Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wow, Was I Ever Wrong

It's not the first time, but I didn't give the Bengals much of a chance selling out Sunday's game against Baltimore. They essentially did it in less than three business days. You have to give the Bengals a lot of credit on this one. Not only did they make a nice deal with the fans, they were able to handle the physical logistics of selling so many tickets. It's a great thing for the players, who deserve to play before a packed house. No matter what some may think of ownership or the front office, this one should be for the players. And when it became about the players, the fans came through. Now will the players come through on Sunday? I think there is a very good chance the Bengals beat Baltimore. Baltimore has struggled on the road. All four of the losses suffered by the Ravens this year have been road games. Their road record is 3-4. They have lost at Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle, and San Diego. Jacksonville, Seattle? If the Ravens have lost to teams like those on the road, I think and up and coming bunch of Bengals have the upper hand on Sunday. But as a warning, I've been wrong before!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Will Bengals Sell Out?

I don't think so. It's a lot to ask to sell 24-thousand tickets in one week. Outsiders look at Cincinnati and wonder "what in the heck is wrong with those fans? How can a team that is one win away from the playoffs not have great support in the hour of need?" The rest of us in Cincinnati know the history and the reasons. We got a nice smack in the face of that reality last week when Mike Brown reportedly paid $200-million in cash, real dollars, to buy the 30 percent stake of the Bengals team stock held by the estate of Austin Knowlton. This happens while potential improvements for the team are left on the table and deemed too expensive. Little things, like an indoor practice facility that every other team that needs one enjoys. We know U.C. paid about 12-million for its facility, and that included building the fields from scratch. Little things, like a starting cornerback named Johnathan Joseph. He was drafted and developed by the Bengals. But the minute he cost upper-echelon dollars, he was deemed expendable. But now fans are being chastised for not buying in. Many fans still care and that is refelected in high local television ratings for Bengals games. But they aren't buying in yet, and who can blame them? Get ready for the blitz this week from local radio and probably local television to BUY,BUY,BUY! It may work, but as I said, it is a lot of tickets to sell. And I think a mindset has set in that goes something like this: "I can't tell Mike Brown how to spend his money, and I sure as heck am not going to allow him to dictate how I spend mine."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another Week Of Surprises

U.C. starts pouring in the points, while Xavier gets whacked at home. The Reds make a big trade, and the Bengals are back in the hunt despite playing a less than stellar game. Outsiders may not think Cincinnati is an exciting place, but every Sunday night there are at least a couple of stories where I shake my head and say, "I can't believe it!"

I can believe the Reds deal, but I can't believe how sure many pundits are so sure it's a great deal for the Padres, or a great deal for the Reds. No one knows right now. If Mat Latos turns into Curt Schilling, the Reds probably got themselves a good deal. But, the odds are tilted in favor of San Diego. If for no other reasons than the Padres get four players, any of whom could turn out to be good. Volquez will be the least likely, but again you never know. The early line on Alonso, Grandal, and Boxberger suggests two of the three should turn out to be good players. I don't think Alonso can miss. For that reason alone I would have liked to have seen the Reds at least get a prospect along with Latos.

The Bengals won soooooooooooo ugly. This does not inspire a lot of hope from this little corner of the world that Marvin's men will finish with wins over Arizona and Baltimore. without two more wins, I don't see Cincinnati in the playoffs.

I could not have seen the blowout coming for Xavier. Sure, I though the Musketeers might struggle to win, but after the first five minutes, X got whacked. Yanking three starters from a basketball lineup is definitely a big deal. So the tournament selection committee will certainly keep that in mind when they see a huge loss on the home court.

U.C. certainly has found a way to put the ball in the basket. We'll find out soon enough if opening things up will turn the season around. First off all, the players are just playing. They have quit playing stilted and are letting it all hang out. That helps shooting. And when this team can make shots from the perimeter, and pick up some easy baskets by cranking up the tempo, it's a lot more fun for everyone involved. I can tell you this, it's much more enjoyable to watch.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Suspensions and Bengals

This time the two are not related, other than being a part of the same blog entry. The Bengals playoff hopes took a major hit on Sunday with the collapse against the Houston Texans. No way they should have lost 20-19, especially after leading by 13 at halftime. But it's very odd what happens to the Bengals in December. If they are out of the playoff chase, they seem to spring to life down the stretch and play well. When they are in the playoff hunt, or make the playoffs, they seem to stagger down the stretch. In 2005, the Bengals dropped the last two games, but were playing for nothing in the final week. In 2006, they staggered home and missed the playoffs with 3 straight losses to end the season. In 2009 they lost 3 of the last 4 games. Granted the last game against the Jets didn't matter, but the next week against the Jets mattered in the first round of the playoffs. And now comes this season. They better win the last three games like they did in 2008, to finish 4-11-1!

