I'll admit that I've not been the most faithful OSU fan over the past few years. It's not about the Buckeyes; it's just that I'm now the parent of an elementary school kid and my fall Saturdays were consumed by soccer games and other activities. I've previously explained my Ohio State allegiance and noted that it was very necessary to me as a sports fan since the Bengals and Reds gave me a decade-plus of futility. Now that those Cincinnati sports teams have been more competitive, I've not clung to the Buckeyes as much as I used to. Still, it's been a fun stretch to observe, watching a team that was maligned by pundents throughout the season (I'm looking at you, Mark May) put together a run to win a National Championship.

I'm still thrilled at this victory, even though Cincinnati isn't really part of the state of Ohio.

I Don't Live In Cleveland. I live in Cincinnati

I'm writing this in the middle of the Bengals' playoff game against the Colts. It's the beginning of the second half, after the Bengals went three-and-out. I'm going to be bold and post this when I'm finished writing it because I want to relate my feelings in the middle of the fray, regardless of the outcome. We're not winning this game. I'm fully resigned to this fact.

I grew up a Bengals fan. It's my birthright. Paul Brown was a brilliant football mind. Even when we didn't have the best teams, the franchise was moving in a solid direction. I was at the 1988 playoff game against Seattle that sent the Bengals to the AFC Championship. The 1989 Super Bowl was ours for the taking. It just didn't work out. But we had Boomer Esiason and a great crew of players; we'd eventually get it done.

Then came the 1990's.

Paul Brown died and so did our mojo. I attended the game where Icky Woods career ended. I believe that was the year that we took out Bo Jackson in the playoffs but the Raiders killed us. I had no idea that we wouldn't see a playoff win in the next two decades.

Unless there was a blackout, I watched the game. Even when we were horrible. David Kingler, KiJana Carter, Akili Smith, Dan Wilkinson. They played for us but never matched their anticipated greatness. The hope of 2005 was quickly extinguished with by a Kimo Von Oelhoffen shot at Carson Palmer's knee. Since then, we've always had good teams. But as Jim Collins made a fortune proclaiming, good is the enemy of great. In the meantime, our division rivals have won three Super Bowls.

As I tweeted a few weeks ago, the Bengals do just good enough to instill hope in me and then they Kimo Von Oelhoffen you. I'm watching this game now, and I just know, deep down inside of me, that it's going to play out this way.

This confession doesn't make me less of a fan; it makes me a realist. I'm exhausted from the disappointment. Why do I continue to support this team?

We're going to lose. And I'm writing this with twenty-five minutes left in the game when we're only down by three.

Who Dey, I guess.

Is It Worth It?

I invest. I speak not of a financial investment (like saving up for retirement), but rather where I direct my time and talents.

I view these investments in two tiers: those critical investments which define my life (family, church, vocation) and those investments which act as a release from the first.

It's those second tier investments I want to examine here. Even though they're not critical, they can be important because they act as a release from those key investments; you can't continue to press yourself forward without taking a breather. Finding healthy release imposes balance upon your life. It's why I'm interested in running marathons right now: it keeps me healthy and gives me a goal outside of my other life endeavors. It's a win-win.

I also invest in watching sports. This is nice too because it requires little exertion on my part yet provides compelling drama. It's a great release.

For example: while online this past weekend I saw that Johan Santana of the Mets was throwing a no-hitter through seven innings. I'm nowhere near being a Mets fan (although they were playing the St. Louis Cardinals whom I wish ill upon), but the drama of a no-hitter is so captivating it insists on being watched. I flipped television stations and was able to see Santana's quest for a clean sheet. Again, even though I don't heart the Mets, I was pulling for the guy to accomplish this admirable feat.

Well, Santana was successful and, after the last strikeout to seal the no-hitter, he was mobbed by his teammates. While watching the euphoria on the field, as the Mets piled-on the victorious pitcher, I saw something incredibly bizarre: a Gary Carter jersey. For those unfamiliar with baseball history, Gary Carter was a catcher for the Mets who retired years ago and died a few months ago, making it doubly impossible that he was on the field celebrating with the team. It was soon recognizable that this person was just a fan sporting a Gary Carter jersey. He was so excited for the no-hitter that he ran on the field to celebrate with the team. The guy even had a few seconds of joy before security took him down.

I forgot about this guy until I saw a news story online earlier today. Apparently the lifelong Mets fan (a pilot, mind you) decided that he just needed to celebrate with the team on the field. His payoff: two nights in jail. Not only did the stunt cause him to miss his child's first birthday, he's now banned for life from attending games in the stadium.

I'm still left with numerous questions about this dude's decision, most of which I have no desire to explore. But an overwhelming thought still remains with me:

When is the investment no longer worth it?

I would suggest that an investment can only be measured in relation to priorities. So my investment in watching sports is fine so long as it acts as a release and doesn't detract from my life's priorities.

This guy who ran out on the field has a solid job, and a wife and a kid. There's some semblance of life priority going on there: he works to provide for his family. That's his top tier investment. And he has something like Mets baseball to act as a release, and that's fine. But once he ran on the field, his second tier investment became more important than his top tier and everything went askew.

You might view this as a misread on my part. So he missed his kid's first birthday party. No big deal, right? I mean, if you've ever attended one of these things, you know that there's not much to one of those shindigs: kid drools, paws at some presents, and sloppily eats cake. Take away the photographic evidence and there's no way my daughter will recollect what happened at her first birthday.

