Cus Words: What does it mean to be a Cincinnati Reds fan anyway?

The Reds and Cardinals stand for the national anthem on Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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The Reds and Cardinals stand for the national anthem on Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Opening Day is tonight. Sort of.

It’s at least opening day, I guess.

We capitalize “Opening Day” in Southwest Ohio, but then that’s only supposed to be when the Reds are playing at their first game at home in Cincinnati, so I’m not sure what we should call it when they play the Braves in Atlanta tonight.

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Nonetheless, there will be baseball games that count played today in case you missed it.

And if you did, I don’t blame you one bit.

Major League Baseball has no one to blame but itself for its sorry state in the national consciousness.

Baseball is not dying — despite the best efforts of the people in charge — but it could be a lot healthier.

Having no offseason to speak of, an embarrassing argument over finances that accomplished nothing meaningful for fans and a late start to the season isn’t helping (especially with March Madness obscuring spring training and The Masters also starting today).

Neither will be continuing to allow pitchers to take more than 10 or 15 seconds to throw a pitch when no one is on base, batters to step out frequently for no apparent reason and managers to overmanage in the name of analytics.

But, hey, it’s baseball!

The Reds ended last season in a slump, but I was much more optimistic about the direction of the franchise at the end of the season than I was the beginning of 2021.

They welcomed a pair of stud rookie hitters — Jonathan India and Tyler Stephenson — while also calling up Vladimir Gutierrez and having fellow hurlers Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo on the horizon.

Even with Nick Castellanos being too expensive to keep, the Reds had a lot to look forward to overall.

Then they spent the offseason getting rid of affordable players a team that wants to truly contend needs, especially one operating on a shoestring budget.

That set off fears another full rebuild was coming, a particularly galling decision given the last one was a complete failure and there is little reason to expect different from the next one.

Apparently that isn’t the plan — yet — but they certainly hurt their chances to have a winning record for a third season in a row, let alone contend for a postseason spot even though there will (stupidly) be more this year.

But, hey, it’s baseball!

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I talk a big game, but I’m glad baseball will be back in my life. It’s not summer without it, for better or for worse.

So what’s up with that?

Admittedly, it doesn’t make much sense.

I’ve never quite understood people who follow college football teams who really have no chance to win it all not just this year but ever (You know who you are). I guess they have their reasons, and it can’t just be eternal hope. No one is that naive, right?

Maybe that’s what Cincinnati Reds fandom is to become... if it hasn’t already.

Just for fun. Something to do to pass the time, maybe get excited or mad or happy or all three over the span of three or four hours on a warm summer night (or even a chilly spring afternoon).

Small-market teams like the Reds have a better chance to win it all than most college football teams even if it doesn’t often feel like it.

But, hey, it’s baseball!

College football provides something to do on a Saturday in the fall even when your team is bad. The same is true of baseball with the added bonus of being almost every day.

Just as you can go to a Saturday afternoon tailgate and eat some grilled meat, have a beverage and think about something else for the afternoon, baseball can be a nightly diversion.

Enjoy the fresh air and camaraderie while thinking about all those times you’ve done it before and all those days ahead you won’t be able to when the season is over. And, heck, your team might even win even if it’s best not to worry too much about that part.

Fall Saturdays without football are lonely, and so are summer nights without baseball.

I guess competitiveness is a bonus for many teams in both cases. That should not be the case — especially in MLB — but it is.

Maybe that’s the battlecry of the loser, but I guess that, too, is better than not having anything to cry about.

One of the few things I learned from a class in college came from a sports philosophy course in which some respected thinker laid out the fact that sports are really just made-up anyway. We literally just set some rules to create an activity that otherwise would not exist because there is no reason for it to — other than entertainment. We needed something to do besides work, so someone set down some lines and said, ‘Hey, run to this spot before anyone else,’ or

‘Knock the ball over here or there and run around in a circle before anyone can get it.’”

This is all silly, of course, but we love it.

Many things have attached themselves to these initially meaningless activities, and those have created many more real world consequences for business and personal livelihoods, but diversion is still the essence of what we’re doing.

So… play ball?

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