Let me begin by saying that my whole life I have considered myself fortunate to live in such close proximity to the city of Cincinnati. A 50-minute drive down US 52 and Kellogg Avenue gets me to Great American Ball Park or Paul Brown Stadium and you can’t beat that. There are millions in this country who would give anything to be that close to a professional sports franchise (and that includes Browns fans), but lately it is obvious that the two professional franchises in Cincinnati are heading in dramatically different directions.
Let me begin with the 10-2 Cincinnati Bengals, on their way to what might be the best season in team history, though there are a couple of obstacles still in that path. It is safe to say that the Bengals have left their “Bungles” days far in the rear-view mirror and have quietly become one of the best-run franchises in the National Football League. Who’d have ever thought that we could say that? The Bengals have put together one of the most talented rosters in the league, mainly through loyalty to their own and a string of very good drafts. (Everyone thank a guy named Duke Tobin.) How about Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in the first two rounds of the same draft?
Bengals fans now expect a win every week, instead of the days when fans sat back and wondered how many ways the team could figure out to lose on that particular day.
Though sometimes it pains fans to do so, give some credit to owner Mike Brown. Unlike Jerry Jones who seems to get interviewed after every game, Brown just stays in the shadows and quietly lets the people around him do their jobs. Would you have ever guessed that Marvin Lewis would be the second longest-tenured coach in the NFL? Yes, Lewis still makes us crazy sometimes with his clock management issues and his news conferences are legendary for their non-information, but right now he is a winner and that’s what counts.
Will this be the year that the playoff jinx is broken? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Of course, I want to see another Super Bowl team since I remember how much fun I had with the first two even thought they turned out the wrong way, (Darn you Joe Montana!) As I was just telling my Monday morning Who-Dey partner in the office, otherwise known as Terry Rigdon, it is just nice to know that at the beginning of every season the Bengals are considered a playoff contender. A fan can’t ask for much more than that.
On the other side of the fence are our beloved Cincinnati Reds fans, Bless our hearts, if we are nothing we are certainly loyal to our team. I found that out first-hand last weekend with a trip to Redsfest. Even with a team that lost over 90 games in 2015, the place was packed with red and white. That has to be loyalty, or in my case memories, because it is a good thing now that the Reds have such a storied history.
Now to be fair, it wasn’t long ago that the Reds were a playoff team, but much like their neighbors down the street, they have no recent playoff wins to show for it. I still say that Game 3 against the Giants in the playoffs a few years ago was the beginning of this franchise’s downfall. Nothing has been the same since.
Of course, the Reds’ problems mostly revolve around the economics of baseball where the rich get richer and the small market teams get lost, at least some of them. Because of some unwise financial decisions, the Reds are now forced into the dreaded fire sale, if they can get a team to take anyone off their hands. They tried to dump Aroldis Chapman on Monday, but that isn’t working out too well at the moment. They don’t even get a trade right as it seems Aroldis choked his girlfriend or something like that. (Check out her supposed “choking” photos on tmz.com. Betting you won’t notice any choke marks.)
So how do the Reds sell this team to their fans if they do trade away their “big” names? I wondered that myself until I went to Redsfest and saw the crowd. I talked to one Reds fans while standing in line and he said that he was looking forward to this season as much as any before, excited to see what these young kids could do. Likely finish in last place again I’d guess. Is that something you can sell to the fan base—come see the new generation of Reds even if you can’t name any of them? How many bobbleheads can be given away to attract fans? I’m thinking they could have a unique Chapman bobblehead now, but let’s not go there.
Here’s hoping that the direction that the Reds are going in will pay off. Let’s hope that if they trade off the “stars” of the team, they actually get players in return who can help them right away instead of languish in the minors. Let’s hope that whatever product the team puts on the field next year will be one that is at least fun to watch. If no one gets traded, which seems highly doubtful, a core of Mesoraco, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Frazier, Suarez, Hamilton, and Bruce really isn’t all that bad. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that core will be anywhere near a Reds uniform come spring training and the starting pitching is still questionable at best. So Reds fans will wait and wonder, and try to look at the bright side, if there is one.
But who wants to think baseball now? Let’s celebrate the orange and black and what could happen in the next few weeks, or at least we hope so. I may be writing in a few weeks about playoff success or I may be writing about another playoff disappointment. Either way, just be thankful and remember those immortal words of Sam Wyche, “You don’t live in Cleveland.” Who-Dey!