The suspensions are out, and I can agree for the most part. The Big East agrees with U.C. that Gates, Mbodj, and Ellis get 6 games. Ge'Lawn Guyn gets one. Xavier gave Dez Wells and Landen Amos four games. Mark Lyons two and Tu Holloway gets one. The A-10 is cool with that. Lengthy suspensions are uncommon in college basketball but this was a rare moment. The best news would be that the universities not only grabbed the attention of the the suspended players but all of the players. In fact all of the student athletes at U.C. and X.U. U.C. has attached zero tolerance to the suspensions and Mick Cronin says he could add some games if he doesn't like what he sees out of his men in the interim. In my earlier posting I said the series needs a break. I really believe that. Let not just the players, but all of us in Cincinnati realize that the game is a city treasure, and should be treated as such by all of us in the tri-state.

The Crosstown Needs A Break

There was a time I felt the Crosstown Shootout was a better Cincinnati event than Opening Day for the Reds. The last time I felt that way was just past 2:30 p.m., Saturday, December 10, 2011. I now feel this rivalry needs a break, and it's too bad. I purposely waited about 12 hours after the event to let it soak in before I pounded out some thoughts. I thought my initial reaction would fade, but it has only become stronger as I look at replays, watch youtube videos, and see what John McCain would truly categorize as a "human cockfight." It's sickening, embarrassing, and probably will not recapture it's innocence for a few years to come. For anyone who lives in Greater Cincinnati, or is a fan of either team, that should make you sad. I wish I were wrong, but I've watched this game for more than a few years now.
The Crosstown Shootout was a celebration of the Cincinnati zest for competition. "Take no prisoners!" But once the game was over, I'll meet you at Dana Gardens or Martino's to buy you the shot and the beer I owe you. After that, it was a year's worth of ribbing and "wait 'til next year." We thought Huggins and Gillen refusing to shake hands was a big deal. And it was! This was supposed to be the gentleman's rivalry where the city was together before, then after the game.
I recently watched the ESPN "30 for 30" presentation about the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. I laughed about how the fans down there take the Iron Bowl game so seriously. I recoiled at Takeo Spikes and his classless "War %@#%*^$ Eagle" declaration. Totally classless. I mean, just ridiculous for a grown man to say that on the record for a video that will be played coast to coast and on the internet from here on out. Really? And some half-wit Alabama fan "allegedly" poisons the Oak trees at Toomer's Corner in Auburn. If you happened to see this guy, who is in his 60's and now maintains his innocence, you had to cringe. Complete loser. Let's not go there Cincinnati! But in some ways we have.
From U.C. fans booing Xavier cheerleaders in the 80's to Saturday's vulgar chants from the student section at the Cintas Center, this thing has been brewing. The more we tolerate, the more we'll get. It finally boiled over into civic embarrassment on the court. Pick your player: Yancy Gates, Dez Wells, Cheikh Mbodj, Mark Lyons, it does not matter. Both universities need to get a handle on this. Then, maybe, they can resume the series. Until then I'll just celebrate Cincinnati sports on Opening Day. What a shame.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

UC, Butch, and Big East

It appears the U.C. Bearcats will not be looking for another football coach. There were some in the program who feared Illinois would make another hard run at Butch Jones, but Ilinois appears to be set on Toledo's Tim Beckman. I saw Butch Wednesday night at the G.C.L. football banquet and he was really fired up about this year's recruiting class. After the banquet he was hopping a private plane to visit a couple more highly rated prosepcts and had high hopes he would be securing another committment or two. For more on the life of Butch and his staff you need to read this all-access report by Tim Adams at BearcatLair. I suggest reading all of the segments. Great stuff. Also, while giving his speech at the banquet, Butch talked about how flattered he's been by other programs showing interest. He said he is proud that other schools recognize the work of his assistants and success of his players. Butch added that some like to say the grass is greener on the other side, but he thinks the grass is green right here in Cincinnati. After the banquet at least a couple of the high school coaches on hand remarked they thought Butch was very good at the podium. Not too long, but a couple of powerful messages to share with the kids.

