A Most Interesting Year (of sports)

On January 14, 2003, Marvin Lewis was hired as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. At that time, the Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball team was led by Bob Huggins who would be replaced by Mick Cronin, a few years after, but the Bearcats basketball team enjoyed some years of coaching stability. Both of these teams, coupled with the Reds, embark their 2019 campaigns with new leaders at the helm making this year one of the most interesting in the city’s sports history.

David Bell has led the Reds almost halfway through the 2019 with mostly positive results. Sure, they are not above the vaunted .500-mark, but that would be lofty to expect given the team’s consistent failures over the last five years. He has implemented ideas scorned by his predecessors and had to galvanize a tumultuous roster, in the process. Say what you will about their apparent cohesion, right now, but the Reds have a number of expiring contracts (roughly $65 million is coming off the books, this coming offseason), big personalities (like Yasiel Puig), and players who could have been hurt by the team’s rumored movements from this past offseason (Tucker Barnhart). None of that has boiled over, though, and Bell deserves a lot of credit for that.

So I wonder, how the new coaches for the Bengals and Bearcats basketball teams will fair?

Zac Taylor has been handed multiple tests before even heading up his first training camp. His first round pick and, given the Bengals’ continued abstinence from spending in free agency, best acquisition of the offseason, Jonah Williams, was confirmed out for the season. Williams requiring surgery to repair a torn labrum underscored the lack of aggression in improving a roster that won six games last year. 

Their biggest weaknesses were at linebacker and offensive line and their solutions were to draft help. One of the aspects of that help will have to wait until 2020 to make an impact and the other, with all due respect to Germaine Pratt’s perceived talent at linebacker, was a third round draft pick. 

Due to the lack of roster turnover, the Bengals’ brass made it clear that coaching was to blame for the team’s demise. So, Taylor will be evaluated from the get-go as change will come schematically, if it comes at all.

A very different situation led to the hiring of John Brannen. The Bearcats fizzled out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, yet again, last season, but they weren’t exactly bad. In fact, many had high hopes for what 2019 could become with returning players and an experienced coach, in Mick Cronin. Then UCLA came calling for Cronin and everything changed. He went west, his players and recruits scattered, and Brannen was left with what appeared to be a skeleton crew. 

Then Jarron Cumberland announced he’d be returning for his senior season and things changed. Suddenly, because Cumberland is returning, transfers perked up at the idea of going to Cincinnati. Brannen has since gotten Cumberland’s cousin Jaevin, an experienced point guard named Chris McNeal, and a top-50/four-star recruit in Zach Harvey.

Even with the roster turnover, all eyes will be on Brannen and how he coaches this team. Many fans were vexed by Cronin’s style throughout his tenure. Reports say Brannen is completely opposite, focusing more on offense than defense. He has said they will be a faster team, aiming at increasing the amount of possessions they have in a game. Words are far different than actions, of course, but there is quite a bit of buzz around what will be going on inside New Fifth-Third in it’s second season.

Predictions, bad guesses, and premonitions aside, there is a lot of intrigue at what will be. Both the Bengals and Bearcats have enjoyed lots of continuity in coaching, over the past 16 years, but there is a lot of anticipation for this coming season which will offer lots of newness in the Queen City. Just ask Reds fans as they are still interested in where there team is, halfway into the baseball season. Pretty much every Reds fan could not have said that last year.

Advertisements

Cincinnati Sports Fandom, Not for the Faint of Heart

What is it about Cincinnati sports?

I was born here, or more specifically, I was born in Hamilton. Ever since I comprehended sports I have called myself a fan of Cincinnati sports. I was a year old when the Reds completed their wire-to-wire run in 1990. I can’t even, really, claim that because, ya know, I was a baby.

I have known nothing but pain as a fan of the Queen City’s sports teams. You joke, you say melodramatic, but man, when sports is this close to your soul, you don’t just shrug this off.

Friday night’s ridiculous 12-11 loss by the Cincinnati Reds to the San Francisco Giants is a microcosm of what is Cincinnati sports fandom. Some city’s fans may say they have it worse, and sure, maybe Cleveland fans have an argument. However, as a city, they have a professional championship in the last 28 years.

