How to Survive a Bad Football Game

I live in Cincinnati. I love my town, I love the awesome things there are to do, places to go, people to see. I love the sports teams. My Reds are nearer and dearer to my heart than any sports team, period, but the football teams have a bit carved out in my heart, too.

My Bengals and my Bearcats are loved, that must be posed before I continue.

But I am honest with my fandom, and I know that I root for some lousy football teams.

Now there have been good times, don’t get me wrong. Playoff games, top ten national rankings, high-stakes bowl games, those have happened. What has happened, however, in far more abundance is losing. And more losing. And some more…and even losing in games which a win would mean soooo much goodness and happiness….but no, still losing.

In order to remain sane and have nice things, you have to learn a few things. You’ve really got to pay attention and revel in the little things. Things so small, most blow-hards screaming their lungs out at yet another piss-poor pass attempt would have absolutely no knowledge of. A prime example Would be the game between UC and Marshall, a few weeks back.

Most folks were bolting at halftime when the score was 24-0 in favor of the visiting Thundering Herd. A crowd of 35k was reduced to 25k, then 20k, then 15k by the beginning of the 4th quarter. Here’s how you hang tight when the score isn’t:

1. You got to have a friend who is on your level. Someone who doesn’t get too hot, but also someone who is in to the game. Be sure you will yell. If you care somewhat about your team and they begin to play awful, it will cause a reaction inside you that beckons a loud noise emit from your mouth. If your buddy does not share that, or even may laugh at you for doing so, you will only get angrier and want to leave real quick. So you have to have someone with you that will join you in your angst, but do nothing to add to it.

2. You’ve got to have an awareness of things going on in the periphery of the field. That reporter that is dressed to the nines and just tripped over her cameraman’s cord, that’ll keep you grounded with a good laugh. The mascot conversing with the strength coach? Perfect opportunity for “What do you think they’re saying?” – “Probably talking about that reporter that just bought it.” Little side things make the difference.

3. Be aware of game day trends. What I mean here is this: is it a whiteout/blackout themed game? Saturday against Marshall was advertised as a “Red-out” game for UC. The band, the cheerleaders, the dance team, the student section, even the football team themselves were going to wear red….until the football team charged out of the locker room in black. Fun little thought to blame a poorly performed game on “They don’t even have the right uniforms on, how they going to call the right play?”

4. Have good seats. Now this has nothing to do with location and everything to do with material. Nippert Stadium is inundated with bleacher seats. They’re everywhere. So your toosh gets a little unhappy after about an hour. Enter bearcatseats.com. They let you rent chair-back attachments that you can slide on your little piece of bleacher. Now me and my friend did not pay to rent, we stumbled upon the generosity of a fellow fan. As one of the many making their way for the gates come halftime, the older couple directly to our left told us we could use their seat-enhancers for the remainder of the game. Without hesitation, we slid em down our way. The difference between bleacher and cushy-seat-thing is the difference between concrete and couch cushions. Not to mention the nice little attachment that supports your back. Something Nippert’s bleachers don’t do. Add in the people in front of me leaving, so I could put my feet up, and the game could continue as it pleased.

5. Last but definitely not least you need a snack and a drink. Now this can be a lot of different things, and it largely depends on the environment. When you’re standing shoulder to shoulder in the student section, may just want to keep it to a hot dog. When Johnny Jumps-a-lot is right next to you, it’s hard to justify holding a beer that may or may not get spilled on the people in front of you. Take a walk on the concourse if you got to have a tasty beverage. If you’re at home, though, loaD up on the nachos and get a drink with readily available refills. In that particular UC/Marshall game, I didn’t have a snack, but I had a pint of some German beer in my right hand while relaxing on my seat cushion and had my feet kicked up on the bleacher in front of me. One thing is good about going to the stadium of a bad team: lots of room to spread out.

It’s ultimately taken the better part of my sports fan-life to figure this out: sports are for enjoying, don’t let them frustrate you.

Of course, if you’re at home, you’ve likely changed the channel.

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Heard it Here First, Change is Coming

Bengals fans, get ready: 2018 will bring a new head coach to Cincinnati AND a new starting quarterback.

