I went to Cincinnati, Ohio two weekends ago to see a baseball game. So did 42,431 others. That kind of turnout there is rather unusual. Yes, the high-flying Los Angeles Dodgers were in town to take on the Reds. But quality baseball alone has not been enticing enough to lure fans to Great American Ballpark. Since the team’s last World Series in 1990, the Reds have routinely been at the bottom of baseball in that measure, and attendance is down even further the last few years. In 2017, they sit thirteenth out of fifteen National League teams, averaging only a little over 23,000 a game. A Reds game these days is hardly the place to be seen. Besides, on this day, June 17, 2017, it was nearly 90 degrees. The Reds were mired in last place, coming off a string of dismal loses. Father’s Day was the next day. There were plenty of other places to be.
But Cincinnatians weren’t at the ballpark to see the Reds. They came to see Pete Rose. On this hot Saturday afternoon, the Reds revealed their new statue of Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in hits, captain of two Reds championship teams, and native Cincinnatian. Rose’s statue is cast in the heroic pose of sliding headfirst into second base. It is placed directly in front of the ballpark’s main gate so that the words “Great American” hover directly above it (though the stadium is nominally in recognition of an insurance company). Reds fans responded enthusiastically, completely, and uncomplicatedly in celebration of the local hero.
I came to the ballpark to see Pete Rose, too, although with entirely different emotions. Continue reading
America has a drinking problem. I know this because for the third time this year I am seated adjacent to a fellow cross-country traveler with a particular taste for the good life. A month ago, I was two seats down from a kindly older man with deep crags in his face who urgently pressed the help button as soon as the seatbelt sign turned off. At ten in the morning, my lifeline was a tall, styrofoam cup of coffee procured from the terminal just before takeoff. He, on the other hand, clutched at the two miniature bottles of whiskey dutifully brought to him as a child would his stuffed bear. After pouring the first bottle of Dewar’s into a plastic cup of ice usually reserved for diet ginger ale, the man unscrewed the second. Perhaps he should have finished the first one off before turning to the next because his shaky hands betrayed him just as he freed the sticky screw top from the bottle’s lips, sanitizing the aisle between row 22. You’ve never seen a more forlorn expression. “Don’t worry about it,” I tell the man, even as I continue to do just that. Continue reading
Something was just a tad off. Here I was in the international city that is Toronto, Ontario, ready to embark on a brisk two-day jaunt through its much touted thoroughfares and neighborhoods, yet feeling rather indifferent. The scene resembled the U.S. cities from which I had just departed, recently visited, and would soon descend upon only with a small, almost imperceptible modification that couldn’t quite be explained. I felt the slight unease common to those traveling to an unknown land but without the attendant rush of excitement at new exploration. The surroundings were familiar enough to this American. But that was precisely the problem. Continue reading
Outside, the snow was falling in large, sticky clumps. Seventy degrees just days before, the Rockies were now receiving their annual late March winter dusting. The change, though sudden, was rather peaceful. The streets thinned, the bars filled, and those venturing to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s first round games at the Pepsi Center were bundled up, waiting calmly in the long lines stretching to the parking lot to enter. Denver was falling under a deep freeze. Yet inside, thousands of fans hoping to take shelter from the storm were mere hours from witnessing a basketball meltdown. Continue reading
Winding my way down Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, I had to smile at the spectacle of it all. Just outside this gilded bubble, the country was tearing itself apart. Some are eager to launch a “revolution” to combat a “rigged economy.” Still others bemoan America’s fraying families and straying ties to past values. Loudest of all are the voices decrying America’s fall from greatness and railing against the forces of “political correctness” visible only to them. From Carson City to Columbia, and everywhere in between, protesters clash, voters howl, citizens march.
But out in Napa, life goes on, and boy is it grand. Continue reading
Charlotte, NC – A fog hangs over Charlotte. On Sunday in Santa Clara, the Carolina Panthers blew a football game the odds makers believed they would win by over five points. Their vaunted quarterback Cam Newton, who a day earlier had been named Most Valuable Player of the National Football League, was frustrated and stymied at every turn by a suffocating Denver defense. The result could not quite be called a stunner, but as the final seconds ticked away in Denver’s 24-10 win in Super Bowl 50, the unexpected taming of the Panthers certainly seemed to have knocked their supporters into silence. The next day, after my plane touched down in Charlotte, the shiny bank-strewn streets of the Queen City did not betray any sadness. And yet, the city seemed strangely silent. Continue reading