But in this guy's case, it's not missing those few hours at a party that are significant—it's the story of that event that will continue to resonate. For years to come, his family and friends will recall the missed birthday party because he felt obligated to break the law to celebrate with some guys whom he never met. Sure, it might only have been a couple of days out of his thousands here on earth, but the narrative arch will speak volumes about his life. Unfortunately, this kid will be the recipient of a subtle message: in that moment, Daddy loved the Mets more than he loved you.

And what that exposes is that those investment priorities weren't nearly as solid as they seemed.

As I apply this tale introspectively, I'm led to wonder how I'm doing with my investments. I'm reminded that I need to make sure that I'm keeping focus.

Otherwise, I'm just another idiot running onto a playing field that's not my own.

The Cincinnati "Almost"

I recognize that taste . . . it's very familiar . . . Ah yes, it's the aftertaste of dashed hope after another local sports team almost did something remarkable.

Like an oblivious teenager longing for reciprocal love, I give my all to my Cincinnati teams only to find myself crying into my pillow late at night. You think I'd be wiser after thirty-six years, but the leanings of my prepubescent heart always trumps acquired knowledge. I keep coming back for more and, thus, I'm constantly left with this taste of almost in my mouth—a full-bodied flavor of disappointment with just a hint of regret.

But I'm forever loyal to these teams; I just can't quit them.

It's in my DNA: I was born between Reds World Championships in the 1970s. And in my formative years, Cincinnati teams had a great run: between 1988 and 1991, the Reds won a World Series, the Bengals went to the Super Bowl, and UC basketball went to a Final Four. I remember jumping for joy when Todd Benzinger caught that foul ball in Oakland in 1990, but if that happened today, I might take off work for a week. This isn't New York: sports championships don't come by here very often. They're to be cherished and loved like your children (or at least like a nephew you see every couple of months).

Since those glory years, Cincinnati fans have been subjected to regular servings of almost: Bearcat basketball in the mid-1990's, the Reds in 1999 and 2010, Bearcat football in 2009, and the Bengals in 2005, 2009, and this year. You'd think just one of those teams could've won it all.


But despite all the pain, I persevere. I love this city and, by default, civic pride demands that I love our teams. Someday, in my lifetime, one of these teams will win it all. It will be epic. And all these years of almost will be instantly forgotten.

And it could always be worse: we could live in Cleveland.

One Pitch

Throughout the fall, I've been teaching a good deal. It keeps me in the classroom until late at night. I knew that this would be problematic this past Tuesday night. The Reds had a chance to clinch the National League Central Division title and I wasn't going to be able to go to the game. But, if I played my cards right, I might be able to work something out.

Earlier that morning, I had picked up a ticket to the game. I knew I'd miss the majority of the game, but if the game didn't progress too quickly, I might have been able to catch the end and, most importantly, the postgame celebration. Sure enough, as I wrapped up class, I checked the score to discover that it was a tie ballgame at the beginning of the 8th. I ran to my car and started the decent from Price Hill to downtown. On the way, I was listening to the radio, hearing that Joey Votto was batting. Even though it might have been magical had he hit a home run, I was rooting against him; I knew I wouldn't be able to make it in time for the end of the game if he did. Votto struck out and, as I hit Second Street, I knew I had a chance.

I parked on the street about six blocks block away. Fortunately, I'm still in relatively good shape so my run to the stadium wasn't too strenuous. I made it in that stadium and discovered that there was a lady in my seat. The seat next to her was empty (and the whole crowd was standing anyway) so I took that place.

I never sat down.

I made it just in time to see Jay Bruce walk to the batter's box, swing at the first pitch, and send the game winner over the fence. I only saw one pitch, but it was the greatest moment in Reds baseball during the past decade. Even though I missed practically the entire game, I hung out for more than an hour after the game ended. I just wanted to soak up the scene. People were going crazy and I couldn't stop smiling. Our city is a much better place when the Reds are playing well. We love our team And I love for what it's meant to me over my lifetime.

  • I was born in 1975, between the Reds back-to-back World Championships.
  • My grandmother (my dad's mom) instilled within me a love for the Reds in the 1980's. Pete Rose, a Westside legend, was her favorite player. And he still is mine.
  • In 1990, I watched almost all of the Reds' games this season on television with grandfather (my mom's dad). I almost view that as "our" championship.
  • In 1999, our first full year of marriage, we watched an exciting team that fell just short.
  • And during my daughter's young life, I've been sharing this love of our local team. She's doomed.

As I walked back to my car, traffic was still gridlocked but no one cared. Downtown was littered with people and the sound of car horns blaring. Regardless of what happens during this playoff run, I've had a great time with this team. Even if this only lasts for the equivalent of one pitch, it'll be yet another memory etched into my mind for the rest of my life.

The Deluded Decision

I was out of town when LeBron James made known his intention to "take my talents to South Beach." I had planned on writing up my view on the situation but discovered this week that Bill Simmons took the words right out of my mouth. He opines:

In pickup basketball, there's an unwritten rule to keep teams relatively equal to maximize the competitiveness of the games. That's the law. If two players are noticeably better than everyone else, they don't play together, nor would they want to play together. If the two guys have any pride at all -- especially if they play similar positions -- then getting the better of each other trumps any other scenario. They want that test. Joining forces and destroying everyone else would ruin the whole point of having the game. It's like a dad kicking his young son's a** in a driveway one-on-one game. What's the point? When LeBron and Wade effectively said, "Instead of trying to whup each other, let's just crush everyone else" and "If these teams end up being uneven, we're not switching up," everyone who ever played basketball had the same reaction: "I hate guys like that."