I’m just telling you this now to get you ready. No, I am not from the future, but the pieces have been set on the board and the duo of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are in check.

The last offseason brought two dynamic playmakers to Cincinnati on the offensive side of the ball and two pass rushers on the defensive side, all via the Draft. It also saw the two most impactful offensive linemen in orange and black leave. It is currently labeled an overreaction, but in the coming weeks it will become clear, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler going to different teams was the most important thing to happen to the Bengals in 2017. Important because it set them up for a much needed regime change.

“Well, didn’t the front office foresee this? Why didn’t they have a contingency plan?” you may ask. That is where my theory begins.

Knowing Mike Brown was comfortable with the current regime and would not make a change without overwhelming evidence (as proven by Marvin Lewis not being fired after a disappointing 2016 season), Katie Blackburn got her friend Duke Tobin together and hatched a plan.

The two stalwarts on the Bengals’ offensive line were coming to the end of their contracts. Zeitler was going to command a hefty pay raise, one the Bengals were not going to give due to their philosophy of not paying guards lucrative money. Whitworth, on the other hand, was a fan favorite and the unquestioned leader of the offensive line at left tackle. He was moving into the twilight of his career, though, meaning a lowball-type offer could be explained.

So, the front office moved to offer Whit a contract they knew he would turn down and failed to make a better offer once the Rams moved in to sign. They also neglected to even put forth an offer to Zeitler, letting both go. Duke Tobin proceeded to assure anyone wary of the situation that the necessary replacements were in-house, advising that the team, instead, focus on upgrading the skill positions.

They did not set the team up to fail, but they chose the path with success being the least likely outcome.

AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross are all dynamic players…when they have the ball in their hands. AJ runs some of the best routes, and is able shake off any cornerback, in the game…but it doesn’t matter if Andy is on the ground in the backfield with the ball still in his hands. “But Andy had the quickest release in the NFL last year!” you argue. Let me show you something, per Pro Football Focus.

Andy is a bottom-half of the league ranked quarterback under pressure. His average QB rating of 91.8 last year fell to 57.1 while under pressure. Last season the o-line, with Whit and Zeitler, allowed the sixth-fewest amount of plays in which Dalton was under pressure. He was sacked on 22% of those plays, however, which is the worst percentage in the league. That’s with an average offensive line covering for him. If you ask any NFL “expert” you will find that the Bengals have one of the worst rated offensive lines in the league. The amount of plays Andy is under pressure will go up, meaning his effectiveness will stay down.

Dalton will have his worst season in five years and he replaced.

Now they are athletes, after all, and they can improve. The game isn’t played on paper. Any given Sunday…blah, blah, blah. These Bengals were built so that the most likely outcome would be a 4-5 win season and a regime change.

Tell me I’m wrong until you are blue in the face, but I will defend this theory until I am proven wrong.

Football

We did it. Just pat yourself on the back right now. Congrats buddy, we’re here. It is football season once again.

Tonight, a big school with national title hopes weirdly opens on the road at a conference foe’s stadium that will showcase a team destined to squeak into a bowl. Yeah, Ohio State plays Indiana. I’m not too interested in that game, though, and here’s why…

The UC Bearcats open up their season at home against Austin Peay. The lowly Governors have won something like one game in 4 years. They didn’t win any last year. Now they come to the Queen City to face a revamped, reinvigorated Bearcats team led by the next big thing in coaching, Luke Fickell.

Luke has already done some things right. Firstly, by definitively announcing who the starting quarterback is. I know, that seems pretty easy, but ol coach Tuberville couldn’t even do that last year. Hayden Moore, Gunner Kiel, and Ross Trail were handed starts like Tuberville was Oprah giving out gifts to her audience. All three started multiple games, and all three were surprised pretty much every week. Remember senior day, when Kiel, the senior quarterback, didn’t play a down? Yeah…

That’s all changed, though. Straight out of camp, Fickell tabbed Moore as this year’s guy. Moore even expressed his gratitude in an interview, not just for being named the guy, but the way it was handled. He feels confident now, something he sorely lacked last season. He’s go experienced teammates on the offensive side of the ball, so we’ll see what happens.

