Yes, my Reds room. As in, The Cincinnati Reds. Not my "Red" room, which is a particular prop room from a recent string of fairly successful books and films that served an entirely different purpose than does my "Reds" room, but I digress.
Many who have seen it call it a man cave, and I suppose it fits the criteria as such, but that's not really what I consider it to be, given that I do not retire to the room for the purposes of getting away from the women in my life, and that my wife often spends time in the room with me.
Aside from housing my musical instruments, featuring a full 6-piece drum kit, guitars, two amps, a banjo, and a mini keyboard, it is what you might expect it to be: a room filled with Cincinnati Reds memorabilia, dedicated to my love of all things Reds. It features the obligatory big screen television, with a Playstation 4, a vintage Atari game console (with its own dedicated vintage TV), a pool table, compliments of my son and his college buddies, a mini fridge cooling bottled water and glass-bottled (yes, glass) Coke products, a Keurig coffee maker and a microwave. Oh yeah, and there is a vintage (looking) gum ball machine filled with red M&M's. And yes, you have to put a coin in to get them to dispense.
Outside of the other various pieces of furniture in the room for lounging purposes, there's nary another item in the room that is not either branded with the Reds, or bears some other connection to the team.
If you've seen it, you are already aware of the extensive collection I have. So I'll just speak to those who have not seen it yet: I can assure you -- not because I'm boasting, but because of the reaction of those who have seen the Room for the first time -- that whatever image you have conjured in your head right now doesn't begin to touch the reality.
I try to warn people, I really do. I tell them that I am a fan on a really scary level, and that my collection is extensive beyond their imagination, but when the actually see it, the reactions usually involve some sort of curse word, a cry out to the Lord, "I had no idea!" stunned silence, or some combination of all of those. The terms "Awesome" and "Incredible" and "Unbelievable" are frequently uttered as well, but I don't wanna sound as though I'm bragging.
When we lived in Indiana, my sons and I convinced my wife to let us turn our living room into our Reds room, to which she ultimately agreed after much prodding and pleading for several years. Though smaller than my collection now, it was still an extensive display in a much smaller room. But having grown up and lived in Indiana my whole life, all my friends knowing me most of their lives, the reaction to first seeing the Room was far less dramatic than it is here in SC. Most people would walk into our Living Room, take a look around, and say something like, "Yeah, this is pretty much what we expected from you."
But down here, it's a much bigger deal. I'll grant that its a bigger room, and because of such, we've added quite a bit to the collection since moving here. But in my little neck of the woods here in SC, there doesn't appear to be the fandom for pro teams around here to the level of mine with the Reds.
A few reasons: One, we're not that close to too many pro teams. Atlanta is the closest baseball team, four hours away, and Jacksonville is the closest football team. But, let's be honest, there just aren't that many Jaguars fans, especially for a team that doesn't have a rich, decades-long history.
Two, everybody who lives here is from somewhere else. So you find pockets of fans of teams from all over the country, of all different sports, but not giant throngs of such. The place I go to watch NFL games each Sunday (because the Colts aren't on local TV) is actually the official NFL viewing bar in this area for the Buffalo Bills. I didn't even know bars could be official NFL team viewing bars. The place is packed every Sunday with Bills fans, but I suspect they encompass every Bills fan in the area.
Three, in the absence of pro teams nearby, there are HUGE college allegiances here. Clemson, South Carolina, and Georgia college sports is a big deal around here. Being from Indiana, I thought IU-Purdue was a big rivalry. But that doesn't hold a candle to the Clemson-USC-Georgia rivalry down here. It's on a whole other level. But I find, overall, even big college fans don't tend to have large memorabilia collections. At the least the ones I've encountered don't. (There is a restaurant out on Hilton Head Island that is dedicated primarily to Ohio State that boasts a pretty impressive collection and decor.)
So it's appearing that my Reds Room seems to be some sort of anomaly in this area, and the people who've had the pleasure to visit and see it have, judging by their reactions, been duly impressed -- or shocked -- or both.
There are different types of collectors out there. Those who seek lots of autographed and signed items, those who go after lots of authentic and game-used items, knick-knack collectors, or those who focus on certain things like photos, or glass, or bobbleheads, or posters, etc. Of course, there are combinations and collections that contain lots of different items.
I'm a knick-knack guy, I think. I've never been a big autograph hound, and the signatures I do get, I like to get in person, so I have very little interest in buying signed items. (Plus, signed items are significantly more pricey than unsigned items.) I'm not a big game-used fan either, even though there are some pieces I wouldn't mind having. And make no mistake, I have game-used items, and some autographs and signed items in my collection. But really, how many Pete Rose autographs do I need?
So I tend to focus on branded items. Old and new. I like glass-ware, and baseballs, and figurines. Truth is, I'm not a giant bobblehead fan, but since that seams to be about the only promo items the team issues anymore, I have quite a few. Even then, I don't go after every single Joey Votto bobblehead out there. Otherwise, I'd have 20 or so Votto bobbles alone, and I just don't need that many.
I have a lot of photos, and cups and cans and mugs and glasses. Cereal boxes, RC Cans, beverage bottles, and just a wide variety of other items. Items I've had since I was a young boy, and items I bought just last week. If it has a Reds logo on it, I'm interested in it. (I've considered starting a video blog to highlight and discuss some of my more favorite pieces. I might.)