Link: The Sports Guy

Living in The Age of Hype

Having attended two Reds games in less than a twenty-four hour period, I'm on a baseball high. I'm a little dismayed that the Reds are playing great baseball yet have fallen to 1.5 games behind the Cardinals in the division. St Louis has yet to lose since the All-Star break, but the two teams they've played have been prone to self-destruction. I'm going to venture to say that they'll come back to earth fairly soon. I like Cincinnati's club. Sure, we have some bullpen holes, but so does the vast majority of MLB teams. If the Reds win Thursday afternoon, that's winning two straight series since the break. And if they continue to do so, we won't have to worry about the Cardinals. Plus, I was loving the atmosphere last night. It's been over a decade since I saw the ballpark (er, Riverfront Stadium) that engaged.

Anyway, what I really want to reflect upon was the spectacle I saw on Wednesday night. Stephen Strasburg has been anointed for awhile now as baseball's next big thing. His start, combined with a competitive Reds team, led to a midweek sellout a Great American Ballpark. While I saw a decent amount of Strasburg shirts and signs, do not misinterpret the crowd: the masses wanted to see him get beat. He lasted 5 2/3 innings and struck out 7, yielding 3 earned runs.

My reaction to his greatness: eh.

Look, I get it. Strasburg can throw stuff that not a lot of guys have. But he does so from a total power perspective. Greg Maddux, he is not. This is not to say the Strasburg isn't impressive, but he's not lights out yet. Heck, what I've seen recently out of Reds pitchers Mike Leake and Travis Wood has been much more impressive.

Why am I being this critical? Because of how people are dealing with him. Since I attended yesterday, I was interested to see how the media would react to his outing. The Washington Post (albeit his team's hometown newspaper) waxed on elegantly about Strasburg's performance. ESPN (gotta love 'em) dropped this gem: "A day after his 22nd birthday, Strasburg pitched beyond his years again, passing one of his toughest tests." I also heard Strasburg performed open heart surgery on a patron between the fifth and sixth innings, but I've been unable to verify this fact.

I tend to rebel against the hype.

I find the times in which we live fascinating. We're so excited about what could be that we're ignoring what's happening now. LeBron James' "Decision," a live broadcast where millions of viewers tuned in to see which NBA team would benefit from his "talents," should be proof enough of this. Both these phenoms can do amazing things, but beyond expanding their bank accounts, what has it brought? The Nationals are still horrible and most Clevelanders still haven't witnessed a championship.

Hype is interesting, but it isn't filling.

I kinda feel bad for Strasburg. The bar is now set unreasonably high. Unless he retires as one of the greatest to play the game, many will view him as a failure. And I'm not convinced that he's wired to deal with that. Barring injury, he'll have an amazing career. But will we appreciate it?

In baseball, as in life, we ought to be careful of putting our hope in a future that's almost impossible to come true.

World Cup Recap

For the past month, my life has been dominated by the world's game. I'm sad that I won't get the chance to view any more games with my family and friends. As the Spainiards hoisted the World Cup trophy earlier today, it's now prime time for me to summarize my thoughts about the 2010 tournament.

  • While I loved watching the tournament (running a cable TV line into my office was well worth the effort), the overall play was incredibly average. I can't recall any one match where the play was compelling. This tournament provided some moments, but it was lacking in stellar games.
  • South Africa was a decent host, but attendance and field conditions were concerns that were validated. FIFA would do well to allow the US the opportunity to host another Cup, but they couldn't care less. They're making too much money to care and they're an arrogant organization.
  • The United States probably would have advanced further if Charlie Davies were on the squad. Still, Bob Bradley was a sub-par manager; his passive leadership and poor decision-making led to our ouster. I still see progress in the USMNT and predict a World Cup Final appearance in my lifetime.
  • FIFA head Sepp Blatter is completely out of touch with reality. His refusal to consider any use of instant replay is archaic. The man is hampering the game and making the sport look silly. Yet one of the many reasons why main stream America might never embrace the sport.
  • This tournament will long be remembered for poor officiating. The players continue to exploit this with cheap fouls and dives. FIFA must better prepare their referees to manage the flow of the game. And I cannot recall any cards assessed in the tournament to players taking a dive. Until the referees have the guts to call this out, the game will be plagued by wussification (everyone looks like the Italians). Until this happens, Americans won't buy in.
  • I'm not convinced Spain was the best team during the tournament, but they forced the best teams to succumb to their style of play. They're perfect poster children of this World Cup.

And a few final thoughts about today's final match:

  • It was a sad game and the referee made it so. He doubled the record number of cards assessed in any final and was inconsistent in his awarding (awarding yellows when they were petty fouls and refusing to red card certain infractions). The professional fouling made for an ugly game.
  • And the way that FIFA instructed officials to call the game contributed to the game winning goal. On the original volley toward the box, Iniesta was in an offside position but the Dutch defender got a foot on it. The new ruling says that the linesman shouldn't call offside unless the player actually touches the ball, so the play continued off the poor clearance and it later returned to Iniesta's foot. In the old rules, Iniesta would've been given a free kick. As it is, what happened happened.
  • I'm not saying that the Dutch were the better team today, but Spain was far from superior. The game should have came down to penalties. It would have been a fitting end to a boring match.

