Cleveland doesn’t have a monopoly on the Factory of Sadness

There is a clever YouTube video featuring a despondent Cleveland Browns fan where, standing outside the stadium, he coins the term “Factory of Sadness.” I think it was made in 2011 but it could have been made at any point in the last 15 years.

There is no disputing that being a Browns fan (and I am) is like not having a favorite NFL team. I’ve been asked, “Who do you root for?” I say, “the Browns.” It’s usually met with awkward silence. I have to go on to give the rationale for why on God’s green earth anyone would be a Browns fan. In short, I blame it on my Dad. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, when he was coming of age, the Browns were one of the premier franchises in the NFL. Have you ever heard of Otto Graham? Jim Brown? Back then, it made sense to Browns fan. No shame. Growing up in southern West Virginia at that time, Cleveland was the closest city with an NFL team. So you rooted for the Browns in football and the Reds in baseball. And because I believe every son should have the same rooting interests as their fathers, I fell in line.

So the Browns have been a laughingstock and yes, a Factory of Sadness. But the beauty of being a Browns fan is that you have no expectations. None. Zero. They are going have high draft picks. They will botch the picks. They’ll finish as the bottom of their division. Predictable. Safe. No chance of being disappointed, because…well, you just know what’s going to happen.

That brings me to my beloved Cincinnati Reds. They are the team of my youth. I believe that the ultimate period of fandom is about the ages of 10–12 years old. Those days will become your “back in the day” references. You are old enough to understand what you are watching and young enough to believe with all your heart. When I was 10 years old, the Reds beat the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series. I won’t lie. That was one of the happiest moments of my life. I actually cried when they blew Game 6…and am reminded of that game constantly. Can we stop with the Carlton Fisk “Stay fair, stay fair” clip? Greatest moment in World Series history? Please.

During my youth, the Reds were the most dominant team in baseball. Some experts say the teams from 1975–76 were the best in the history of baseball, right up there with the ’27 Yankees. It was cool to be a Reds fan. But then, it all ended. They fired Sparky, Perez was traded and all of our stars ended up in Philadelphia. Enter the dark years. John McNamara. The villain GM Dick Wagner. Bad teams. Johnny Bench was old and broken down. Dark times.

Somehow, the planets aligned and the Reds went wire-to-wire in 1990. Swept the chemistry-aided Bash Brothers and the Oakland A’s in the World Series. Barry Larkin. Tom Browning. The Nasty Boys. It was like old times. Back in business. And since then, it’s been painful. A Factory of Sadness.

The very next year, the defending World Champions won 74 games and finished 20 games out of first place. It didn’t take long. In 1995, there was hope again in the Queen City. Behind Ron Gant, Reggie Sanders and future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the ole Redlegs looked like they had recaptured the magic. And they were swept 4 games to nothing in the playoffs. Fast forward to 1999. The Reds, after winning 96 games, were forced to play a game 163 to determine the NL wild-card…and Al Leiter, heretofore hated in Reds lore, gave up two measly hits and the Reds limped to a 5–0 loss. It would be 10 years before the Reds would….well, get swept (and no-hit) in the playoffs. Years of Ray Knight, Bob Boone, Jerry Narron pulling mostly the wrong strings in the dugout. Despair. Junior came home…and it was a disaster. Joe Nuxhall died. Sigh.

The proverbial “window” was wide open for the Reds, starting with the aforementioned dreadful 2010 playoff series against the Phillies. The Reds had a bevy of homegrown talent. Joey Votto was the best hitter in baseball. Dat Dude BP. Jay Bruce was a future MVP. Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, two-home grown future Cy Young winners. And true to form, the 2011 Reds were back under .500 but in 2012 — well, this is what we have been waiting on. A core of young talent coming of age. 97 wins and maybe the best team in baseball. Easily handling the Giants in the first two games IN SAN FRANCISCO, including a 9–0 spanking in game 2. We got this! Going home. Just have to win ONE game of three. Then some psycho name Hunter Pence apparently started screaming and yelling positive messages in the Giants clubhouse and in pure “win one for the Gipper” form, the Giants won the next three games and of course, won the World Series. Despair. Again. Factory of Sadness. Village of Crushed Dreams. Hunter Pence joins Carlton Fisk and Al Leiter as miserable excuses for human beings.

Proving that the most painful team to follow is the Cincinnati Reds, the very next year, the Reds win 90 games. Make it to the 1-game wildcard. Against the they-have-been-hapless-for-a-lot-longer-than-the-Reds Pittsburgh Pirates. Cueto on the mound. Surely we can can beat the Pirates with ole Johnny on the bump. Ole Johnny got hazed by the Pirate fans. They gave him the “KWAY-toe, KWAY-toe” razzing. He dropped the ball while standing on the rubber. He didn’t make it through the 4th and the Reds were never in the game.

The last two seasons have been unmitigated disasters. The highlight — the absolute greatest thing that happened — is Todd Frazier winning the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game. Oh, he was traded a few weeks ago.

Factory of Sadness.