Friday night was supposed to be a celebration of a talent the Reds have been expecting for four years. Nick Senzel debuted. With him came the thought of a jolt to the team, maybe an awakening. For a few innings, it felt that way. Then reality set in.

In 2012, the Cincinnati Reds were good. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. In a strange twist of fate, the National League divisional round playoffs would be played in a manner where the lower seed would get the first two games at home with the higher seed getting the last three. The Reds won the first two in San Francisco, setting up a series clincher at Great American Ballpark in game three. Then reality set in.

It doesn’t even have to be the Reds, look at the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team, in 2018. A two-seed in the tournament, they looked poised for a run. In the second round, they built a 20-point lead on Nevada, leading fans to begin figuring out Final Four paths. Then reality set in.

Probably the worst of all, in 2005, the Cincinnati Bengals had a Super Bowl contending team. You can count on one hand the number of teams you could describe that way, who have played in Cincinnati. Nevertheless, 2005 looked like the year. Carson Palmer was an all-pro quarterback, the defense was stellar, there were no holes in the team. Then Kimo Von Oelhoffen and reality set in.

Cincinnati sports fans can’t have nice things.

Friday was another reminder. You finally get to see the Reds bring their top prospect to the big leagues. A signal that the next phase, if not the final one, of the rebuild is in full effect. You build a crazy 8-0 lead early in the game. You finish the night now six games under .500. Reality set in.

When the Reds, Bengals, or Bearcats win a championship, it will truly be something to behold. I am not sure of how my mental state will be. Until then, I will grapple with the reality of being a Cincinnati sports fan.

Catching You Up-Intro to Links of the Week

I’ve been busy writing, but not here, and that’s kind of a bummer. Here’s some links to what I’ve been up to. I’m going to start doing this where I tease what I’ve been doing elsewhere and provide a link. I don’t much care for neglecting my home site, where I decided writing was something I wanted to do, pay or not. Now I’m building something to possibly start turning money out of this hobby. Anyway, here is what I’ve been up to.

CINCINNATI REDS

You all know I love the Reds the most. I’ve been writing a bunch on lockedonReds.com.

Why it’s not so bad if the Reds get good value out of trade involving Scooter Gennett – https://www.lockedonreds.com/reds/scooter-might-be-traded-and-thats-okay/

Redsfest was a blast – https://www.lockedonreds.com/reds/recapping-redsfest/

And one last link, this one was about Billy Hamilton being non-tendered – https://www.lockedonreds.com/reds/instant-reaction-bye-bye-billy/

CINCINNATI BENGALS

I must admit, my interest has waned in the Bengals season. Just doesn’t feel like there’s a whole lot to write about, other than talking about how things need to change. That being said, here’s one about my feelings on the state of the team – https://www.lockedonbengals.com/bengals/a-sucker-til-the-bitter-end/

FANTASY FOOTBALL

I began writing for another website, called getsportsinfo.com. Every Friday I do a column called “Studs, Duds, and Sleepers,” with mostly successful picks. Here’s last week’s post…which won’t do you any good right now, but check out the look of the post – https://getsportsinfo.com/studs-duds-and-sleepers-week-14-2/

Like I said, from here on out, I’ll post links to other stuff, that way you know I’m not abandoning the writing. On the contrary, I’m trying to make it more than a hobby!

Happy Veterans Day Weekend, Cincinnati

It’s Friday and my mind is focused on a three day weekend, but I did want to impart some thoughts on the world of Cincinnati sports for this weekend.

The Bearcats football team has a massive matchup this Saturday night. USF comes into Cincinnati an underdog, but I do not believe they’re as bad as the line (UC favored by two touchdowns), but this is definitely a winnable game for UC. It all comes down to focus. Luke Fickell had the boys ready for Navy’s triple option offense, a running attack that put up the loftiest rushing total by an opponent in Bearcats history, last year. This year, though, the Bearcats held them to just over two yards a carry. Now Fickell has to keep his team reigned in as they approach a monster matchup with the best team in the conference, the “defending national champion” Central Florida Knights. South Florida is not good in the cold, and it will be coooooold tomorrow night. Still, the Bearcats cannot take them for granted, as the Bulls were undefeated and ranked in the Top-25, as soon as three weeks ago.