Speaking of experience, that’s something the defense lacks. Take the linebackers, for example. The corp has a total of eight guys. Six of them are freshmen, one a sophomore, and the other, Jaylyn Minor, is the lone senior. The program needed rebooting after last year’s 4-8 record, and Luke has the young guys to do it.

Most folks are saying the key thing to watch in this game, that should ultimately be a blowout, is how well the running game looks. Last year it was pretty atrocious. Mike Boone is back and healthy now, though, so it will be intriguing to see if the O-Line has improved any at all. If it has, the Bearcats may go Bowling this winter.

Really Early Thoughts: Cincy Football

We’re a little over halfway through July and I am really jonesing for some football…

…so here are some thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals as Training Camp approaches.

The Bengals have three running backs that they think are of starting caliber. Just about everyone else that knows football thinks its Joe Mixon and everyone else fighting for the second-string spot. It would probably be a more closely contested match if Giovanni Bernard were healthy, but he isn’t.

That pits Mixon against Jeremy Hill. For what my unprofessional opinion is worth, I like Mixon.

The Bengals’ offense, overall, should be far more entertaining this season. John Ross adds the kind of receiver opposite the awesome A. J. Green that the Bengals missed last season (Should have kept Sanu/Marvin Jones). Green will catch pretty much anything you throw at him while Ross is supposed to be the kind of guy who can speed past the furthest defensive back. Add in a healthy Tyler Eiffert (full disclosure, I am getting tired of waiting for Eiffert’s health) a sophomore Tyler Boyd, and the play-making ability of Mixon and the Bengals, with some amount of blocking from a decimated o-line, will be fun to watch.

Defensively, the Bengals got younger.

No more Rey Maualuga, who Cincinnati fans had become so accustomed to seeing that most of them may not realize he is gone, and enter in Kevin Minter, who came over from the Cardinals. The 2017 season will be Minter’s fifth, his first four all spent in Arizona. In his last two seasons in the desert, Minter compiled 175 total tackles, 20 of them for no-gain or negative yardage. Another key newcomer to the defense is rookie Carl Lawson. For what opinions from OTAs are worth, he’s really fast.

Another interesting watch will be the kicker…and now I’m done talking about that.

…………………………………

On the college side of things, the UC Bearcats will be completely different.

Luke Fickell has come to Clifton and put everyone on notice. As of right now, the only thing that is known about the new Bearcats is that they are intense and well-conditioned. Other than that…well…we’ll find out August 31st when they host Austin Peay. Yours truly has season tickets to Nippert, so expect a little more writing regarding the college football team from Cincinnati.

I love baseball, but the past few years, during the All-Star Break, I’ve gotten pigskin fever. This year feels like the fever upgraded to a virus…

August 31st can’t get here soon enough.

Mitch Said No!

THE most important thing in Cincinnati sports for 2017 happened Wednesday.

FC Cincinnati played some soccer against the Chicago Fire in a U.S. Open Cup match. The beloved FCC against the big brother MLS team from the Windy City. It took every second of the clock to figure out the winner…and then some penalty shots, but the good guys pulled off their biggest win of the franchise’s short history.

Orchestrating such a win was the team’s stellar goalie, Mitch Hildebrandt. Mitch said no…a lot. Like every single shot that came toward the net, except for a penalty shootout goal by Bastian Schweinsteiger. Soccer fans will remember that name as the former captain of the German national team in the World Cup a few years back.

Yeah, FCC beat down some big dogs on Wednesday.

A little unprofessional analysis:

  • Jimmy McLaughlin was the runner-up to Mitch for man of the match. Chicago was stuck on defense for the bulk of the time McLaughlin roamed the pitch.
  • Second highest attendance ever for the U.S. Open cup. No biggie. But, ya know, Cincinnati doesn’t have a big enough media market for some MLS pundits. Uh huh…
  • No Djiby, no problem. The man who leads FCC, by a wide margin, in goals scored was not present. They still found a way.

The underdogs now become the top dogs as FCC goes to Miami in a few weeks for the next round of the tournament. Miami is in the same boat as FCC as they are in an underling division looking to rise up.

Win in the Sunshine State and FCC is looking at a pairing with either New England or Philadelphia, both MLS teams.

Are FC Cincinnati done yet? Mitch says no!