So why do I do it? I mean, why so extensively? I've often wondered that myself. And the best answer I can come up with is... memories. For me, the Reds are all about memories. Memories of my childhood, of growing up, of playing baseball myself, with my brother and my friends. Memories with my wife, and then my kids. I have loads of memories that revolve around the Cincinnati Reds. I could literally spend days telling you stories about my life that either directly involve the Reds or a Reds game, or in some other fashion have the Reds, or even just Cincinnati, as a backdrop to the story.
It started as a young boy. When I first started watching and becoming aware of baseball, it was the mid 1970's. And if you watched baseball at that time, especially in the midwest where I grew up, you were watching the Big Red Machine, and usually, they were pounding on somebody. Roundly considered to be one of the greatest teams of all time, it was almost impossible to not be a fan of that team. To this day, when people find I'm a Reds fan, no matter what team they are a fan of now, that person will tell me, "Oh yeah, I used to love the Big Red Machine. Bench and Morgan and Rose... loved those guys." I've met countless Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, or Red Sox fans who have told me that Johnny Bench or Pete Rose was their favorite player when they were growing up. Almost everyone loved, or at least respected, the Reds of the 70's.
I started, as most young boys do: by collecting baseball cards, specifically the Reds. My Dad, who was a truck driver, after being gone for days at a time, would bring home cards to me and my brother and we'd open the packs searching for the Reds players as if we were sifting for gold. Packs of baseball cards cost .25 each at that time, so as I grew up, every time I saved up a dollar somehow, I'd go buy four packs of baseball cards. A few years later, the cost rose to .30 per pack, so then the goal became to save up $3 so I could go buy 10 packs of cards! It was literally all I cared about spending my money on.
Over time, I began to get other items. Photos, or pennants, or a Reds yearbook, or a baseball. I somehow acquired a Reds seat cushion back in the early 80's, and I still have it to this day. And a 1981 yearbook that I personally had signed by several players, including my idol, Dave Concepcion. Today, it is my most prized possession. And it just grew from there.
Over the years, as I would acquire something, either buying it myself or receiving it as a gift, I just never got rid of it. And the collection grew. As I got married, my wife, God bless her, accepted my fandom and took it on as well. Early in our marriage, before we had kids (or much money!) going to Cincy for a couple games was a relatively inexpensive couple days of vacation for us. We could check out the city and catch some games, and stay in our favorite hotel for not a lot of money. Better yet, we could visit my family who lived in Cincy, and we spent precious time with them. My wife and I spent many a day in Cincinnati, just the two of us, bonding and growing (up) together.
When we had kids, going to Reds game became a family outing. Again, it was cheaper and easier than a Disney vacation. Often, we would wake up on a Saturday and just decide to drive over to the game. Believe it or not, it was not much more expensive than taking us all out for dinner and movie. The kids loved it, and they began to collect Reds stuff. So many hours of just bonding with my boys. Each of my boys had a Reds-themed bedroom at one time or another as they were growing up, and I displayed what items I could in my office or around the house. Eventually, after so many years, we finally just piled it all together into one place -- our living room.
Today, my kids have left all of what was theirs with me, so the collection can stay all in one place. And now, it gets added to on a regular basis. I suspect my kids are thrilled to know they get to inherit all this someday (wink-wink!)
But here it is... my parents divorced when I was 10 years old, and my father, who wasn't around much when they were married, was largely absent from my life for the next 10 years. My Mom was great. She had to play both roles for many years, and did the best job possible. But as anyone knows, there isn't a mother in the world who can replace the role a good father should play in the lives of their children. And I had some great men who stepped up in my life and mentored me. And especially my brother, who took me under his wings and fathered me. And played with and taught me how to play baseball. I can never thank him enough for helping shape me into the man I am today.
Please understand this... I'm not blaming my Dad for anything, nor do I hold some weird grudge. My father and I made amends a few years before his death. We loved each other dearly and I'm so thankful for the time we got to share together. But as a young boy, especially as I entered my teens, without a father in the house, I could have taken a lot of different paths in my life. A young teen has a lot of different options in front of him, and without the proper guidance, sometimes the best choices aren't always made.
For me, I was occupied with baseball, and primarily the Cincinnati Reds. How the Reds fared in each game each day mattered to me. Listening to Reds radio broadcasts, or catching the occasional game on TV not only interested me, but occupied my time that could have been spent in other ways. In the days before the internet and instant news, waking up to check the box scores in the morning paper served the same purpose.
Reds games mattered to a young boy like me, and they gave me something on which to focus my time and energy, and gave me something to which to aspire and look up. Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion was my childhood idol, and he was there, every night, in my life during every game of the summer year after year.
The Reds mattered to me then, and they matter to me now, and the best I can tell you is that my Reds Room honors all that, and somehow represents my gratitude to them for shaping the life of a young teenager in a positive way all those years ago. Calling it a shrine might be too strong of a word, but it is most definitely a great source of comfort to me, and being in the Room floods me with memories. Of Dads, and Sons, and Wives, and Friends, and "This one belongs to the Reds!" It just makes me happy.
And I like showing it off to my friends, and I get a kick out of their reactions, and I'm happy to tell the stories that answer their questions. Perhaps you'll like it too!
Come down for a visit. We've got a guest room for you to stay, and we can catch a game together!