The weather may not feel like it, but alas, spring has sprung. Easter has come and gone. Thousands have been won and millions lost on the college basketball tournament and Opening Day has arrived.
Our beloved baseball team on the Ohio River is ready to get started for another season. Anxious fans are awaiting to see if the 2018 edition of this franchise can do better than a fourth place finish. Unfortunately, with a suspect starting rotations (and some of those suspects being injured) the hopes for success become dimmer and dimmer like a nice springtime sunset.
In other words, this isn’t going to be the year.
As a sports city, there is perhaps no more downtrodden community than Cincinnati. Many of that city’s greatest days in the athletic pursuits are becoming more historic; it has been more than 40 years since the Big Red Machine. And while 1990 was a championship year, that triumph was almost 30 years ago.
And this despair goes deeper than just baseball. There is an entire generation of Bengals fans that have never enjoyed a playoff win. The big time college basketball teams seem to fold like cheap tents when the big time tournament time comes.
Granted, the goal of any athletic pursuit is to win. It is a pretty elementary principal. But, I am beginning to think there is more to it than just winning.
Legendary football coach Bum Phillips once quipped, “Winning is only half it. Having fun is the other half.”
So, what does that other half, the having fun part, really look like?
Well, this past weekend, my lovely wife surprised me for my birthday to a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. It will go down as one of the most fun experiences in my life.
Last year, Kurt Warner, who has the quarterback of my beloved Arizona Cardinals, was inducted and the hall had a special exhibit. A few jerseys, some gloves, pictures, stories.
As I stood there, I looked at those gloves. He was one of the few quarterbacks that actually wore gloves to throw the ball and I remembered that amazing pass in Super Bowl 43 where he hit Larry Fitzgerald on a 65 yard route right down the middle of the field. Larry busted through the secondary and put the Cardinals up for a 23-20 lead. 2:47 remained in the fourth quarter. Surely it seemed the Cardinals had the game in hand, but they didn’t. Granted the game was a loss, but in that short game, a wealth of happy memories were created.
And much of that is the same about going to watch the local baseball team.
I have been to dozens of baseball games. I can’t remember what team won all of those games, but I will always remember the good memories that came from just being at the ball park.
I’ll remember that time in high school, when as a member of the high school marching band, we were invited to Cincinnati to play on the field before a game and we watched from up in the red seats of Riverfront Stadium.
I’ll remember that time in college when I was working in Savannah, Ga. I’d enjoy watching games at historic Grayson Stadium where a man wearing a toilet costume would run the bases between innings reminding us to check for running toilets to conserve water.
I’ll remember taking my wife to Montreal for an anniversary trip and we watched the Expos play a game in a three quarter empty stadium in which every spoken work was in French.
I’ll remember taking my young son to the Dragons game and his complete fascination with the clock on the scoreboard. He knew when that clock hit 8 p.m. he could finally enjoy a small bowl of Dippin’ Dots.
Coach Phillips was right, half of it is all about having fun, creating memories and enjoying time with our friends and loved ones. And as I think back on my own life, there may be no better place to make those memories than at the old ball park.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.