The Xavier Musketeers play their second game of the season on Saturday, against Evansville. Another solid mid-major opponent for the Muskies to grow against. The question will be, will Naji Marshall return to the floor in this one? Didn’t have him in the opener and they got by, it will be difficult against a solid squad from the Missouri Valley Conference. The Men of Steele found a way to win, forcing turnovers late, we will see if that trend continues. Xavier hasn’t had a good defense in the past few years, but if they consistently force turnovers, there’s your defense.

The Cincinnati professional football team may be smashed this Sunday. They may also (tiny chance) win. The New Orleans professional football team is really good. They have a future hall of famer at quarterback and, possibly, a future hall of famer at coach. They have oodles of talent at running back and wide receiver. They are also coming off a huge win to knock the Los Angeles professional football team off their undefeated pedestal and have to travel to a non-conference opponent and play in dismal weather. Not the brightest, most motivational backstory for the fleur de lis-wearing pigskin professionals, but they are a much better team (given injuries) than that of the Orange and Black. Honestly, if Marvin Lewis’ men come out on top, I will be pleasantly surprised, but if they don’t it won’t even phase me. The all-important game for the Bengals is next week, in Baltimore, against the Ravens. So long as they don’t come out of this week’s game with even more injuries than they are already plagued with, I think they’ll be fine. Also, a personal reason I wouldn’t mind the Bengals losing, is I will be at a wedding watching on my phone. Shout out to Zack on his big day (holler at me if you actually read this, bro).

Two Reds rumors circulating have me feeling a certain way. The first is that some teams are interested in Eugenio Suarez. Well, so are we in Cincinnati, frankly, and I do not want to see him traded. The other rumor is very encouraging, and that is the Cleveland Indians are open to trading away their ace, Corey Kluber. Now, it will require a king’s ransom, but go for it, Reds! He is one of the best pitchers in the game. He will cost a few top prospects, but he is also the kind of pitcher who will bring the wins. He’s under control for a few years, so it won’t be a rental, which gives the Reds the perfect pitcher to build their rotation around. Plus, I am sure Derek Johnson will enjoy having a vet like Kluber to be the “stopper” of the rotation. I am a Cincinnati sports optimist, to a fault, but I am excited by what’s going on around Great American Ballpark.

Here’s to a three-day weekend, for some of us and Happy Veteran’s Day!

Redsfest

It’s almost here! I just bought my tickets, going to be there all weekend!

Redsfest is always an exciting time. It is two days of baseball during the doldrums of the year without baseball. Anybody whose anybody, within the Reds organization, will be there.

I’m particularly excited to get to see what sort of plans they have for celebrating the 150th year of professional baseball’s oldest team. The uniforms look awesome, and I may just have to shell out a few buck for a throwback jersey from the early 1900’s.

I’m also intrigued by the chance to get to meet some current players I’ve not yet met, like Phil Ervin, Eugenio Suarez, Tucker Barnhart and new players (fingers crossed for an ace). I’m also hoping to get to hear from the new coaching staff and the front office, who are seemingly on the same page.

Regardless of the details, for two days I will be immersed in the Cincinnati Reds, what more can I ask for?

Monday Musings

It’s Monday morning (at time of writing) and my mind is in a bit of an entanglement.

Firstly, AJ Green is hurt. The report says “some games” which is about as vague as the chances I give the Bengals of beating the Saints, without him. Apparently, he hurt it in the last game before the bye, whenever he got up grabbing at his toe. Some reports say that, after the game, AJ mentioned stubbing it and he’ll be fine. Then he was seen at PBS in a walking boot. Now they’re saying multiple games will be missed. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots and see that Tyler Boyd will be Andy Dalton’s number one target for the Saints game, the Ravens game, and maybe beyond that. In a league where the slimmest of margins separate wildcard teams from teams who finish 7-9, losing AJ really blurs that line for Cincinnati.

The Reds are being linked to a number of different free agents, and it’s got me excited. Sure, I looked at season tickets and realized peons like me aren’t meant to afford that regality (plus, different ticket apps make it cheaper and easier to go to the games I want, anyway) and the Opening Day tickets available on websites start at $150, right now, as the “market” preys on overenthusiastic instant-gratification junkies. That being said, I’m all in on Redsfest coming at the end of November and will probably type up a few words on it, too. I’d love to meet Dallas Keuchel, or Patrick Corbin, or even Nathan Eovaldi, but we’ll see. The powers that be for the oldest professional base-ball franchise have said they’ll break the bank. But whether it’s a bigger crack in the piggy bank or a full blown shattered oinker, remains to be seen.