By the way, new U.C. athletic director Whit Babcock is getting rave reviews. I have polled just about every athletic department employee I've seen, and they all say the guy has made quite the positive, early impression. It's funny, every person has said "real deal", "the man", or "home run", or some other phrase. I'm told he's already shaken the bushes and found some big-time money from at least one new donor. I also was assured U.C. president Greg Williams is 100% on board with getting football every resource possible. It all sounds good for the Bearcats, but action, donors, and fans will determine the final fate.

Someone help me. The immediate reaction to the new Big East was to laugh, ridicule, and talk about what a joke it is. So, what was the alternative for the Big East to survive as a football conference? Just chuck it, and say we give up? It's the best the conference could do to recover. It's a shame the conference found itself in this situation. Maybe the wounds were somewhat self-inflicted, maybe not. But I give the Big East credit for adding some television markets that will come into play in the upcoming negotiations for a new television contract. I work for an NBC affiliate but I have no inside info. However, it stands to reason that the new Comcast/NBC Sports network will need some inventory. I look for Comcast/NBC to make a play.

Speaking of conferences, I'm glad to see NKU join the division 1 party in basketball and other sports. Click on this link if you want to learn more about the Atlantic Sun Conference. I would much rather have the Norse in the Horizon Conference. My next preference would have been the Ohio Valley. But the Norse will probably have more opportunities in the future to join other conferences. For now the important step was to get in the game, and NKU has accomplished that.

Pujols and Reds

Instead of the Reds improving their club at the Winter Meetings, they seem to be satisfied that the loss of Albert Pujols will help them. It's also possible Prince Fielder will leave the Brewers and the National League Central Division. That would be quite a one-two punch for the Reds main competition to lose. But what about the long-term affect? With the big dollars going out to those two, what will Joey Votto be worth in two years? I can't imagine any way in the world the Reds can afford to pay what Votto could command as a free agent, or potential free agent. So what to do, what to do? Can they afford to trade Alonso? If the Reds really feel they will have the money to pay Votto, then you keep him. But I bet Alonso stays to hedge their bet and as the season rolls along they think more and more about the Votto situation. By keeping Alonso and praying he can play left field, they buy themselves a little more time. But they must think ahead to what these big contracts meam for the future of Votto in Cincinnati.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bengals Back On Bubble

I was not counting on the Bengals to get a win in Pittsburgh, but I was counting on another heady, steady performance. Instead it was a blowout. It is just one loss in the standings, but it highlighted the warts that may keep this team from the playoffs. Certainly injuries have taken their toll, but what worries me more is that the Bengals have beaten just one team this season that currently owns a winning record. The 7-5 Tennessee Titans. That's troubling when the Houston Texans bring a 9-3 record to town. A loss to the Texans and the Bengals are in big trouble. I was counting Houston as a win, and I still think that can happen, but it's going to take much better execution that what was on display Sunday. You are never as bad as you look, and never as good as you look. The Bengals are definitely in between. In fact, they could prove to be about average. It is certainly better than I thought they would be in 2011 and they do appear to have a chance to be very good with a little more experience. But this is about 2011, and potential playoff hopes now. Without a win over Houston, those playoffs hopes are just about shot.

So LSU must beat Alabama twice to win a national championship, but Alabama only needs to beat LSU once to win the national title. Does this really make sense? I'm somewhat surprised the BCS went through with this because it screams that this system is a mockery. I would much rather see Oklahoma State get a shot. Ultimately I would much rather see a playoff of 8 teams, or 16. At least that way if Alabama was still matched against LSU in the end, we would know the one loss teams would truly be pretenders. But the way it is now, we just have to take the word of the BCS. And I'm not much for taking the word of flimflam artists.

Friday, December 2, 2011

And The BCS Says The Big East Is A Fraud?

