Doc: How good of a sports town is Cincy? – Cincinnati.com (blog)
Today the Club stuff is better left to those who write Club stuff for a living. I think between now and October, they’re gonna need more mental health days. The best thing about my job is, it’s not their job. After these past four days, covering the Reds is like smashing your temples with a ballpeen hammer. Thank goodness for Votto and the magic tricks he performs with his bat.
Now, then. . .
BETTER? Cincinnati magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a sweeping retrospective of our town since 1967. Linda Vaccariello asked me to comment on the state of Cincy sports over the years. This is what happens when you’ve been somewhere too long. People regard you as an expert/historian on your chosen work field.
She asked me a lot of great questions about local sports since I arrived in 1988. Here’s one to chew on this AM:
IS CINCINNATI A BETTER SPORTS TOWN NOW THAN IT WAS THEN?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
We didn’t have PBS or GABP 30 years ago. We had a gaping hole where the city’s front porch should have been. Xavier played basketball at the Gardens.
We didn’t have the Cyclones who, in their Gardens heyday, were the thing to do on a weekend night. And who are still here, at least giving hockey fans a local option.
We didn’t have the fantastic success story of FC Cincinnati.
UC football was a laugh. Remember 0-81 at Penn State? UC basketball was Tony Yates. Xavier was the Little Team That Could. At least for one round in the tournament. Most cities are lucky to have one pedigreed quasi-am basketball team. We have two.
It’s a tougher sell at the pro level. Would you rather have the bridesmaid Reds of Pete Rose, or what you have now? The current Reds talk about the future; the late-80s Rose Reds actually had one. You could see it coming. Not from the minors, but from the big leagues. By the awful summer of ’89, they had kids who were rising stars, not hopeful prospects. Larkin, Davis, O’Neill, Browning, Dibble, Sabo.
In fairness, the economics were different. No club other than the Yankees was signing local TV mega-deals. The Reds ’90 payroll was $15 million. That said, the hope of those teams was real. The hope of this team is just a hope.
The Bengals were similar. Young stars, innovative coach, a looming MVP QB. The Super team came unglued with shocking speed, but that Super run energized fans here in a way I haven’t seen since. Even with the ’90 Reds.
I got here in January 1988. In three years, I covered a Super Bowl team and a World Series winner.
(Also: Sam Wyche, Marge Schott, Rose, Bob Huggins, Stanley Wilson, the Rose banishment, the ’92 Bearcats and so on. Back then, Cincinnati was the best place in the world to write sports opinion.)
So. . . are you having as much fun being a fan now as you did then? Are you still as engaged/captivated? Have you discovered life outside of the games?
You have more choices of sports, and better buildings to enjoy them in. You have great college basketball and (for a brief and glorious moment you hope will be repeated) a college football team on the national stage. You have a Reds team that has been a non-factor since halfway through the ’14 season, and a Bengals team whose success has managed to frustrate you.
Better now? Or then?
ON A PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL NOTE. . . It really was better back then. In 1988, I could walk into the office of Bengals o-line coach Jim McNally and ask him to show me tape of Munoz obliterating some poor defensive end. I could stroll into the decrepit locker room at Spinney Field and have Boomer and his linemen insult me at will. Their lockers were bunched in the back of the room. They ate lunch together. They were great interviews if you could take the hazing.
The thought of invading a Bengal’s lunch hour now is about as alien as a Martian working the Mickey D’s drive-thru.
I could go to a UC basketball practice and watch Huggins peel paint. In fact, on occasion after an especially tough L, I’d do just that. Once, during an epic rant, I witnessed Huggs yell at a maintenance guy at The Shoe, who’d committed the cardinal sin of listening in while working. Huggs yelled at him, too.
No social media then. Not nearly as much money. More trust between players and media. More access. Better stories. It’s why you see more emphasis on numbers now. Numbers are accessible. Players are not. The sort of human interest stuff you could produce then was superior to what’s available now.
IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING WHERE THE MONEY IS in owning a pro sports franchise, this from the NY Times:
(Leslie)Alexander, 74, bought the Houston Rockets 24 years ago for $85 million. Alexander made his wealth through investing, but with a sale that could bring 20, 30 or even 40 times the amount he paid for the team, buying the Rockets may have been his savviest investment of all.
Owning an NFL franchise is a license to print money. Owning an MLB team is like having a forest of money trees in your backyard. Apparently, the same goes for the NBA. Forget anything owners tell you about financial struggles. Once they’re in the club, the moolah flows, if mostly on the back end.
Another edition of GREGORY GOES YARD, in which we explain the inexplicable fortunes of Pirates RF Gregory Polanco who for the first half of this season batted either 3rd or 4th despite never cracking the 10-homer, 20-RBI plateau:
Polanco, now (finally) batting 7th, went 4-for-4 last night, two doubles, 2 RBI and a laser from RF to nail a Brewer at the plate. My Pirates Who Suck are finally playing to the backs of their baseball cards. Too little, too late I’m afraid. Even though they do get Juicer Marte back tonight.
BECAUSE TV IS MY LIFE. . . we’re catching up on House of Cards. Or at least trying. What began five seasons ago as a taut, well-acted drama about the Machiavellian works of an ambitious senator is now a befuddling mess. Time to impeach House of Cards.
AS FOR GAME OF THRONES. . . Never seen it. The Erstwhile Kid Down the Hall advises that, if I’m short on time (always) just skip to the battle scenes, which apparently are transcendent. OK, then. I LOVE medieval battle stuff. Nothing and I mean nothing beats an army of flaming arrows red-ding up the dirty sky. Archers!
MEANTIME, SLATE REVIEWS THE ONLY MOVIE I want to see this summer. Dunkirk opens Friday.
SI SAYS RUSSELL WESTBROOK is the best-dressed jock on the planet. I can say with some certainty that, other than winning a ring or a $100 million contract, athletes would consider this the greatest honor they can receive. Off the top of my head, I’d nominate Dre Kirkpatrick for that award around here.
THAT SAID. . . WHAT IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR WARDROBE? Maybe you haven’t thought about that. People will tell me I need to start thinking about it. Among the best things about writing sports for money is, no ties, no sportcoats in July. No shoes with strings.
I’m a hot weather person, so I’ll go with what Harry Nilsson sang about fashion: “I wanna go where the weather suits my clothes.’’
My fashion idols are Jimmy Buffett and Chris Sabo.
What’s essential in my closet? Nothing.
Well, maybe the lined sweatshirt and the nice T-shirts (no damned pockets!) that look OK with a decent pair of khakis.
OJ’S PAROLE HEARING IS THURSDAY and the chances are good he’s granted a full one this time, meaning he would be released in October. How free will he be, really? Freer than an inmate, but how much freer?
Man’s 70. If I were him, I’d research deserted islands and find one fit for human habitation.
TUNE O’ THE DAY. . . Been way too long between visits to Darryl’s House. The Erstwhile Kid likes to call Hall & Oates “middle-aged white guy music.’’ Yeah? Your point being?
Here’s a great one, kid, with Smokey Robinson. If you don’t dig this, your soul is AWOL.