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Hard to fathom that at my age, I had another first-time event still in the quiver. Monday marked the first time in my adult life that I wasn’t working in some on-air capacity for the start of the Reds’ season. No deadlines, no scripts, no time limits, no producers, no nothing. Just Opening Day in all its unadorned splendor.
Rather than feel disconnected, I felt more a part of the festivities than ever before.
It was a great day to enjoy the Findlay Market parade, bask in the glory of the ballpark and connect with good friends in baseball, in broadcasting and deeply rooted in Cincinnati.
Insiders can learn all about the luminaries Denny encountered on his first Opening Day as a fan.
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CINCINNATI -- Hard to fathom that at my age, I had another first-time event still in the quiver. Monday marked the first time in my adult life that I wasn’t working in some on-air capacity for the start of the Reds’ season. No deadlines, no scripts, no time limits, no producers, no nothing. Just Opening Day in all its unadorned splendor.
Though still a credentialed media member, my only role was as spectator. And there was plenty for me to take in for the first time. Starting with the Findlay Market parade.
It stepped off at noon at which time I would traditionally have been at the stadium, kicking off 9 On Your Side’s coverage of the most celebrated day of Cincinnati’s sports calendar. For the last quarter century, that included an interview with Hall of Fame broadcaster and radio voice of the Reds, Marty Brennaman. For all of the Opening Day demands on his time, Marty always, always came through for me. And not just for a courtesy visit. He unfailingly offered unique insights into what he had gleaned from spring training, leavened with the experience of 41 years behind the microphone. He never failed to provide even casual fans enough information to enjoy the Reds’ inaugural.
Truth be told, Marty was among a rare few who I made privy to my plans to step away from daily anchoring duties. I told him during last year’s visit that it would likely be my last. He was largely responsible for it being my best Opening Day performance.
ESPN’s claim to the game, pushing the start back until 4:10, has intruded on the natural flow of the day. But it has also provided more time for fans to enjoy the pomp of the Findlay Market Parade. Again my first it should be noted. Folding chair in hand, I made my way along with thousands of others to a vantage point on Fountain Square. The best view was reserved for the day’s biggest fan, Reds’ President Bob Castellini. He and his family had found an elevated perch in the Westin Hotel, which gave him a sweeping view of the parade units as they wended their way down Fifth Street. Ownership does and should have its privileges.
One observation I made nestled along the pedestrian barricades was the lack of marching bands early on. It was 20 minutes after the first unit of Cincinnati police officers and their Ohio Highway Patrol colleagues did a precision motorcycle minuet before the first band passed in front of the reviewing stand. In my world a band would be the lead attraction. But they’ve managed 95 years without my interference so I’ll defer.
With the Cardinals on the menu, it was no surprise to see Mr. Castellini’s counterpart draped over the rail of the St. Louis dugout when I arrived inside Great American Ball Park. To think that Bill DeWitt Jr., longtime Cincinnati resident and Cardinals’ president remembers me is one of the “Only in America” pages that populate my career. I first met Bill when he was president of the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association and my admiration for him has only grown over the years. I told him that I am always torn when the Cardinals face the Reds, because it means one of two guys I greatly respect is going to have a bad day. Bill was as always gracious and though I realize he has far bigger fish to fry, he never seems in a hurry to move on to someone else. The consummate gentleman.
Monday was also a chance to catch up with a one-time contemporary who has gone on to great things in the broadcasting industry. Lee Cowan is virtually unchanged from his days at WLW-T where he reported and anchored in the mid 1990’s. He’s now more widely known as national correspondent for CBS News and substitute host for Charles Osgood on the widely acclaimed CBS Sunday Morning. Lee’s career has taken him literally around the world but Monday brought him back to Cincinnati where he and producer John D’Amelio were shadowing Pete Rose for a soon to be aired profile. Lee has always conveyed a calm, look-you-in-the-eye sincerity which has served him well in his never ending pursuit of major stories and newsmakers. I’m certainly looking forward to his Pete Rose report.
With the media socializing attended to, it was then time to get down to baseball. Whereas I would normally have been back at WCPO’s studios by the 4:10 first pitches provided by Davey Concepcion and Barry Larkin, this year I was comfortably ensconced in Section 114, Row BB seat 8 down the left field line, next to my sister Marlene Cunnigham. After subjecting herself to more cold, miserable openers and playoff games that she cares to recall, she was finally treated to a warm, sunny, historic day.
We got that but the two of us and 43,132 others were served up an ignominious first in the bargain; the Reds first Opening Day shutout loss in 60 years.
But better to have been there than only hear about it. This at least to me makes for a far more enduring memory. You can look it up.
Janson's "My 2 cents" column is published every Monday and Wednesday on WCPO.com. His video commentary airs every Friday at 6 p.m.