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The reluctant hater’s guide to the Cincinnati Reds

May 19, 2011

You never forget your first.

Your first really rancorous baseball rivalry, I mean. Remember? It kept you awake at night thinking about how much you couldn’t stand the other team’s (pick one) attitude/uniforms/hair/wives’ cookbook. It gave you booster shots of rage at unexpected moments in algebra class or Baskin-Robbins. It gave you purpose.

I don’t know about you, but the latest round of sniping between the Cardinals and the Reds has me feeling…..old. Tired. Wistful. The Redlegs, starved for attention for two decades, are clearly desperate to be detested, but I’m not sure I have the energy to indulge them. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I’m not sure I’m ready to hate again.

It was the 1980s. Their name was the New York Mets….but I called them “Pond Scum.” It was a thing we had.

I’d intended to detail some of their offenses in my own words, but then I found this glorious write-up (published one day before Yadier Molina put the Cards/Mets rivalry on ice indefinitely with the homer that won the 2006 NLCS), which is one trillion times funnier and meaner than anything I’d have come up with. Here’s a sampling:

….the POND SCUM of the 1980s [were] the most god-awful teams ever assembled, the most rightly hated, the ugliest, the trashiest, the whiniest, the most stupid, the f***ing Townhall.com of baseball, the teams all decent people prayed would die in a mattress fire.

….POND SCUM devotees insist that the Mess was the NL dynasty of the 80s, but if any dy-words apply, ‘dysentery’ and ‘dystopic’ are better choices….The ’86 Mets were composed like a coral reef from the calcified detritus of other teams that, in hindsight, seem to have collectively resolved to trade all their certifiable assholes to New York as a crazy lab experiment — if only Barry Bonds had been a bit older and Richie Allen a bit younger and Ty Cobb a little less-dead, that Mets team could have been the hugest douchebag-collective of alltime….

What a MESS: you had mulleted white trash (Lenny Dykstra), a yuppie scumbag straight out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel (Ron Darling), junkies (Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez), the two biggest crybabies on the planet before the advent of Paul O’Neill (Ray Knight, Gary Carter), a bonafide cheater (Howard Johnson), hotheaded jerks (Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell). Even the resident goofball, usually the most likable character on a baseball team, was for the POND SCUM a charmless nitwit: Roger McDowell, whose schtick was as if he’d distilled the worst of Bill Lee and combined it with the general, canned-laugh-inspiring fatuousness of “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes.”

Awww. That’s my Mets! God, how I loathed those coked-up, corked-up wankers. My best friend and I even put our feelings into an invective-drenched letter to the Mets’ front office in the spring of ’87, after backup catcher Barry Lyons barreled into the Cards’ dugout chasing an uncatchable foul ball, broke John Tudor’s leg on impact, and laughed. Twenty-four years later, the incident still enrages me. I just yelled at my cat, because I don’t know where to find Barry Lyons.*

So it’s been hard to muster up the same sort of energy toward the Reds. (Their best player is Canadian, for heaven’s sake, and trying to hate Canadians is like trying to hate Quakers or manatees.) But I’m willing to give it a try, and as a service to others who may be struggling in their attempt to overcome some combination of indifference and pathological Midwestern affability, I’ve compiled this list:

BEYOND JOHNNY CUETO:
Seven more reasons (past and present) to hate the Reds,
since it obviously means so bloody much to them

Bronson Arroyo. His goose-stepping leg-kick is the most maddeningly stupid pitching motion since Mike Mussina’s slow-mo jackknife. Are we playing ball here, or auditioning for a new Monty Python skit about the Ministry of Silly Wind-Ups? I can’t imagine you’d require more reason than that to hate him, but just in case, I present to you: Bronson Arroyo singing “America.” You know you want to click it. It’s like the milk in the fridge that you know is rotten and still can’t resist sniffing.

Marty Brennaman. Between saying insulting things about other teams and issuing forced non-apologies for saying insulting things about other teams, it’s amazing Marty finds time to offend gays and lesbians as well. He reminds me of those malevolent reality-show contestants who say “People just can’t handle me because I’m so real!” He’s not “real”—he’s an insensitive, foul-tempered toad, and a hardcore Republican to boot. (Whoops! Redundant.)

Rob Dibble. Having already had my say about Dibs, I’ll turn this one over to Drew Magary at Deadspin: “It’s as if John Rocker had a twin brother who was just as much of a raging sh**head, only he somehow managed to escape widespread public shunning. How did this man have a job in 2010? Shouldn’t he have been forced to spend the rest of his life on some farm in West Virginia, milking chickens?”

Joe Morgan. Shut up, Joe Morgan.

Brandon Phillips. Look beyond the obvious here, folks. It’s bad enough to be a catty, petty provocateur who picks fights on the internet and feigns innocence on the field (really now—can you imagine Pete Rose tweeting his grievances?). It’s even worse to drive at double the speed limit with your parents in the car.

Reds fans. Pssst….Marty? It’s a little disingenuous to call the Cardinals “the most disliked team in baseball” when your own fans don’t even like you enough to show up for your home games. I understand, though, that actually following the team would rob them of valuable hours that they need to spend trolling Cardinal-fan websites.

Marge Schott. Seven years cold in the grave (okay, she was pretty damned cold for the 75 years before that, too), she’s still giving women baseball execs, and dog owners, a bad name.

There’s a start. Got more? Add them in the comments.

* I just found Barry Lyons: He runs a kids’ baseball academy in Biloxi and he lost his home and possessions, including his World Series ring, in Hurricane Katrina. Great. Now I’m a jerk. This hating thing will break your heart every time.

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