The nine-year ache
A story of one fan's descent into indifference
BY PAUL DAUGHERTY | PDAUGHERTY@ENQUIRER.COM
Brad Boschert showed up at Lunken Airport nine years ago, to watch Ken Griffey Jr. exit Carl Lindner’s private jet. Griffey was bound for a press conference at Cinergy Field that would send chills down every spine in the Tristate. Boschert couldn’t believe his good fortune.
There is love and there is mad man-crush. Boschert loved the Reds. For Game 2 of the ’90 World Series, he sat with his father in seats near the left field foul pole. He could have almost touched the ball Joe Oliver hit that won that game.
Boschert was present when the Reds lost the playoff game to the Mets in ’99. When he played golf on early summer evenings, the Walkman was in his ear, playing Marty and Joe. Boschert graduated from Monroe High in 1988, a year after Griffey graduated from Moeller. He was disappointed the Seattle Mariners drafted Griffey before the Reds could. Enter the man-crush phase of the equation.
“I dreamed for 11 years of him being a Red," Boschert recalled. “When Lindner’s plane touched down at Lunken, I was giddy."
That was a long time ago. Griffey’s time in Cincinnati is about done. His “era" has been marked by disappointment, futility and cynicism. And worse, a growing apathy among fans. Little of this had anything to do with Griffey. It just started happening when he arrived.
Now, Brad Boschert still follows the Reds, when he can, with an eye narrowed by his own weary cynicism and disappointment. He’d like to believe in them again. But they never give him a reason. “They’ve sucked the life out of me," Boschert said today.
OK, so who’s Brad Boschert? Nobody. Everybody. You. Me. A 38-year-old guy with a wife, three kids and a mortgage. The passionate fan the Reds have lost, but who aches to come back. The faint heartbeat the Reds need to revive, to be anything consistently better than the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s telling that Reds fans haven’t gotten worked up about Griffey’s impending membership in The 600 Club. They’ve been so beaten down by losing and ineptitude, not even a hometown player crossing a precious threshold can grab them.
Equally revealing, when the Enquirer asked readers in a poll what the team should do with Griffey, 75 percent of more than 4,000 respondents said Griffey should be traded after he hits No. 600.
“Any sports owner’s worst enemy is indifference," said Boschert, who hasn’t been to a game this year and struggles with whether to take his kids to “watch them lose 11-2 and see Adam Dunn hit two solo homers.
“My best friend loved them the way I did," Boschert said. “Now, he couldn’t tell you what their record is."
Boschert wants Griffey traded, he wants Dunn traded. He wants “the whole thing to be blown up. Nothing personal. It breaks my heart the way it worked out here for Junior. But I’ve been looking forward to him leaving, because things won’t change until he’s gone."
Boschert doesn’t blame Griffey for the nine-year ache. “It’s nuts," Boschert said. “The guy has been here (almost) a decade, but it feels like he was never here at all. The highlight-reel superstar, the greatest player of his generation, where did he go? It’s like he left Seattle and went underground."
Truth is, Griffey’s career here has mirrored the decline of the team. Hope, injury, mediocrity, indifference. The emotions Boschert feels, his hero has felt, too.
“I still care," Boschert said. He lives in Columbus now. The Walkman is gone. He’ll listen to the games on the radio, if he’s working in the yard and nothing else occupies his time. It’s the difference between high noon and sunset. Sound familiar?
“They’ll have my full patience and understanding if they make big changes. But right now, the Reds aren’t fooling anyone who knows baseball," Boschert said. "I got all jacked up the first few series this year, but they’re looking again like a team that’s going to win 75 games."
Until that changes, Boschert will be content with his memories, and the lingering, almost naïve notion that the Reds again will be worth his heart’s time. Everyfan is out there, wary and hopeful at the same time.