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CINNATI -- When the Cincinnati Reds won back-to-back World Series championships in 1975 and '76, my parents were teenagers.
When the team won it all again in 1990, my parents had yet to meet each other.
I was one year too late for the party in 1995, when the Redlegs clinched a National League Division Series title, sweeping the Dodgers 3-0.
But in 2010, when the Reds made their one and only home playoff appearance after clinching the NL Central, I was 13 years old and in the stands at Great American Ball Park, whooping and waving my rally towel, only to watch the home team struggle through a series-clinching loss.
But this year is different.
This year, I was there for what they call "Clinchmas" -- the Reds' decisive 6-0 victory over the Dodgers that made them winners of the NL Central.
And Game 3 of this year's NLDS was my first playoff game on duty as a reporter -- the Reds emerged from San Francisco with a 2-0 lead in the series, but a clinch was not to be, as the Giants rallied to win, 2-1, in 10 innings.
You can tell me it's all the same. Say I've walked the same way to the press box from Opening Day through the dog days of summer. Say I've stood on the same field, seen the same familiar faces all season long.
And you'd be right.
Yes, it wouldn't be illogical for one to say that the playoff experience ought to be the same.
Illogical, no. But correct? Also a no.
The excitement I witnessed on Tuesday was more palpable than I've seen in 10 years of attending ballgames as a fan.
There was a certain, undeniable vibe that ran through the ol' ballpark. From the crowds congregating at the Banks downtown as we inched through traffic toward the ballpark, to the "Postseason 2012" logos that greeted you everywhere you looked -- on the scoreboard, in the concourse, on the players' uniforms and caps -- even the field itself has postseason logos painted into the grass.
On days like that, the ballpark just seems brighter. The place just glows with excitement, anticipation the whole city feels. It wasn't just Reds fans that showed up Tuesday night, it was Cincinnati. The city itself; gathered together in one place. The 29 acres, the 42,271 seats, the 10,100 tons of steel were alive.
The fans cheered every strike, every out, every batter. They waved their rally towels, making the place look like a swirling vortex of red and white. They emphatically punctuated every move their beloved Reds made with a cacophony of screams and shrieks that, together with the barks of the vendors, the smack of the glove, and the crack of the bat, created a wonderful sort of melody: the sound of baseball.
And not just any baseball: playoff baseball. Make no mistake about it, things were not the same as they were this time of year in 2010, or during the regular season.
Things are different now. Things are magical. Nothing can beat the frenzy of rally towels thrust into the air, twisting and turning as they gyrate every which way. Nothing can beat the roaring of the crowd, at turns worrisome and distraught, exuberant and euphoric.
No, it was not an ordinary day at Great American Ball Park. It will live on in the lore of the team, and more importantly, be etched forever in the memories of those who made it the remarkable night it was: the fans.
Megan Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest who earned the job of youth correspondent in 2011, is a reporter for MLB.com.