back home.” After playing in that environment, Ludwick was asking for the crowd to be actively supportive of the Reds — to offer some sort of home field advantage. Instead, the Reds got more hostility.

By the time anyone reads this, the Reds will either be finished with what has been a pretty uncelebrated 90-win season or headed to St. Louis to play the Cardinals in a five-game series (two of which could take place at GABP). Either way, there’s no reason to get angry at a guy because he wants you to have a good time being a fan of your local baseball team. However, there is very good reason, whether it be next April or this weekend, to make so much noise cheering on your team that no one will hear TV sports commentators say stupid things about the theater in your town.

CONTACT JEFF BEYER: letters@citybeat.com



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