Still, it's all over and I can now remove the television from my office at work.

Vuvuzelas Is A Four Letter Word

I have been feeling ill as of late. Perhaps it's a result of my fever . . . WORLD CUP FEVER! I know that many of you are soccer haters, and that's fine; don't watch the beautiful game. My only request is that, if you must bash it, legitmize your complaint. Merely declaring, "it's boring," is insufficient. As a baseball fan, I will readily admit that it's boring, but I love it. And considering that the actual action in NFL games only lasts 11 minutes, boring is definitely a subjective term. Just because you do not like something doesn't make it boring.

But this year's World Cup in South Africa has supplied haters some new ammunition: the vuvuzelas. If you've watched any matches up to this point, you've heard the cicada-like buzzing of these plastic horns. Many people, fans and players alike, have asked that they be banned. Locals claim that the vuvuzelas (pronounced "VOO-VOO-ZAY-LUHS") are part of South African culture, and should be accepted by the world as such. FIFA president Sepp Blatter equates requests for vuvuzela silence as another attempt at European cultural colonization. Others have opined that the call to eliminate them from World Cup matches is racist.

OK, let's get back to reality.

These annoying horns have nothing to do with South African tradition. A quick look at its entry in the always reliable Wikipedia attests that they actually originated in Mexico in the 1970s. Heck, one of my grade-school friends had one that he would take to Bengals games (we just called it a plastic horn). While some South Africans say that they have a cultural depth, they weren't mass-produced there until the World Cup was awarded to the nation. In short, it's just an annoying fad.

If FIFA officials were wise, they would recognize this and ban them. If they don't, I guarantee they'll become a regular fixture at every soccer match in every nation, just like those annoying "thunder sticks" that infiltrated American sports a few years ago. The actual tragedy is that there many African fans playing drums, a truly cultural expression, but they're being drowned out by those cheap plastic horns.

So feel free to hate the horns, because I'm a fan and I do. But don't hate the sport because of them.

Oh, and the games have been pretty boring up to this point. But at least I'm admitting it.

The Hunt for Reds October

One more quote for today (from here), comparing Cincinnati to St Louis.

Cincinnati and St. Louis are more similar cities than is often noted. A baseball tradition unrivalled by any city other than New York or Boston. An urban sensibility that's both more cosmopolitan and more backwoods that anyone on either side of the extreme is willing to admit. A downtown area that's far lovelier than people realize and vastly underutilized. The impossibility of grabbing a bit to eat past 9:30 p.m. without having to find a casino. A simmering history of racial divisiveness. The color red. The difference is that, baseball-wise, Cincinnati has been dormant as St. Louis has been ascendant; the Reds are long, long overdue. I've spent many, many evenings in Cincinnati, and that town is rabid to care about its Reds again. If they get hot and are close in September, that place will froth into a frenzy. It will carry them.

Even though they lost their first spring training game (note that Arizona Spring Training is killer on pitchers. Zack Greinke had a plus-9.00 ERA in Arizona last year) I'm excited about this season.

Bye-Bye BK

One second. That was the difference between Brian Kelly staying at UC or going.

I told Kelly as I enthusiastically pulled for Nebraska Saturday night that this was more than just a football game: it was the future of Cincinnati football. If the Big 12 officials don't abuse their authority by putting that one second back on the play clock, the Bearcats are playing Alabama in the National Championship and there is no possible way that BK can go to South Bend.

Why do you think he didn't seem too torn up about the situation in interviews the next day?

Anyway, the coach leaves, the players and the fanbase feel betrayed, but I can't be too disappointed. UC football is light years ahead of where it was just a couple of years ago. If you had told me then that BK would've only been here three seasons but they will have played in the Orange and Sugar Bowls, I would've taken it in a heartbeat. The facilities are improving (with a new practice bubble that the Bengals will have to rent), they are part of the national conversation, and a symbol of the changing college football landscape, where smaller schools can compete.

"He lied!" people will cry, but [newsflash]: that's what college coaches do. Sure, I'm disappointed that BK didn't have the class to tell his players first, or to at least address the local media before he bolted Dodge, but place the blame on college football. Notre Dame had to hire him now because of the February National Signing Day. This season (between now and February) is actually as important as the bowl season itself; if you can't get the players, you can't win the games. There's no reason the NCAA can't move that date back and protect the student-athletes from coaches bolting before the end of the season. This is why BK left early- it's what the system demands. So like I said, it sucks, but it's the system.

Furthermore, understand that in less than a week, UC will do the exact same thing to some other college program; they'll swoop in, steal a coach, and another group of kids will pay the price. It is a game where the egos of college coaches and the immense amount of money at stake rule the day.

I loved having BK here, but his ego was too large for the UC program. Best wishes to him at Notre Dame. I doubt they'll be sitting at #3 in the country anytime soon. And if he doesn't put the Irish in back-to-back BCS games soon, he'll experience a backlash that he's never felt before. You wanted big-time, BK? You got it.

And now, we look to Mike Thomas, UC's AD and see what's next. My pick is Kevin Sumlin at University of Houston. Whomever they select, they'll inherit an energized fanbase, a town that loves its football, and proof that they could one day be considered among the elite ranks.

