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.

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.

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.

Bohemian Rhapsody Rocks

Freddie Mercury is the Freddie Mercury-est Freddie Mercury who ever Freddie Mercury-ed. That being said, Rami Malek did one heck of a job emulating Freddie Mercury.

Let me preface this post about a movie by saying that I do not care about the little details. I am not one who looks for this or that. I go to movies to get away. If a movie can get me to suspend disbelief, bingo, it’s done is job. I go for the feel of it. Did the movie provoke me to feel a certain way.

Bohemian Rhapsody was all over that. It did an awesome job of showing how Queen developed, how Freddie Mercury came up with this idea for that song, or that idea for this song. It talked about his background, but not in a boring, ho-hum way. It really made you feel as though you saw Freddie Mercury. As someone who loves Queen, but was two years old when Freddie Mercury died, this was a glimpse of something brilliant. Also, how they reacted when they first recorded the song that gave the movie its name is pretty much what I imagined.

It also made me think of how much Queen means to sports. Who, when attending a sporting event and the home team is either leading, or getting ready to take the lead, doesn’t get crazy excited when “We Will Rock You” blares through the speakers? At least every other time a Reds pitcher strikes out an opposing batter, I think “Another One Bites the Dust.” And the Lord knows, I cannot wait for the day that I get to scream “We are the Champions” for either the Reds, Bengals, or Bearcats. Queen has interwoven itself into the fabric of sports and sports fans.

Rami Malek, though, was Freddie Mercury. For a little over two hours, Rami provided a performance that made you feel like you knew Freddie Mercury. You saw his rise from a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport to, possibly, the best performer of all time. All the while, you never got a sense that it was being over-played. Like Malek was trying too hard. He had exactly the right look, exactly the right movements, and exactly the right voice to project one of the greatest musicians that ever lived.

I spent $15 on a ticket to see the movie at the Rave-Cinemark in XD. Don’t even care. Movie ticket prices, blah blah blah, it’s worth it if you love the music of, I’ll just say it, the best dang band there ever was, Queen.