Envy

There’s a reason people do not like Boston sports fans. They say it’s because they’re jerks, or they’re too cocky, or stuff like that. The real reason is because Boston teams win…a lot, and their teams don’t.

Look at this picture:

 

That’s just silly, right? I mean I have lived for 29 years and haven’t been to one single championship parade. Here is this dude who has lived 12 years less than I have, and has seen 12 more parades. You want the truth about the disdain for Boston sports fans, which sometimes spreads to the Boston sports teams? People want to be like them.

I have been a Cincinnati sports fan for my entire life. I’ve lived in different places than Cincinnati, but I never stopped being a fan of Queen City sports. I’ve endured the struggles of the 90’s for the Bengals, the lack of relevancy (except on a few occasions) of the Reds, and the March sadness of the Bearcats. I still hold my head high that one day, it’ll happen. Yet, here’s this kid who, just about every year, celebrates his hometown team in (insert sport here) win another trophy. I’m not afraid to admit it, I am straight jealous.

Are the Reds close to doing this? The Bengals? FC Cincinnati is just started professional sports, so we’ll give them a few years. Mick Cronin and the boys are retooling. Luke Fickell is in a tough spot in that the college football playoff voters will never give a playoff spot to a team from the American. Sorry, they’re not. So, things have to happen, for any one of our wonderful, awesome, amazing teams before we will be going to a parade.

Meanwhile, Bostonians are marking their calendars when the next possible parade may be held. Must be nice.

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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!

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.

The Craziest Game of the Luke Fickell Era

I’m trying to think of how to start this blog post. The Bearcats just matched their win total from last year and the year before. The Bearcats just broke the school record for most penalty yards against them in one game. The Bearcats just beat the Bobcats of Ohio University 34-30…yeah I’ll start there.

In their second rain-soaked game of the year, the University of Cincinnati football team beat an in-state team, but this was no ordinary win. They went into halftime down 24-7, and trailed 21-0 early in the second quarter. They outscored Ohio 24-6 in the second half and remain undefeated, 4-0, to begin the 2018 college football season.

Adding to the drama that already was the deficit, UC committed something like 245 penalties for close to 12,000 yards. In all seriousness, the first touchdown drive for Ohio was set up by one of the strangest calls.

The Bearcats has just forced the Bobcats offense into its second-straight three-and-out to begin the game and were set to return the punt. The snap was mishandled by OU’s punter, who dropped it, picked it back up, and tried to get his punt off, but was hit by a UC defender, causing the punt to go short…or so it seemed. The referees initially called that the UC defender who hit the punter did not commit a penalty because he tipped the ball before hitting the punter. Okay, fine. Bearcats get the ball.

But wait, no. The referees decided to review their call with instant replay. After conferring, the video showed that the Bearcats defender did not, in fact, touch the ball. This means there should have been a penalty. Doing something I have never seen a ref do, they announced that because the replay showed the player did not hit the ball, there should have been a roughing the punter penalty called. So, with the benefit of replay, the referees decided to call the penalty, after the fact, which meant that OU now gets the ball back, with a fresh set of downs, near midfield.

……what? Since when could a ref call a penalty after the play was over and done because they reviewed the instant replay? If this is a new thing, it is terrible and instant replay has gone too far. Reviewing crucial penalty calls will not only take the air out of the stadium, but it will lose the officials the control of the game. After that, players were on edge for UC, leading to unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and a sideline warning for the Bearcats. It was mayhem.

It also gave the Bobcats momentum as they proceeded to score 14 points in the first quarter, and an early touchdown in the second, before UC even entered the red zone (20 yards away from the end zone). That crazy call was just the beginning of the madness caused by this officiating crew as UC earned some more flags, with alarming frequency. The student section at Nippert Stadium enjoyed the “ref show” so much, they created an affectionate chant, one I won’t repeat here.

UC managed to finally get on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, but had a field goal attempt blocked, entering halftime on fumes. As the bands for Ohio and UC performed, there was still a slight air of optimism in the crowd, so few left, despite the bleak weather. It was made known to them, early in the third quarter, that they stayed for a show. Desmond Ridder connected with Rashad Medaris, down the right side of the field, for a 77-hard touchdown that shocked the crowd back to life.

Bit by bit, they chopped away at Ohio’s lead until finally they took the lead on the fourth quarter 28-27. The stands were elated. We had hoped, but I mean, come one, we’re Cincinnati sports fans. When you’re a fan of a Cincinnati sports team, you’re used to having hope, but then having that hope squashed leaving you with stories of what might have been. UC, on this day, decided they’d deliver on those hopes. Even when Ohio was able to go down and kick a field goal to briefly regain the lead at 30-28, it was almost as if they represented a spider circling the drain.

In this graph, I’d just like to take a moment and give a shout out to Luke Fickell, Ridder, and the tight end, Josiah Degaura. They found a weakness in the Ohio defense, a unit that stifled them for much of the first half, and exploited it to perfection. There was one play that Ohio had no answer for, and that was the tight end running a flat route. Just in case you don’t follow the jargon, the tight end, in this case Degaura, lines up next to the offensive line. It can be on the left or right side, but he’s usually right next to them. Once the ball is snapped, he might sprint out on his route, or he might sit there for a second to pose as a blocker. Regardless of when, he runs almost straight sideways away from the offensive line and toward the sidelines. They must have ran that play nine or 10 times and the only time it didn’t get them good yardage was the first time when Ridder made a bad throw. The rest of the game, they were able to pull that play out of their pocket and get the yards they needed in any situation. It’s what won them the game, largely.

So I’ve droned on awhile about this win, but that’s because it is one of the most satisfying wins I’ve ever witnessed. UC entered this season having won just 4 games in back-to-back seasons. We Bearcats fans were just hoping for six wins and a bowl game this year. Right now, because of Luke Fickell, his coaching staff, and the talented players he recruited to UC, they have a real chance to do a lot more than originally thought possible. That is why UC fans are the happiest in the nation right now. Juncta Juvant!

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.

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.