Cheer Cincinnati.

Me VS Tiger [Rivalry Renewed]

As I have frequently admitted in the past couple of weeks, I have missed regular blogging. Transferring all of my old posts to the new blog reminded me of things I have overlooked during my writing famine. One of those was the gauntlet I threw down last year to one Eldrick Woods, known better to the general public as Tiger; as we were born on the exact same date, it's only logical that we compare our lives to see who's doing better. With the last scoreboard, it was a dead heat, but we now have to go back and tally things up to get the newest standings. Since last we checked in, Tiger had his second child. While I'm going to talk smack and say that my one child is better than his two combined, he still owns scoreboard. Congratulations, sir, you have procreated more.

This one point lead will be stretched because last week Tiger had a traffic accident. No biggie, as I had an accident in 1992 when my Ford Escort got in the way of a Camaro, and I was t-boned on Tylersville Road in 2004, but I did not hit both a tree and a fire hydrant. Nor did I have to go to the hospital. Again, El Tigre pads his lead, now up by two. So the current scoreboard:

ME = 1


But now we have to take account of the events that have transpired since this accident. The facts surrounding the issue are hazy at best, because none of it seems to make sense. Why are you leaving your house at 2:30am the night after thanksgiving (I'm suspecting the Woods don't need to shop Black Friday)? If you're not drunk, how do you hit both a tree and a fire hydrant? And, seeing the pictures of the accident, why does the wife have to bust out the windows of your vehicle with a nine-iron? Apparently, it's all due to the fact that our opponent has a girl at every port; as Glen Frey lyrically shared, "you can't hide those lyin' eyes."

I'm not taking pot shots here, because I know there's now pain surrounding this family, and the innocent (his wife and children) will have to bear the burden. But it's yet another reminder why we need to keep things in perspective. Sure, celebrity life has it's perks, but I wouldn't trade it for the beautiful simplicity of the life I own. When things are so bad that you have to cheat on your supermodel spouse, something is jacked up. Now for the rest of his professional career, this episode will always be remembered. It's truly sad.

I'm hoping this whole situation will be a warning to spouses everywhere: no matter how crafty you are, you're going to get caught. If you don't think you have it in you to be faithful, then why get married in the first place?

Look, it can be done. For eleven plus years I've found full contentment in my spouse. She's been there through thick and thin, and has constantly supported all of my endeavors. She's absolutely amazing. Why would I ever think of screwing it up with a fling? Believe it or not, there's more to satisfaction than sex. What we have is worth far more than anything I could ever imagine. So my free advice, specifically to the gents, is to love your wife. Respect her. Make her feel beautiful. If you do that, you'll never have the need to search for anything else.

But we must revisit the game. In the category of fidelity, I'm going to claim victory. And since I will neither have to buy jewelry to compensate for my cheating ways, nor will voicemails to my mistresses make national websites, the point totals should skyrocket. It might sound arbitrary, but I'm going to say that this is a five-point category, and I'm taking them all to the bank. The current scoreboard now reads:

ME = 6


Tiger has a lot of making up to do.

Who's The Baby?

I really don't care for the Celtics. Yeah, I liked Larry Bird and appreciate what Bill Russell was able to accomplish, but the old Garden is gone and Kevin Garnett annoys me.

So when Glen Davis (a.k.a. Big Baby) hit that dagger to beat the Orlando Magic the other night, I was disappointed; the sooner the Celtics are out of the play-offs, the better, I say. However, the lingering moment of that incident was, after hitting the shot, when an exuberant Big Baby accidentally knocked the hat off a teenager as he ran back up the court. You really have to see the video to understand this. The kid was seated right next to the Magic's bench on the sideline. And in order to see better, the kid was less than a foot away from the line so, when Davis avoided knocking into a ref, inadvertently made contact with the kid.

No harm, no foul, eh?

Apparently not, because kid's father had to be "that guy" and demanded Davis and the NBA apologize for the contact. My sympathy is non-existent here for numerous reasons:

1. The kid was practically one foot off the court, closer than many coaches or players stand. His position opened him up to getting touched. He should be thankful it wasn't Shaq barrelling down the court.

2. The actual contact was minimal. Yeah, it was enough to knock the kid's hat off, but you get more contact than that making your way to the nacho line.

3. It wasn't as if it was a toddler getting plowed over. This kid is probably bigger than I am.

4. The kid's dad has to be loaded; you can't sit that closely to the sideline in an NBA play-off game without mucho dinero. Am I supposed to feel bad for a kid who has better seats than many of the bench players?

No apology is needed here. No matter how much I dislike the Celtics, I declare that Davis did nothing wrong. Anyway, that's not even why I brought all this up.

What really set me off was the language that the kid's father used in order to make this demand. Davis, the kid's father claimed, was acting like a "raging animal with no regard for fans' personal safety."

Now I'm not Al Sharpton, but that's downright racist.

You might say I'm being incendiary by calling this, but I can't avoid seeing it. Throughout our country's history, the common degradation of the black male is that he is nothing more than an uncontrollable animal. This is the rhetoric that was used to prevent African Americans from home ownership, employment, voting, and even freedom. Making a connection to Davis' euphoria to animalism is ridiculously irresponsible. Is this kid's dad a racist? I have no idea. But that is indeed a racist statement. It goes to show us that even electing a black president isn't enough to cure our country's race issues.

