This and That

The day job is a little slow today, so here are a few midday thoughts that I wanted to pose. Things I couldn’t make an entire post about, but blurbs I felt deserved some writing.

Firstly, I tried a new pizza place today for lunch. Flying Pizza, in Centerville, Ohio, is pretty good. I got a medium pepperoni and mushroom pizza for $13. Nice, big, foldable slices. The crust was sort of dry, but had a good taste to it. The sauce was fantastic, and it didn’t have too much cheese. The shrooms, as always, were great, and so was the pep. There was a manageable amount of grease on it. If I were some sort of person who had a rating scale for pizza, I’d give it a 4 out of 5. Check it out!

I used this awesome app called Door Dash to get it delivered to my office building. I was lazy today because it snowed a decent amount and the roads were atrocious when I came into work this morning, so I figured I’d tip someone well to bring me food. Door Dash is phenomenal.

I also heard about this pizza place called Johnny’s over in Centerville. I’ve been told I have to try it…so I will, soon.

Another rando thought, how about this lady in New Hampshire? Wins the Lottery, $560 million, but doesn’t want to go public, so she may leave it unclaimed. Are you kidding me? What on Earth has her so spooked? I mean, sure, making it public that you are now richer than sin isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, but that is a lot of money to say no to. I don’t know, maybe I am some sort of snowflake for thinking she is crazy for not taking the money (which she hasn’t confirmed that she won’t, yet) but I’d take that money in a heartbeat.

Maybe she is scared of the constant stories of people’s lives being torn apart by Lottery winnings….but then why’d she buy the ticket? I have never bought a Lottery ticket, personally, because I believe it is a waste of money. Sure, I know, you can’t win the Lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, but the odds are so astronomical that it is like burning money. That being said, had I bought a ticket, I would firmly be prepared to announce to the world my winnings. Not because I am a cocky son of a gun, but that’s because those are the rules. Get out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat…or something like that.

One last thing, a sports thought, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Man, I live in Ohio, but I don’t like em. Mainly because of one fellow. “The King,” or whatever, Lebron James. I’m glad they’re in turmoil. I’m glad they stink. Last night they blew a 20+ halftime lead to one of the worst teams in the worst conference in the NBA. Say what you will about Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, or Nikola Vucevic, the Magic just aren’t that good. They made the Cavs look like a rebuilding team. Cleveland can’t defend anyone this year, which leads me to a hot take that no one will remember: the Cavaliers will not make the Eastern Conference Finals. You heard me. I think the Eastern Conference Finals this year come down to the Wizards and the Celtics. But who am I?

Anyway, I’ll have a less random post coming later…these are just some thoughts burning in my mind. Stay warm (or if you are warm, stay classy).

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My Attempted Foray into Sports Betting

I tried. I got this great idea, a sort of journey, to bring you readers with me on. I was going to dip my toes into the world of sports gambling.

I had a plan that I would blog each step. Account setup, to my first bet, to my first loss (and probably a few more), to my first win (maybe)….but it was not meant to be.

Now I say this with a caveat of, I know nothing. There’s a chance that I was the one that screwed up, and I am worried about nothing. If this is the case, feel free to leave a comment saying I am dumb. This is what happened.

Having talked this idea over with a friend of mine at work, whom I trust, I decided I would dig into the logistics of setting up an online sports gambling account. I love sports, and I would love to use my knowledge to make a buck or two, so I had interest. I’m even good at cutting myself off when need be, so I wasn’t worried about getting hooked. Through my inter-web research, I concluded I would sign up with mybookie.ag for starters.

I created my account, filled in the necessary info, and made my initial deposit…which is where this took a turn. Whenever you finish inputting the info for the deposit, you are prompted to call the website’s customer service to confirm the deposit, so I did. The fellow on the other end seemed nice enough. While he put my info in to the system, he held a personal conversation with a coworker, talking about some chili he had and the negative effects on his stomach, using a few choice words. That didn’t totally bother me, and he even apologized when he realized his conversation was being broadcast through the phone. The problem came next.

He began by attempting to persuade me to deposit more, offering me a little incentive deal. I told him no thanks, I was just trying this out, and the amount I put is the amount I am willing to use, and no more. He then pushed, trying for a little less, and I gave him a firm no. Another second passed and he told me my deposit hadn’t come through and asked me if my card is set up for international transactions. This got my hair standing on end.

“Why’s this?” I asked, quite confused.

“Our servers that process the transaction are in China, so it will look to your card like you are making an international transaction,” was the answer.

Certainly, my bank does have an issue with me trying to make a purchase in China…because I am in Ohio. So Ithanked him for helping me and I’ll figure it out and call back.

Spoiler alert….I am not calling back. Here’s why…

In my attempt to search the webs and find out if this is normal, I found an intriguing thing. Banks are legally obligated to decline any transaction involving online gambling. It’s sad that I work for a bank and don’t know this, but I ain’t exactly a genius. Nevertheless, this is where my interest in pursuing this idea ended.

As mainstream as it is, sports gambling still requires some hoop-jumping-through. Maybe I am missing a big piece of the puzzle, here, but I am not going any further with the idea. Like I said, if you know more than I about this, drop me a line. Until I know more, though, this will go down as an idea I had for the blog…and nothing more.

Looking Forward to Calls to the Bullpen

A quick thought for today. I’m really pining for some baseball. Usually happens every year around this time. Sure, countdowns to pitchers and catchers reporting help to excite me, but ultimately I’m waiting for the real thing on March 29th. You can bet I’ll be at the stadium again this Opening Day, but I’m sure they’re be a few more blogs between now and then about that. This post is focused on one thing, the Reds bullpen.

Now I know that’s not grabby, may have even lost one or two folks who clicked in to this post, but the Reds just signed their second free agent reliever of the offseason. Both relievers were signed to two year deals, and neither one is a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. They’re bonafide, major league deals, meaning the front office believes these guys can bring some real value to the bullpen.

Jared Hughes was signed a few weeks ago and David Hernandez was inked at the beginning of this week. Middle relievers don’t tend to move the needle in January, but it’s these types of guys who playoff contending teams go after in July…so it only makes sense to see value in having them for an entire year.

I’ll not get into the stats, right now, but leave it to an emotional response. I love these signings. It shows that the coaching staff believes in the young pitchers vying for spots on the starting rotation, and it is the Reds way of emulating teams in years past whose bullpen propelled them to a successful season.

Sure, Milwaukee getting Christian Yelich is the kind of transaction that galvanizes a fan base. It officially signifies a team’s belief that its window to the playoffs, and possibly contending for a world championship, has opened. The deal was one the Reds could not make, though. The Bre Crew had to give up one of their two best prospects and 3 of their top 10. To put that in perspective, that means the Reds would probably have to have traded Nick Senzel. If you haven’t heard of him, that’s because he is still in the minor leagues, but he is the Reds future great hitter. A future that could begin this season at some point when the Reds call him up to the majors. He is not someone I want the Reds to trade…unless they are getting Clayton Kershaw…and that ain’t happening.

The Reds now have a bullpen that could easily finish in the top half of the league, so long as health problems do not become a thing. If the starting rotation can just be average, with the lineup they can run out each night, the Reds have a real shot to improve this year.

And I know I am crazy biased…but I really don’t think I am far off when I say they could finally end the streak of losing seasons in 2018

Pitchers and catchers report in 13 days.

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.

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.