Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Opening Day

Red is the color of spring


A wind like the death-rattle of winter worked its cadaver-cold fingers down my neck, but the sky said springtime.

The cotton-ball white clouds parted on cue, and gave Cincinnati just enough blue to complete the color scheme for our city's new living room: Reds, white and blue like the flags in every seat and the giant stars and stripes spread out on the field.

What a great Opening Day for Cincinnati.

The Reds threw a party for 42,343 of Cincinnati's closest friends, and it looked like the whole town showed up for a day that was Fourth of July and Christmas, combined with a happy birthday for the born-again riverfront.

Dream come true

After nearly a dozen years of watching the Opening Day floats clog downtown arteries, I finally got it: Red is the color of spring in Cincinnati.

This city's heart beats at home plate.

Opening Day is our work-ditching, school-skipping day off, when we eat ice cream and laugh and yell like kids. It's a day when each sweet crack of the bat sounds like another rule being broken.

And now the Reds are in the display case they deserve, not a homely football stadium that made baseball look like a little boy in his father's shoes.

This, finally, is what the sales tax and the political dodge ball was all about.

At one end of the riverfront, Paul Brown Stadium is a masterpiece that has critics gushing.

"Touchdown Cincinnati," said Architecture Magazine. "Contemporary vocabulary" and "sensitivity to the urban context," said Architectural Record.

They're right, it's beautiful. But the football stadium leaves us feeling like the bride who wears a garishly big rock - purchased on her own MasterCard.

Baseball is what we always wanted. And the Reds did not have to mortgage Park Place and Boardwalk to show us the love. Great American Ball Park is a perfect fit.

A west-side thing

The smokestacks in centerfield are conservatively flamboyant - just like our city. Gaudy gimmicks such as toy trains and Godzilla baseball gloves might fit San Francisco, but on Cincinnati they would look like wingtips with pink laces.

Our ballpark is about baseball. And in Cincinnati, that's a west-side thing.

In this town of a split personality, our city's brain looks like an east-sider's dream landscape of museums, edgy arts and skyscrapers that mirror the clouds. But our soul has its toes in the grass: baseball, Pete Rose, Marge, unabashed flag-waving patriotism, beer and Skyline - all the things that appeal to the west-sider in all of us.

The critics call it bland. Not enough "vision."

The vision was fine from where I sat - not a bad seat in the park.

As red, white and blue streamers shimmied on the wind and cheers rose up to greet the sunshine, former President Bush threw out the first pitch, subbing for his son, the commander in chief in the war against Saddam. "You just heard the proudest dad in the United States of America," he said.

Cincinnati knew how he felt.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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