I know some of you might be turned off at my pointing this out, but living for almost four years in a predominantly black neighborhood should make me more aware of this kind of thing. Do not be deceived: language is powerful. Even if it's a simplistic "those people," it testifies to how we view the world. We all have issues with people, but having issues with peoples is out of line.

Dumb can be forgiven. Prejudice needs to be purged.

UPDATE: Apparently the father finally realized how amazingly ridiculous he reacted and apologized.

The Never-ending Nightmare

Was I shocked this weekend when it was revealed that Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best baseball player of his generation, [allegedly] tested positive for steroids in 2003?*


One of the things I've discovered in my relatively short life is that anyone is capable of anything. I think it's my job as a minister that gives me a better vantage point from which to declare this, as I see people not only at their best but at their worst. We pedestal people far too often, placing them above the fray, so that when we discover they're actually human— we're crushed. I've been guilty of this numerous times in the past and am finally getting to the point that where I find no hidden vice shocking.

I've never been an A-Rod fan, but I've never been a hater either. I admired his immense skill, especially in the midst of cheaters. And I constantly felt sorry for him because he seemed uncomfortable in his own skin.** He is the coolest kid in class, but doesn't know it.

Look at his off-the-field actions over the year and you see a guy that is desperately trying to solidify his social standing. Why date a past-her-prime Madonna? Because someone might be impressed. Why tear down other teammates through the media? Because the worst they look, the better you appear. From what I heard on the radio earlier [I have no link to this], the steroid A-Rod took was actually a cosmetic one; apparently, it wouldn't bulk him up to hit the ball harder, but would improve the way his body looked. If this is true, it proves my assertion that he has a low-self image. Yes, friends, the man that supposedly every man wanted to be and every woman wanted to be with, is terribly insecure.

And for all of us, even for those non-baseball fans still reading, there are a couple of valuable lesson here to learn here. First, just because a person seems to have it all-together doesn't mean they really do. Just watching the Grammys last night reinforced this. Even the coolest people in the world continually try to maintain/create their own relevancy. What did Paul McCartney need to prove last night that he needed to perform an old Beatles song? No matter what McCartney does now could increase his standing as a part of his band. But he, too, wants to still be noticed. Like A-Rod, he just wants to be loved. This is why I believe that the most healthy self-image is one grounded in Jesus. If I really believe the teachings of Scriptures, my self-worth is centered in Christ, so I should know that I truly AM LOVED. Leave it to me to go from steroids to the Beatles to Jesus, but I sincerely believe this to be true.

The second lesson I observe is in relationship to the broader issue of steroids in baseball. Among the steroid-users that we've discovered in baseball, it's dominated by names who were already star athletes, poised for baseball immortality. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens didn't need steroids to make it to the Hall of Fame. They were the best of the best, and yet they could not control their competitive drive when it came time to decide if they should cheat. No matter who you are, nor how much talent or resources you have, the temptation to take a shortcut is always enticing. If anything, in my view, this cements Ken Griffey Jr as the greatest player of the past two decades. Sure, I was frustrated at his performance here in Cincinnati, but a cheater he wasn't.***

All this right as pitchers and catchers report next week. It's too sad. I'm just hoping baseball will survive so that my kids when be at least somewhat interested in it.


* While this is still only allegation, my belief in its truthfulness is bolstered by the fact that A-Rod has remained silent. If a rumor like this were false, he would've been on ESPN within the hour to refute it.

** Someone might suggest the feeling sympathy for a person who will make over half-a-billion dollars in his career is ridiculous. I would counter that holding this perspective is just as classist as looking down on the impoverished. People are people, no matter what they have or don't.

*** The Reds have stayed relatively clean throughout this steroid witch-hunt. Even though there was one obscure Cincinnati Red in the Mitchell Report who used, he had previously spent some time in New York and that's how they nailed him. I tend to think that the Pete Rose/gambling/personal trainer relationship which caused his banishment from baseball led local people who would deal 'roids to back away from the ballclub all-together fearing authorities getting into their business. Then there's the tale of Brett Boone who was a twig when he was here in Cincy, left town, bulked up, then hit almost 40 home runs in a season. While Boone denies it, he'd better hope he's not another one of the names on this 2003 steroid list.

Something To Be Proud Of

I haven't written much [if anything] concerning the University of Cincinnati's football team. Until recently, many people in our fine city had no idea a team even existed in Clifton, but on Saturday [or perhaps tomorrow if West Virginia lays an egg] the Bearcats have a chance to win the Big East championship and play in a BCS bowl game.

I've always loved football and, in my formative years, I chose to follow the Ohio State Buckeyes. Sure, when it came to college basketball I always returned to the hometown team . . . um, UC not Xavier*, but football always meant the Bucks. The reason I didn't cheer for UC football is because they played at a lower level; let's be honest: neither the Metro Conference nor Conference USA presented the best brand of football. And I'll admit even this: during the amazing 2002 Buckeye run to the national championship, I was rooting against the Bearcats as my OSU loyalties proved too strong. But I've been tracking the program for years and have watched practically every game they've played this season. This team is pretty good. And it's now an incredibly fun style of football to watch.

But UC's jump to the Big East [thank you, Bob Huggins, wherever you are] was a total game changer for the football program. There was now a BCS tie-in, which even presented the opportunity to compete for a national championship. Two years ago, when Bearcats AD Mike Thomas stated that UC would win Big East championships in every sport, I was sure football would be the last to arrive. And now, it's totally within grasp.


