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Beneath the Diamond, the Beach

If it sucks...hit da bricks!

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare / USA TODAY NETWORK

I don’t care about the Reds anymore, let me start with that. It has been so long since I have written here, I lost my posting privileges. Forget buying, I lost my MLB app and password a couple of phones ago. I noted in a Fellas Group Chat that I only recognized 8 names on a Spring Training roster, following that remark up with the Nicolas Cage in Con-Air gif.

That’s where I’m at right now. The only thing that separates me from Phil Castellini, as we have learned, is that my dad fell in love with the Big Red Machine and he is the fourth generation of fail-up in a family that spent the 20th century sucking the marrow, richness, and filth out of Cincinnati and the whole Ohio River Valley.

Castellini family, first. For those folks wondering, “how on earth do you become a billionaire by canning fruit?”, the basic answer is, “you don’t pay a whole lot for the fruit.” The rise of the Castellini fortune in the 1920s was not due to any particular business brilliance. It was because:

  • Cincinnati was the largest rail hub connecting the Black Belt of the south to northern markets after the Union Army erm took care of southern railroads
  • The US Army bought and canned all the goddamn food it could find from 1917-1918
  • Southern farmers were promised that this would continue into the 1920s as Europe would be starving for American produce with only themselves to blame.

Unfortunately for just about all life on earth, Europe in the 1920s instead turned to its colonies for food and its Jews for blame.

Zachary D. Blizzard notes that American farmland value dropped by 26 percent from 1920-1925. Farm foreclosures more than quadrupled from 3.8/thousand to 17/thousand. If you have read a single thing about American history, you might have guessed that the pain was inequitably distributed: there were 925,000 Black farmers in 1920, comprising 14 percent of all farmowners. Both are the historic high water marks for Black farm ownership.

Readers of Mike Davis’ Late Victorian Holocausts might note that if the same food is being grown but farmers are getting paid less, that is because that money is going to someone else instead.

That person, in the Midwest, was a Castellini. As the principal supply chain for farmers throughout the region, the Castellinis owned the infrastructure that farms relied on to get their goods to market. The Castellinis raised rates, and the people who had nowhere else to turn to, well they suffered. Or as a PR piece puts it, “for many years after, the Castellini Group of Companies was the sole distributor for these growers.”

Which is all to say, “Where are you going to go?” may as well be on the family seal.

Compared to the grand mal transformation of rural American life into a debtor’s prison, trading Eugenio Suarez might not seem so bad. But they are two hands that feed each other: the grandson of someone who demolished Cincinnati’s future, who bought into an oligarchy rather than helped build a democracy, has to do something to justify his last name. So he buys the Reds. His son, whose forefathers have annihilated any inheritance outside their own wealth, revels in his sole possession: that same last name. Oppression violates the oppressor as much as it does the victim.

That all said, being the victim fucking sucks. As Reds fan diaspora knows, being a Reds fan is a joke where only a few know the punchline. I still wear my Reds hat: a black number with a red “C-REDS”, so that people don’t mistake a red cap for the MAGA one that has earned more of the Castellini family’s goodwill than any ballplayer. There’s no more guaranteed conversation-stopper outside of Hamilton County than a Reds hat.

Them: “So, you a Reds fan?”

Me: “Yup.”

Them, trying to think of one thing about the Reds: “Okay.”

I have given a lot of time, money, and an absurd amount of emotion into the Cincinnati Reds. It is a sucker’s game, all the way down. One out of every hundred ballplayers makes it, and it takes a thousand of us fans believing that one of these years is going to make it all worthwhile. The Castellinis rely on that belief, and that optimism that the status quo will bring us deliverance, to line their pockets.

There is nothing there besides belief, no other reason to care about this team and this sport. Phil, who probably sees himself as an angry god when the rest of the country sees a petulant child, wants us to think that the opposite of belief is hopelessness.

Speaking as someone whose summer evenings have opened up, who is looking up weekend activities that don’t involve spending $100 on tickets ($6 of which will go to payroll and $9 of which goes to some Congressman posting George Soros memes) or spending emotional energy on Hunter Strickland…that is really not the case. There is no need to believe in the status quo. Leave the farm, move out, teach your kids that monsters are to be destroyed, not feared.

Lack of belief isn’t hopelessness, lack of belief is peace.