Oh, and this town
Is my town, alright?
Love or hate it, it don't matter
'Cause I'm gonna stand and fight
This town, is my town
She's got her ups and downs
But love or hate it, it don't matter
'Cause this is my town
~Michael Stanley Band—“My Town”
Being a Cincinnatian, I’d probably get tarred and feathered in my hometown for quoting the lyrics to a song written about our upstate arch rival Cleveland and performed by a Cleveland band.
Then again, nobody outside of Cleveland’s ever heard of the Michael Stanley Band, so I think my Cincinnati street cred is safe.
I quote “My Town” because even though it was written about another town, I always thought the lyrics summed up my hometown as much as any other.
Being a die-hard Cincinnati sports fan, we haven’t had much to celebrate the past two decades.
Our last major championship came unexpectedly in 1990 when the Reds went wire-to-wire sweeping the mighty Oakland Athletics thanks to new manager Lou Pinella (to this date, his only World Series victory) and a bullpen consisting of the "Nasty Boys": Norm Charlton, Randy Meyers, and Rob Dibble.
The 1990 Reds were exactly what Cincinnati needed at the time, considering we’d just watched our beloved hometown hero, Pete Rose, banished from baseball for betting on games and then busted for tax evasion.
Our Bengals, at the time led by outspoken coach Sam Wyche (anyone else remember “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!”?), star quarterback Boomer Esiason, Icky Woods (with the Icky Shuffle) and Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” suffered yet another Super Bowl loss to Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers.
After the 1990 season, the Bengals would go into a tailspin after legendary owner Paul Brown died and his son Mike took over the day-to-day operations of the franchise.
Marge Schott would make racist comment after racist comment as well as sabotaging the team when she didn’t get along with the manager, and Carl Lindner wouldn’t do much better leading the Reds, despite bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back to his hometown.
Then again, we did get some nice stadiums built in the last decade, even if Great American Ballpark has the worst outfield views in all the majors—Who really wants to look up and see the Northern Kentucky suburbs and the murky Ohio River, especially when the team on the field is awful?
So what exactly makes my hometown rock?
If it weren’t for the Red Stockings organization paying their players way back in 1869, we might never have professional baseball as we currently know it.
Every Cincinnati baseball fan, young and old, speaks fondly of Sparky, Joe, Pete, Johnny and the rest of the Big Red Machine that dominated the National League in the 1970s.
There are still some of us in disbelief that we won it all by sweeping the A’s in 1990.
Cincinnati sports fans' summers consisted of listening to Marty and Joe on the radio, and even though we lost Nuxie last year, we still tune in to listen to Marty and Tom and Jeff broadcast Reds games if we’re not able to be in the ballpark to root for the Reds.
There’s still hope that someday we can get better.
The same can be said for the Bengals.
Even though the team never had a winning season from 1991 to 2005, we still remember the days when Riverfront Stadium was called “The Jungle” (thanks in part to Guns N’ Roses rise in popularity) and we still donned Bengal stripes, even when guys like Dave Klinger and Ki-Jana Carter were supposed to resurrect the franchise yet came up far short of that goal.
Okay, so maybe the relative lack of success of our two pro sports franchises isn’t the best example to use at this time.
Cincinnati still holds an event that is more or less a holiday to most residents in the Tri-State: Opening Day.
For 89 years, fans have lined the streets of Downtown Cincinnati, rain or shine, to celebrate the start of a new baseball season, regardless of how the team is expected to do.
The Opening Day Parade, sponsored by Findlay Market, sees local businesses contributing floats, former Reds greats waving to fans in convertibles and local high school marching bands, cheer and dance squads getting the crowd ready for the start of the new season.
It’s a rite-of-passage to call in sick to work or school and partake in Cincinnati’s Opening Day festivities with the hope that maybe the Reds will surprise everyone and be better than we expected.
Seeing as how the Reds are considered Major League Baseball’s “first professional franchise,” the team has the honor of always starting the season at home.
While in recent years other teams have begun their seasons before the Reds, Cincinnati’s festivities are considered the official start of a new baseball season.
Even if the team isn’t expected to do well, Great American Ballpark (and Riverfront Stadium and Crosley Field before it) is always packed on Opening Day to watch our team open up a new season.
Even though the Reds and Bengals have underperformed the last few years, events like Opening Day and the die-hard loyalty from fans continue make Cincinnati a rocking sports town.