Elimination: Unable to Hide the Homer

Just one…You couldn’t win…ONE!?!

On Sunday night, I was excited. The Cincinnati Reds had won Game 2 of the NLDS series, winning both games in San Francisco. Heading home for three games, it was a cinch that they would clinch…or so I thought.

I write for Bleacher Report when I’m not writing here, and I was given the assignment of completing a live blog for Game 3 between the Reds and Giants. It was a fantastic game, dominated by pitching, especially Reds (ace?) Homer Bailey, but when third baseman Scott Rolen bobbled the grounder in the 10th inning, it was the beginning of the end. We all know now that the Reds would lose on Wednesday and Thursday at Great American Ballpark, crushing the dreams that came along with a fantastic season.

The Reds won 97 games in 2012. They had not won that many games since winning 108 games in 1975 and 102 games in 1976, also known as the greatest team ever, The Big Red Machine. Why shouldn’t hopes have been high for this team?

As a baseball fanatic, I have a hard time rooting for a specific team. I have a tendency to root for specific players, as long as they aren’t on the St. Louis Cardinals. I like to think of myself as a baseball connoisseur, finding and appreciating the talent of the era, while hoping that the underdog finds a way to win the title, as long as the underdog isn’t the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, the Reds elimination hurt me to the core. It was worse than being told my those you love that you’ve disappointed them. It was worse than the club missing the playoffs last year, or losing decisively to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. This was catastrophic.

While I wrote for Bleacher Report as their Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Indians this season, I saw just how awful their fans have it. I was 9 years old when the Reds went wire-to-wire in 1990, winning the only title worth mentioning for a Cincinnati team in my lifetime (sorry ECHL/IHL Cyclones, you don’t count). The first game I can remember was the Reds 11-2 win over the New York Mets on July 19, 1988. Jose Rijo dazzled and even hit a home run off of Dwight Gooden that night. I was 7 years old.

I remember Paul O’Neil robbing home runs in right field, Eric Davis hitting for amazing power with incredible speed, and Deion Sanders making Davis look slow, flying around the bases. I remember the end of Dave Concepcion’s Hall of Fame worthy career, Chris Sabo and his awesome RecSpecs, and Barry Larkin’s entire, underappreciated career. All of those memories, all of those games with my cousin where we bought “Top Six” tickets and moved all over the ballpark, and all of those years of not committing myself to the team that I grew up loving made the losses that much more difficult.

When Scott Rolen struck out on Thursday afternoon, the homer in me was crushed. I don’t remember ever rooting for the Reds as hard as I have the last three days. I was a kid again. I loved the team that I always loved again. All of the times that I just said I loved baseball and I wanted to just enjoy the game…apparently that was a lie. I wanted nothing more than to celebrate a three-run home run by Jay Bruce, or to see Scott Rolen redeem himself for his costly error in Game 3 with a game-winning walk-off homer in Game 5.

I realized that I am still the kid who loved Eric Davis, stood for Rob Dibble’s blazing fastball to close out the game, and the man who now watches the radar to see how high Aroldis Chapman can make it climb.

The postseason in Major League Baseball is incredible for so many reasons, but, today, it made me realize that I never stopped loving the team that I grew up loving. That is why elimination was absolutely heart-breaking today.

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