My favorite anecdote in Craig Fehrman’s piece about Aroldis Chapman is the plane story. Here’s Aroldis, a young Cuban émigré just called up to the big leagues, boarding the team plane for possibly the first time, being told that as a wacky bit of rookie initiation he’s supposed to dress in drag and serve drinks to his teammates. And he refuses, flat out. His teammates’ response? “Guys got kind of upset about that,” says one player.
Maybe it didn’t occur to them that the new $30 million left-handed phenom was so overwhelmed by everything happening to him and around him that he instinctively went dark whenever things got too weird. And continues to. That’s what attracted Fehrman to Chapman to begin with. On the field Chapman has been both electric and confounding, throwing 100-mile-per-hour pitches and fanning opposing players one day, collapsing the next. Off the field his life has been…complicated. Sure, he drives a Lamborghini and lives in a mansion in Miami, but then there are the speeding tickets, the incident with the stripper in the Pittsburgh hotel room, and the lawsuits. At numerous points over the last three seasons, players and fans alike have been left scratching their heads and wondering: Who is this guy? Chapman stopped talking to the press about his personal life a while ago (and neither he nor the Reds would speak to us for this story), but of course that only serves to increase people’s curiosity. In the age of Twitter and Honey Boo Boo, the notion that a well-known sports figure might try to live his extraordinary life in a cone of silence is an anomaly. But as Fehrman makes clear in “The Enigma of Mr. 105,” Chapman’s got his reasons.
As I read through the rest of this issue, that word—extraordinary—popped up in a few other places. I know, it’s absurd to link the exploits of a fireballing major league pitcher to those of the kitchen magicians populating our local restaurants, but for the purposes of this column I ask you to suspend disbelief. Because it’s true! The amount of creativity and prowess on display is remarkable. I don’t know how or why Cincinnati’s dining scene continues to fly under the national radar but let’s enjoy the open secret for as long as we can. From high priests like Todd Kelly and Jean-Robert de Cavel to new alchemists like Owen Maass and Dan Wright, the city is in the midst of a glorious foodie renaissance.
So, to recap, this issue is: Extraordinary. Confounding. Electric. Enigmatic. And I’ll add mouth-watering. Except for Bob Woodiwiss’s rat story. It’s…well, you gotta read it. Hopefully it doesn’t make you upset.