I wasn't sure if they could find someone to take over the helm of the program like Mark Dantonio, but Brian Kelly is on the verge of owning this town.** Sure, the rumors persist that he'll go to some larger program and I wouldn't blame him.*** But if he's patient, he has the opportunity to build a college football power in this town. I'm very serious: this new playing style will attract recruits, the campus facilities [sans the bandbox stadium] are spectacular, and this isn't a little podunk city. Regardless of what happens, things are looking good.

In short, it is a very good time to be a Bearcats fan. And as I continue to sport my practice-worn Gino Guidugli jersey, I embrace this new winning tradition in our fine city, eagerly anticipating a Big East Championship on Saturday.


*Even though they are crosstown rivals, I've always liked Xavier. I know their are some loyalists who can't fathom that relationship, but it works for me. Even though my future alumni status makes me take a greater interest in the Muskies, my ultimate allegience is still to UC.

**It should be noted that the way the mayor and city council treated Coach Kelly on Wednesday was flat-out bush league. These people need to realize that if you're going to honor someone, don't impose on their time. But Coach used to be involved in politics, so I'm sure he expects it from them.

***While I highly doubt that Coach Kelly will spend decades in Clifton, I just can't envision him going to Tennessee. The SEC is a bad fit for his system, and I'm not convinced he's survive in one of those southern football towns.

I Hate Elder

Growing up a non-Catholic on the westside of town was quite the experience. One positive would be that I stood out from my classmates on Ash Wednesday. One negative is that I never found any presents in my shoes on St Nick's day.

Another byproduct of my westside Protestantism was that I only partook of the public education experience. Even though there were three established all-boys Catholic schools on our side of Cincinnati, I feel like my education rivaled anything I could've received at those institutions [with chicks in class to boot]. The Oak Hills Local School District provided me with an excellent-all-around education. Sure, there were sub-par teachers, but not that many of them. And I had every opportunity to succeed right at my fingertips. I'm proud of my years at Oak Hills High School. And even though I only had a brief stint in its athletics department, I was quite the athletic supporter. I still spend Friday nights watching the local sports programs to see how my Highlanders performed against the schools across the city.

So the news this past weekend that Oak Hills was ending its football rivalry with Elder High School was like a kick to the groin. The westside [Catholic] private high school is a football powerhouse, that's to be sure.* And the series hasn't been competitive in decades; the last time that Oak Hills defeated the Panthers was 1986. But even though it has become a one-sided rivalry, it was still contentious. If there was every anyone I wanted us to beat, it was Elder. The game (before it was moved earlier in the season) was the last one of the season for both teams . . . um, usually before Elder went to the playoffs. I spent some miserable games at Oak Hills and Elders' Pit watching them let us stay competitive for a quarter or two before finally finishing us off. It definitely sucked and there was no end to the domination in sight.

But now, I feel I've been robbed.

With this decision, one I suspect is not as mutual as they let on, my alma mater stole from me. What was taken from me was hope— the hope that I would one fall Saturday morning wake-up and see a scoreboard where the Highlanders bested Elder. I'm not sure when it would've happened but, eventually, it would've HAD TO HAVE happened. Even though Oak Hills is the biggest high school in the state of Ohio, it is continually fleeced of its best talent by Elder, LaSalle and St. X. But at some point, some team will have put it all together and provide the opportunity of a victory over the Panthers. But now, unless it's in the play-offs, it will never happen.

While this may seem like a trivial issue, I see some larger statements here. It's almost as if the public school is surrendering, admitting that it can't compete with its private counterpart. And it also appears that the district is sending a "if you can't beat 'em— quit" mentality to its student body. This, my friends, as a sad, sad decision.

I much prefer losing to Elder than not playing them at all. And after all we've been through, my Oak Hills pride has been tarnished by this move.


*When we lived in Mason in 2002, someone asked me if I was excited that Elder won the state football championship. I believe I responded by spitting on the carpet.

Things Seen [Part One]

I realized that I haven't posted any of the pictures filling my hard drive so I'd get them up tonight.

First up is a trip I took a couple of weeks ago with my brother Tim. One of his electrical suppliers had some tickets to the Notre Dame vs Purdue game in South Bend. I had been on campus once before, the result of a college road trip, but I had never been to a game, so I was excited to go. We went half-way up on Friday night, spending a not-so-memorable night in Kokomo, Indiana [John Stamos and the Beach Boys were nowhere to be found]. Then we drove back late Saturday night. Any-who, the highlights.

We tailgated by this weird science experiment place just off campus. We thought they were above ground graves.

Irish fans pray at the Grotto before the game. Yeah, they need all the prayer they can get.

The Golden Dome sure was . . . goldeny.

Dude was playing the bagpipes. The Fighting Scottish?

This mural on the side of the library is actually named "The Word of Life." But since it's so close to the stadium, it garnered the nickname "Touchdown Jesus." So not only can he hit a curve ball, he can referee a football game.

We sat behind the student section which was pretty awesome. And Purdue was pretty horrible this game so they had lots to cheer about.

This Boilermaker fan kept going up and down the stairs. He was gnawlin' on this stogie, and I just had to take his picture.

