At noon tomorrow the Cincinnati Bearcats will take the gridiron with a chance to claim their second consecutive Big East final and the possibility of playing in the National Championship. If Steve circa 2005 had the chance to see that previous sentence, he would have assumed that future Steve had become a drug addict prone to hallucinations.
It's amazing that the local college football program has come so far in such a short amount of time. Of course, much of the credit must go to head football coach Brian Kelly. Since he's arrived, the program has gone on a tear that has attracted national (also Notre Dame-onal) attention. But, honestly, some credit must be given to Bob Huggins as well, as his successful basketball program was the prime reason that the University of Cincinnati was invited into the Big East, setting the stage for tomorrow's opportunity.
I say opportunity while others claim catastrophe. As I've surveyed the media landscape, there is much skepticism surrounding the Bearcats; for some reason, people think they're 11-0 pretenders. The majority of football pundits I've seen are predicting a Pittsburgh victory which, if happens, could land the top-10 Bearcats in an obscure bowl game. Throw in the possibility that Brian Kelly could conceivably be on a plane to South Bend on Sunday, and it throws UC backers' stomachs into knots.
More than that, there's seems to be a Cincinnati inevitably, a black cloud that hovers over our city's sports teams. Since the Reds won the World Series in 1990, there have been some good sports teams here in town. Yet there's always been something happen to derail them from glory: UC basketball plays horrible against the Fab Five in 1992, the baseball strike when the Reds where good in 1994, Kenyon Martin breaks his leg killing UC basketball title hopes in 1998, a Reds dream season in 1999 is thwarted when the commissioner makes them play a late night game in Milwaukee only to come home and lose the play-in game to the Mets, Bob Huggins fired in the summer of 2005 when he had an amazing cast of recruits ready to come to Clifton, Carson Palmer's ACL demolished in the playoff game verses the Steelers in 2006.
Whew. Just typing that paragraph was depressing.
It would seem that tomorrow will be yet another addition to the list. I know a lot of people here in town are already buying into the storm cloud.
I, however, will not be discouraged.
WHEN the Bearcats win tomorrow, and we establish supreme dominance over the city of Pittsburgh this year by sweeping all their football teams, it will be our finest hour. And it will permeate the entire sports culture here in town. We will no longer expect the worst to happen. We will be able to speak confidently of our teams, trusting them to come through. We can speak of NCAA Championships, Super Bowls, and . . . yes, World Series and not be laughed at.
Look, I understand there's much to lose, but I am ready to move past the last two decades of darkness and enter into the era of unlimited possibilities.
It can happen . . . nay . . . it WILL happen.
Sleep well, Cincinnati. Tomorrow is day one of our sports dreams coming true.