I’m a huge Reds fan. Yes, still. It’s been fifteen years now. I saw my first game at old Riverfront Stadium. Reds vs Brewers, in the ‘green seats’ on the third base line, over the visiting bullpen. I’d had a lifelong love of the game of cricket, so I was no stranger to bat and ball, but baseball was something new for me. Sure, I’d seen it on TV over the years. I could have probably hummed a couple of bars of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” if pressed, but it wasn’t something I had seen up close or known much about.
When it comes to cricket and baseball, I’ve found it best to describe it like this: Cricket is a very complicated looking game, which is actually quite simple. Where baseball is a very simple looking game, which is actually quite complicated. But for me, the love of baseball came quickly and easily. Once I had a Reds cap on and a dog and beer in each hand, I was all set. I quickly learned of Rose, Bench and the Big Red Machine, that it was pronounced Say-bo not Sar-bo, and that next year was going to be a winning season. I was now a Reds fan.
NFL Football, hmm, not so much. That is where it gets complicated. In Australia, we have football – lots of football – and lots of different forms of football, most of which we just call ‘footy.’ There is Australian Rules (Aussie Rules or AFL), which is the eighteen man per side game with the short shorts, cut off shirts and the leaping into the sky to grab a ball out of the air that has been kicked fifty feet. There’s Rugby Union (Rugby), which is fifteen men per side, lateral passing and lots of jumping on people, including your own teammates. There is also Rugby League, cousin to the Rugby Union, which has thirteen men per side and also lateral passing, but a little less complex. And, of course, there is actual European football, which is best known to us all as Soccer.
So by adding American Football to the mix – or Gridiron as it is known in Australia and the UK – my head starts to spin. Don’t get me wrong; I do appreciate the finer points of the game and the fact it was an Australian on punting duties during Ohio State’s recent national championship. But I get somewhat perplexed by the fact that it takes 27 hours to play the game, that there are 428 guys on each team, and that you build an entire stadium to be used only twelve times a year.
But I do love the tailgating. One of the great inventions of the Twentieth Century! My only disappointment is that it’s mainly reserved for football season and not baseball. The camaraderie. The corn-hole. The beer. With tailgating it would seem you have more chance of finding happiness in the parking lot at a Bengals game than you would in the stadium.
The Cincinnati area does have cricket teams, a Rugby club and also a pioneering USAFL club in the Cincinnati Dockers Aussie Rules team. So, if you want to see a sport that needs at least two countries playing to win a ‘world championship,’ drop me a line, and I’ll send you their direction.