This was us at the game. Both Tim and I had to buy Notre Dame gear on the way up. I opted for the $5 Wal-Mart hat while he went all out with the hat and shirt. Good times . . .

It Won't Stop

Looks like I've finally broken through my jam-packed October. Just got back from St Louis from a conference that I'll probably talk about here soon. But I had to get up a post tonight because of some devastating news today.

As of late, it's sucked to be a sports fan in Cincinnati. Look at the Reds and Bengals, even count the Buckeyes' consecutive losses in the national championship, and there's nothing redeemable [sure, UC football could make a BCS bowl this year, but I doubt they'll ever compete for a national championship].

Following my beloved UC basketball has been an especially painful experience since the departure of Bob Huggins. We've endured one season under interim coach Andy Kennedy, where the Bearcats were jobbed out of a tournament appearance, and two abysmal rebuilding years under headcoach Mick Cronin that I will likely forget someday.

But there was hope this year that things were turning the corner. Mick has finally assembled a good recruiting class and is putting his fingerprints on the program. I went out to the summer league a few times this summer and was impressed by the squad for this year; it's a great mix of established players and new, exceptional talent. And considering that Rick Pitino (coach at rival Louisville) stated that this year's Big East could be the toughest conference he's ever seen, you start to realize that we need a good squad in order to compete.

I have been very excited at this young group as I've missed having a winner around town.

But it was reported today that freshman phenom and probable starter Cashmere Wright (cool name, eh?) tore his ACL and will be out for the year. Also out for the year is sophomore Kenny Belton, who wouldn't have started but would have earned considerable playing time.

To say the least, I'm a little depressed. It's not as if UC basketball was going to go all the way, but I think this year was going to be a great vaulting year onto something more. Now Deonta Vaughn will have to run the point which will hamper his ability to score.

Why is there this black cloud over the program? Go back to Kenyon Martin's broken leg in 2000 (I almost cried then), to Armein Kirkland's ACL in 2006, to Mike Williams' ACL last year, and it keeps snowballing. And it seems like I could go much further than this in the mishaps plaguing the boys in Clifton. Since 1992 [when top-seeded Kansas lost to UTEP, giving the Bearcats a trip to the Final Four] nothing has gone right in this program. Perhaps I should call the AD an offer to perform an exorcism.

Still, I think it will be an entertaining season building to something more. But since those Cincinnati sports glory days of my youth [1988-1992], it's been a rough place to be a fan.

It's Time

Although I do love the Bengals, I need a time-out. When you preach on Sunday nights, spending the afternoon watching futility affects your attitude. I'm sometimes angry because the home team looked horrible. And this franchise is nowhere near being close to being a winner. That's why I think I'm done watching the Bengals this year. Yes, friends, I would say that such a fast would actually be chicken soup for my soul.

Read my thoughts in the Enquirer about the rest of this football season. Since it's in print, I suppose I must abide by it.

p.s. Perhaps most painful about this is, at the beginning of the season, I went to the Bengals Pro-Shop and bought Kelly and Kaelyn their first Bengals shirts. And then I taught Kaelyn to say "WHO-DEY" in a really funny voice. And when she sees the tiger stripes or that letter "B" she says, "Daddy, Cincinnati Bengals, Rrrrrrr." It was going to be so cool. And now . . .

UPDATE: I changed the link to the morning edition that made the front page. Also quoted was friend and Echo-ite Larry Budde who invested much more into the franchise than I ever have.

I'm Saying There's A Chance

I usually like listening to Jim Rome, but it's been a little much this week as he's been killing Ohio State, saying they'll be blown out by Southern Cal tomorrow in L.A.. Sure, little or no Beanie Wells spells a tough road for the Bucks, but they could shock the country tomorrow. What leads me to believe this?

1. USC isn't is good as everyone thinks. Yeah, that big win at Virginia looks impressive, but the Caviliers aren't the same team that made it to the Gator Bowl last year.

2. Ohio University was a trap game. The Buckeyes had a great showing against Youngstown State [considering Coach Tressel laid up so as not to thoroughly embarrass his old school] and lost Wells to injury. You know every kid on OSU's roster was looking ahead while the Bobcats were playing their bowl game in Columbus. So it makes sense that the game would be close. So I'm not as worried about that poor showing as some people were.

3. OSU hasn't shown them anything. While USC had but one warm-up game, OSU had two. If you looked at the gameplan, Ohio State was incredibly conservative, using a bread-and-butter offense. I expect much more tomorrow. Don't be surprised if Terrell Pryor touches the ball a few times tomorrow, and not just when behind center.

4. The OSU defense is solid. Most of these guys will play on Sundays after college. And they've only given up one score this year, and that was adjusting to a new mobile QB who entered the game after the starter got injured; the defense immediately adjusted and shut them out the rest of the game. While everyone's been hyping the Trojan defense, forgetting that this will be the toughest defense Mark Sanchez will have played against yet, USC will have difficulty scoring as well.

5. Beanie will play. I'm not really sure if Tressel is playing games about his status, but I imagine that Wells will be suited up and go Willis Reed on the Trojans and give his team a lift.

Don't get me wrong here: I'm not saying the Buckeyes rout. I'm just doubting that they'll be blown-out. And if they can stay in it, they have an excellent chance.

ADMISSION: I was so wrong. I am starting to doubt Jim Tressel. Even counting the John Cooper years, this is probably the worst loss I can ever remember as a Buckeyes fan.