September 28, 2010 is a red-letter day in recent Cincinnati Reds history. I’m sure everyone reading this remembers what happened, but for fun, let’s review. Back when the Houston Astros were still in the National League Central, they and the Reds were locked in a 2-2 tie going into the bottom of the ninth inning at Great American Ball Park. Jay Bruce led off the inning against pitcher Tim Byrdak, and deposited the first pitch he saw over the wall in center field (and over the head of current Red Jason Bourgeois) for a walk off 3-2 Reds win. Here’s the video. I watched it twice.
Of course, that wasn’t just another come from behind win for a Reds team known for such late inning theatrics. It was the win that clinched the division championship and the first Reds postseason appearance in fifteen years. Regardless of what happened in the postseason that year, or even in the years that followed, that moment announced the return of the Reds to baseball prominence. It was incredibly symbolic, not just because it was so fitting for the 2010 Reds’ particular style of play, but because the knockout blow was delivered by an exciting young player with as much potential as the team itself.
Ultimately, the game itself didn’t matter that much in any real sense. The Cardinals lost later that same night, which would have eliminated them from divisional contention and won the division for the Reds anyway. And even if that hadn’t happened, there were still five more games left for the Reds to get it done. But there’s no doubt the moment was cathartic and cause for celebration, both among the fans (I braved the search function to dig up the Red Reporter game thread from that moment; it’s fantastic and worth your time for a number of reasons), but for the team itself.
In many ways, the team’s celebration was typical of a moment like that. They mobbed Bruce at the plate, and when they returned to the clubhouse, they sprayed cheap beer all over each other. Eventually, they returned to the field, celebrating with the fans who stayed, with Jonny Gomes rocking the hell out of a sweet Reds robe that I’ve coveted since that day ($90 is a little steep for a robe on my budget). It was the cigars, however, that caused a problem.
At least five people called the statewide hotline to report the Reds for violating Ohio’s indoor smoking ban, because some celebrants were seen smoking cigars in the clubhouse on the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast. We know for certain that there were at least five complaints made, because according to Ohio state law, if there are five complaints against a particular business, an investigation is automatically initiated, and that’s what happened in this case.
So to reiterate, there were at least five people that were big enough Reds fans to watch the entire game and stick around long enough to take in the celebration, but were hateful enough to make an official complaint about the players violating the smoking ban. I understand that there is no provision in the smoking ban providing for exceptions in the case of division championships, and I understand there are legitimate health reasons for these indoor smoking bans in workplaces. But it takes a special kind of joyless fun-killer to object to the sight of a baseball player smoking a cigar indoors to the point of looking up the hotline number at 10:30 on a Tuesday night, dialing it up, and lodging an official complaint. But at least five different people did that, all anonymously.
Come on, people. Just…come the hell on.
The ridiculous nature of the story led it to be picked up in several media outlets, ranging from ESPN to Cigar Aficionado. Ohio State Health Department spokesperson Rocky Merz was quoted in many of them, often treating the situation with good humor. He wished the Reds well in the playoffs, and said that the department realized everyone was celebrating.
According to state law, an investigation of this type requires an inspector to make an unannounced visit to Great American Ballpark within 30 days to check and see if anyone was smoking. The video evidence provided by FSO that led to the complaints could not be held against the Reds; an investigator would have to actually see someone smoking. If that happened, the Reds would be notified of the violation, but there would be no punishment. If the state received complaints about the Reds again, and another investigation revealed more smoking in the clubhouse, the Reds would be fined the sum of $100. I’d make the tired "Bob Castellini could find that amount between his couch cushions" crack here, but that’s too piddling an amount for even that joke to work.
I couldn’t find any information about the final result of the state’s investigation into the Reds, but given the fact that the Reds never really had anything to celebrate within the following 30 days, I think it’s safe to assume nothing came of it, except a couple of state health workers wasted some time and taxpayer money. And for those five fans who turned one of the most triumphant moments in recent Reds baseball into another not-so-great moment in Reds fan history, I just have three words for you:
Come on. Seriously?