EXT. EMPTY GREAT AMERICAN BALL PARK – EVENING
One lonely usher cleans up an aisle in the nosebleeds. He’s old, decrepit almost. The scoreboard above him flashes ROCKIES 6 REDS 4. The scene is silent, but as the camera pans down to the dugouts, faint noise can be heard. As a ball boy, clad in Reds gear, picks up scattered Gatorade cups with his hands and sweeps sunflower seeds into the corner, there’s arguing in the background, probably cursing, but it is muffled. Not enough to draw the ball boy’s attention. Suddenly, a crash leads to full blown screaming. The ball boy’s head snaps toward the hallway that leads to the locker room.
INT. REDS LOCKER ROOM
Players look dejected, broken, after losing 10 of 11 games. Food is scattered across the clubhouse floor. Heads are down as the manager prepares to launch into a tirade.
BRYAN, whose red face matches the cap that covers short, graying hair, stands with his hands on his hips. He has bags under his eyes and anger on his face. He’s at a loss.
JESUS CHRIST, Roldy. Turn down the GOT dang music!
ROLDY, a tall, lithe young man stares incredulously at his superior while a sucking on a green Tootsie Pop. Staring him straight in the eye, he takes the Beats headphones dangling around his neck and places them on his ears.
See this is what I mean, fellas. Two weeks ago we were fine. We were sitting pretty around .500. Now where are we? HUH? We’re damn near in last place, THAT’S where we are. And what I’m seeing from this bunch is a group of guys that don’t seem bothered by it. And THAT bothers me. Who the hell cares that we are in GOT dang fourth place now? NOT THIS GUY. What does that even mean, losing all those games?
JOE, a stern looking Canadian man with a head that isn’t meant to be as bald as it is, raises his hand while holding one of those scientific TI calculators you played with while ignoring your high school calculus teacher. Without raising his eyes, he butts in.
Well actually, according to data culled by Baseball Prospectus, our chances of reaching the playoffs have dropped by about 3 percent in the last week alone and we now have only a 1.3 percent shot. Factor that in with the even more pessimistic viewpoint data at Fangraphs and we’re looking at finishing about 20 games under .500. Take the standard deviation of those sites and add in the…
Dammit Joe, I don’t care what the numbers say. I care what a team’s HEART says. And you know what? I’m reading the heart of every damn guy in this place and it’s like I’m reading GOT damn hieroglyphics. It scares me gentlemen. It’s just—
JOHN sits back, relaxed, in his locker. He tosses a baseball in the air while smiling and mockingly laughing. He speaks clearly, but in a distinct Spanish accent.
That we, eh, suck?
Across from JOHN sits BILL, a young man with a kind face. He is preoccupied by the pesky fly buzzing around his head. He swings swiftly with his fist and misses. Swings with his glove and misses. Swings with a fly swatter and misses.
Meanwhile, TODD sees him struggling and splatters the bug on the wall. TODD is a large man with stubble on his face. He sits next to JOHN. He sports a black t-shirt with no lettering on the front. As he turns to face JOHN, you catch a glimpse of the back of his t-shirt, the words “His Way” on it, with a silhouette of a smiling, old Italian man.
Hey now, man, that’s not—
TODD’s voice trails off as he notices BRYAN looking from side to side, as if playing both sides of an imaginary conversation. BRYAN begins muttering to himself. You can’t tell what he’s saying, but you can tell he’s upset. His eyes become red. A tears falls to the floor and drops in a puddle of chewing tobacco.
Ceiling of the Reds clubhouse. The Mr. Red logo gives way to a shining beam of light. All players are instantly transfixed. MARLON removes his fishing-line-thin reading glasses and places his weathered copy of The Grapes of Wrath in his locker. BRANDON, his back turned away from the action, sees the light from the mirror he is using to floss. It takes BRYAN a second to notice, what with the crying and all, but when he does, his mouth is agape. The camera pans the room to capture the astonishment of the players before lingering on the face of BRYAN, who is too flabbergasted to wipe the few remaining bits of moisture from his cheek.
A figure begins it’s descent into the locker room. It is a man. He’s not portly, but certainly not skinny, but definitely not fat. Perhaps husky is the word. He’s draped in white linens and wearing a white chest protector. A backward Reds batting helmet sits atop his perfect round dome. His white cleats gently touch the floor. He is smiling a smile wide enough to span the Ohio. His voice is soft, yet powerful.
Bryan, Bryan. Be calm, my friend.
BRYAN recognizes him immediately. It is BRAYAN, King of clan Brayan/Bryan/Brian and first of his name. Silence sweeps over the room when the players and coaches realize that they are in the presence of royalty. The baseball JOHN was tossing drops to the floor. The music from the headphones ROLDY was listening to scratches to a halt. JOE’s calculator reads “Syntax Error.”
My people, my friends, my fellow Brayan/Bryan/Brian. I come bearing message. A message of hope. A message of belief. I look into your hearts and I read strength.
Wait, who taught you Egypti—
Shhhh, hush my brother. I see the strength of a thousand lions coursing through the veins of each and every one of you. But in this village, this quiet village the lion sleeps tonight.
[singing] oooooh WEE–
Yes, Todd! Awaken the lion! You are the Reds of the City of Cincinnati. You were put on this earth to hit baseballs and throw baseballs and catch baseball and win baseball games. This is your calling! THIS IS YOUR DESTINY!
Uh dude, we just lost like nine in a row or something like that. We’ve scored the third fewest runs in the majors. We’ve struck out the sixth fewest number of hitters. We have the third worst run differential in the NL.
Oh man, for real? Well, um…
BRAYAN begins to ascend back into the light that he came from, smiling still, but this time more awkwardly. He just wants to get out of there as soon as possible. He quickly is absorbed back into thelight.
BRYAN slumps on a stool, staring up at the ray of light. ROLDY comes over, hands the coach an unopened Tootsie Pop. BRYAN looks back gratefully, only for ROLDY to pull it away as BRYAN reached for it. BRYAN begins muttering to himself again, a man lost in his own words.
Adam Flango is an Associate Editor at Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @adam_flango.