I plan on writing more about this next thought, so I’ll be brief, but college basketball is back, baby, and this fool just got cable. Hope my wife is ready to hear lots squeaking sneakers and swishing nets!

UC football is back ranked in the Top-25 with a pair of games against good Florida football teams (USF and UCF). That being said, they get the lesser of two Florida’s at home, this Saturday, in a game I think they have a much better shot at winning than I did in August. Then comes the monster that is UCF. 21-straight wins (maybe 22 by next week) will face off against the Luke Fickell reclamation project. Coach Fick has built the Cats into bonafide football players in just a year and a half, and may be the next name to be plucked from Clifton to a big time job. Nobody, including me, saw the success he’s had this year as possible, and yet here we are. We could be talking about a 10-win Bearcats football side, come December, and that is magnificent.

I’m still on about Bohemian Rhapsody. What a film. Been listening to Queen all weekend.

Also, playing Red Dead 2 any chance I get. It’s so simple and yet so fantastic. Much like many a good Western flick. One of the latest “missions,” or maybe stories is a better term for them, that I completed was one where your character gets drunk, but has to keep his other drunk friend out of trouble, and then run from Johnny-Law. Rockstar just knows how to make an entertaining video game.

Right, well, back to Monday, I suppose.

Tuesday Thoughts

Happy Tuesday! Got a handful of random thoughts on my mind that would take a lot of effort to make into full posts, but look great in a list!

1. Matt Harvey makes his Great American Ballpark debut. I do not have tickets (going to see Deadpool 2, again) but I will be watching. My expectations have been low since he became a Red and, so far, I’ve not been disappointed. As far as this night, in a vacuum, I want to see him get a quality start. Give the loyal Reds fans a six-inning outing with three runs allowed, maybe pepper in some strikeouts, and walk nobody. I don’t ask for much, I feel.

2. The Reds begin a home series against the Pirates. Pittsburgh has surprised the experts around the league and held their own at the top of the Central Division for the first few months in the 2018 season, but the winds are changing. The Buccos’ sails don’t have that breeze pushing them forward, right now. The Jolly Roger sits stagnant in the water as they’ve dropped three-straight games, losing a four-game series to the lowly Padres while allowing them to score 21 runs during that set. Now they sit fourth in the division. This is music to the Reds ears as they dropped three of four in Pittsburgh back in the beginning of April, leading to the worst start in franchise history. Time for Cincy to shake off the bad juju and get back on some sort of track.

3. Lebron scores his tail off, getting 44 points, and the Cavs won by only nine points. I have been verbally saying this, but now I’ll put it on the internet, I think the Celtics win in seven.

4. Every sports fan’s favorite words, “Game Seven,” seem to happen a lot in hockey. The Caps and Lightning are going to do it on Wednesday and I love the storylines for this game. Tampa is 5-2 all-time in Game Sevens while DC is 4-11. The game is on the Lightning’s home ice and I’m thinking it’s going to be classic. Plus, Doc Emrick is on the call. That dude could announce paint peeling and I’d be enthralled. Best play-by-play guy in any sport.

5. I’ll get you out of here on this – Jim Harbaugh. The man has to be in the crosshairs of Michigan’s boosters. The Wolverines have tread water throughout his short tenure in Ann Arbor, but now the Maze and Blue have something that should push them over the top: a quarterback. Dude from Ole Miss, Shea Patterson, got his waiver to transfer out of the Rebels disfunction and onto a team he can play for right away, and Jimmy H got him. Patterson was a 5-Star recruit out of high school and threw for over 3,000 yards last season in ten games. This is going to have Michigan fans buzzing, but anyone with an objective point of view toward the Wolverines will be keeping their eye on Harbaugh. He hasn’t had a notable signal caller yet. Now that he does, will Michigan be in playoff contention, as they pine for every year, or will it be another year with a busted bowl game appearance? Jim, you have the floor.

Now go get you some tacos and make Tuesday great again for the first time.