Monday, July 1, 1996
Viewpoints: 'Scumballs' and ballparks

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Be careful when you open your voice mail. Gangsters With Drama and Riverfront rooters with attitude might be rumbling.

''Where are the parents of these kids?'' asked Nancy Herbert of Cheviot.

''These are teen-age criminals. They hang out in gang houses. What kind of person owns these places?'' wondered Mary North of Hyde Park.

''This gang is all over town,'' reported Shannon Mitchell of Bridgetown. ''If the police want to catch them, they hang out at the Our Lady of Lourdes festival every summer. They harass people, pushing, shoving, saying things and picking fights.''

These readers called about Gangsters With Drama. The west-side gang recently shot up three houses on three upstanding residential streets. Wondering what it's like to wake up to the sound of gunfire, I went to the streets to get the neighbors' take on these early-morning shootings.

Gary Sweeney of Westwood lives ''right down the street'' from one of the house shootings. He pointed out that ''the media and the police focus so much on the armed militia of middle-aged men. They tend to ignore the armed militia of these teen-age gangs.''

''These scumballs tried to recruit my daughter into their gang. They went to her place of employment to sign her up. The police must stop them,'' said Dale of Bridgetown, who asked ''for obvious reasons'' that his last name not be used.

''My old hometown of Kenosha, Wis., has refused to let gangsters come in,'' noted Bob Byrne of Delhi Township. ''This has happened through the cooperation of a strong school board, the police, and city fathers and mothers. Kids can't even draw gang signs without getting in trouble. If they can accomplish this in Kenosha, we can do it in Cincinnati.''

Go north

On a lighter note, fans of dull old Riverfront Stadium in the Age of Marge told me where to go:

''Move to Cleveland, punk,'' advised Junie Arnold of Milford.

''I'll never understand your generation,'' said Ralph Young of Norwood.

''Rock 'n' roll is just noise,'' pronounced Jack Schroeder of Covington. ''It has nothing to do with baseball. You may think you'll turn people on by playing it at a baseball game. But after a while, you'll turn them away.''

These readers, and several just like them, were offended I took up column space comparing Cleveland's fan-friendly Jacobs Field with Riverfront Stadium.

The ballpark up north plays rock 'n' roll before the home team bats and after every play. The stadium on the river is trying to shake its image as the biggest mausoleum in the Midwest.

''Get on the ball!'' barked an anonymous caller. ''Cleveland's not so special. They say they're sold out - for the whole season, for cryin' out loud. But I saw a game last week, and two whole sections of the place were empty.''

Better two sections of a new ballpark than two-thirds of an empty bowl.

Musical stadiums

Should the Bengals' new stadium be on the Riverfront or Broadway Commons? Or should the football team go north to the burbs and let the Reds play ball in the shadow of Mount Adams? Voice mailers voted for all of the above.

''Keep slugging for one or two new stadiums at Broadway Commons,'' urged Rob Stewart of Anderson Township. ''It would be great for downtown.''

''Stick the Bengals in the suburbs where all of their fans are,'' argues Bob Holder, downtown.

''If they're having second thoughts about where to put the new Bengals stadium, they should reconsider combining it with a new convention center,'' suggests Neil Reck of Pleasant Ridge.

''If we have to pay to upgrade the convention center, let's go all the way and attach it to a domed stadium. That'll give us the big, big space that gigantic conventions need.''

Don Faller of Sharonville says he goes to 25 Reds games a year. He'll continue to do that if the new ballpark is built on the Riverfront. If the stadium goes to Broadway Commons, he'll stay home.

''I would walk 10 minutes to my car in that fringe neighborhood,'' he says, ''just to find my windows smashed in. No thanks.''

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.