by Steve Mancuso

On Opening Day optimism and enthusiasm in 2020

As a fan, when you write about your local sports team, the optimism and enthusiasm that comes with the start of each season – no matter how undue – seeps into your posts. It’s natural. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of that and never felt the need to apologize.

I’m not a professional journalist. Most readers understand that folks who write at places like this are fans of the team. That distinction is why I’ve never wanted to sit in the press box with the pro sportswriters (not that they’d have me). Because I want to cheer. And sometimes that cheering comes through in what we write. 

That brings us to Opening Day optimism and enthusiasm. In 2020.

The Reds did their part. The front office generated excitement with an active offseason. National baseball writers were saying nice things about the Reds for a change. In March, Matt Wilkes and I were headed to Goodyear for five days of Spring Training. We had game tickets, an apartment in Phoenix, our cameras, notebooks and even an interview with Dick Williams lined up. We planned on authoring a tall stack of posts about our experiences and observations for you.  

Then the world came apart. This hobby of writing about the Reds changed for me.

For weeks, not only could there be nothing meaningful to write about, but the thought of putting digital pen to paper was aversive. At a time when the reassuring phrase “we’ll get through this” might have applied collectively but not for a hundred thousand individuals and their families, motivation to write about the platoon split between Jesse Winker and Phil Ervin went missing.

The people who write here are aware of the world around us. We know the importance of sports and its return is dwarfed by the public health and economic tragedies swirling around us. On top of that, our society is working through an essential but painful reckoning with part of our nation’s history.

Writing about the spin rate on Sonny Gray’s slider isn’t meant to make light of that context.

It’s raw coping.

People do try to make a living off sports blogging. But none of us here do. When asked by friends, I have described this as a hobby. I’ve enjoyed it as such. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate when our readers show us support. We notice. It helps pay the small expenses of the site and lets us pass along encouragement to the writers on our staff in a small but tangible way.

But the past few months have remade my reason for doing this. In these unsettling times, writing about the Reds has proven to be a dose of self-care. In the same way that watching or listening to a baseball game helps us forget the rest of the world for three hours, so has writing about it. The time spent composing a post offers respite from the fear and worry and uncertainty and anger.

This writing the past couple weeks has allowed me a return, although fleeting, to normal.

We know our posts here are doing more bracketing than the Home Depot. Baseball is back, sorta, but with everything beyond it brimming with anxiety and concern. Even the viability of baseball and other sports hangs by a thread, or really a nasal swab. We’re hoping for the best, while braced for the next body blow. 

Sigh.

It’s Opening Day. I don’t know about you, but I’m full of optimism and enthusiasm. 

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

2 Comments

  • Jefferson Green

    Great writing, Steve. I have been struggling with even wanting to read or pay attention to the start of the MLB season (which is a radical departure for this Opening Day fan), but here I am, on my deck, radio on WLW, beverage in hand, and reading about the Redlegs. And a smile is on my face.

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