You want a fraud? The BCS is like the guy who comes around once a year to seal your driveway and rust-proof your downspouts. How the heck can this fraud continue before the very eyes of a nation full of fans? How do we allow these guys to continue to rake in our money, our interest, our passion, only to say "Eat your pudding young man! If you don't eat your pudding you can't have any meat"! Before I reach out and do something I shouldn't to the next BCS official who has the nerve to identify themselves in my presence, let's take a look at the affect this fraudulent, Cosa Nostra-like, grip has forced on one of our national pastimes. It's championship weekend, with conference championship games from coast to coast. But none of them mean a damn thing when it comes to determining a national championship. Thanks BCS. Nice job. So, all of the games in the regular season allegedly mean something. But when it comes to actual playoffs that pair the best of the best in conference championships, well hold on big fella! Your Lordship BCS has already decreed who is number one and who is number two. Thanks for the late season drama. And for you BCS lovers out there, quick! Which conference has the most teams in the top 25 of the BCS standings? If you said the SEC, try again. The Big Ten? Take another stab Bevo breath. It's the Big 12. A conference with 10 teams has six teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS. This includes a Texas team that is 7-4. But the Longhorns rake in 70 mil a year in revenue and mean a lot to the network that has the most to gain or lose when it comes to the Longhorns. Yes, you are a big part of the problem ESPN. Whether loveable Lee Corso is hurling expletives on live television or not-so-loveable executives are behind the scenes busting up conferences, you keep the monopoly alive. Not true? Talk to you your man at B.C. But I digress, and you wish I would continue to digress. You want a good laugh? Look at 25th rated Missouri. The Tigers have five losses. FIVE! Look at two of their whopping seven wins. One is at home against Miami(OH), which finished 4-8. Another is at home over Kansas. Kansas has two wins this year. Those two KU wins are against McNeese State and Northern Illinois. Missouri did beat a ranked Texas team and a ranked Texas A & M team. A & M is the only road game Missouri won the entire season! You can't make this stuff up. That's another dirty little secret of the BCS and college football's elites. The teams that draw the most fans get to play the most home games. Lets see Missouri go on the road and play, say, Arizona State. I wonder what would happen? Wonder no more, because the Tigers lost in overtime at ASU. ASU finished 6-6 and had a losing record in the PAC 12. But as this posting shows, these rankings are incredibly fraudulent. The BCS is fraudulent. You don't believe me? I'll send a BCS official to seal your driveway tomorrow. Too bad that is not his real job!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Redsfest Brings Reds Back Into Focus

With Redsfest opening Friday afternoon, many players have returned and are making appearances to help promote the event. One of the big questions surrounded Brandon Phillips. He wasn't on the original list of players for Redsfest. Phillips was at the Lakota West Freshman School Thursday to honor student Meggie Zahneis. Meggie is a wonderful young lady doing wonderful things and you can read my post about her here. Of course Brandon has done a lot of wonderful things for Reds fans, so I could not imagine he would miss Redsfest. Apparently he will not. I asked him "In my heart, I think you're going to show up, are you going to show up?" Brandon flashed his smile along with a laugh and replied, "have I ever missed a Redsfest?" "No!", I responded. "Exactly," said Phillips. "So nobody has nothing to worry about." Brandon went on to explain his strong feelings about attending such fan-friendly events. He credits his mother. "My momma told me this. Momma said, one day people are not going to ask you for your autograph, so you better enjoy it!" Phillips also entertained questions about his contract situation and insisted he wants to follow the footsteps of the man he called his idol, Barry Larkin, and play a long time for the Reds. "I've been talking to my agent back and forth. I'm just going to leave it to Walt (Jocketty) and my agent to get it done. I just know I'm going to be here this year. I'm going to go out there and have another successful year like I've been doing since I've been here. Hopefully we get it done because this is where I want to be. I love my fans. I feel like this is my second home, next to Atlanta, Georgia."
Yonder Alonso is another guy sure to grab fan attention at Redsfest. Will he be traded? If not, what position will he play? I asked Alonso what he thought the fans would be asking him this weekend. He let out a nice laugh and said, "Take a picture? Get an autograph? I hope!" Alonso was laughing the whole time. He knows there have been serious questions. He told me he has worked hard so far this offseason, and has worked hard on becoming a better player in the outfield. He appeared to be strong and in tremendous shape. As for a possible trade, Yonder said, "my teammates call me, what's going on man? And I don't know. I'm working out. I'm getting ready for the season. I'm a Reds (player) obviously, I'm wearing the uniform!" Yonder was dressed in one of the Reds spring training jerseys, all red with "Reds" scripted in white. "I'm going to give my all to this team and this city, and hopefully they can keep me around." Alonso is a great guy and is known by many around the Reds as a guy who works his tail off. He told me he treats every at-bat like it's his last, because he is not taking anything for granted or giving anything away. I know the Reds have to make some moves, but I would hate to see Yonder go.