On My Sports Decade: 2000-2009

The close of 2009 marks the end of the 21st century’s first decade. Instead of developing a debatable list of the decade’s top sports stories, here’s my personal top sporting stories for 2000-2009. The non-prioritized list looks at broad events in my life as a sports fan.

Reds Achieve Mediocrity
As a long-time Reds fan, I’m troubled by the floundering franchise. After starting the decade with a 2nd place divisional finish, the Reds ended the decade with 9-straight losing seasons. Ownership by a local philanthropic legend actually helped the organization as a whole after Marge’s penny-pinching charade, but MLB results were lacking. Although new ownership is local, they are still asking fans to buy more tickets so they can raise payroll. Sorry guys, that strategy doesn’t work

Bengals Rise to Respectability
Marvin Lewis began as coach in 2003 vowing to make a change. After a pathetic 1991-2002 run, the Bengals are at least respectable – look at the season records yourself. After all, I really believe that most fans will hang their hope on competitiveness … a chance at winning – and the Lewis era has achieved that. By the way, the 2005 edition was an awesome offense.

The Rise and Fall in Clifton
Clifton is the part of town containing the University of Cincinnati. Basketball has long been king of the hill, and the Bob Huggins era brought success and excitement. With one big swoop, he was gone, the team dismantled, and forced to start over. Coincidently, the rise of UC football began – and who would have ever imagined the heights they’ve reached. It may be short lived (yet it may not be), nonetheless, it has been exciting run for this season ticket holder!

Continued XU Success
Although Xavier and UC are located only miles apart, in some ways, they are on opposite sides of the world. Nonetheless, their basketball rivalry is intense and exciting. Skip Presser coached the XU to start the decade, yet Thad Mata (Ohio State) and Sean Miller (Arizona) followed. Those 10 years produced 8 NCAA bids, including 2 Elite 8s and a Sweet 16. Wow – good luck Coach Mack.

The Urban Legend Begins
Urban Meyer’s first head coaching job was at my alma mater – Bowling Green. His first year (2001) produced the biggest turnaround that year (from 2-9 to 9-3). His fast-paced style changed the way MAC schools play football. Although he left for Utah after two seasons, my wife and I traveled to Purdue and witnessed the 2003 Falcons score late in the game to beat the Boilermakers – and to think that two weeks later BG had the Buckeyes on the ropes late in the game.

Tiger’s Dominance
Current news aside, Tiger Woods has (without question) risen golf’s popularity. His competiveness and success is unbelievable. What a treat it was for me to attend 2 days of the 2007 Bridgestone Invitational. Yes, he won that one too.

On Cincinnati HS Sports
The Cincinnati parochial high schools are noted for their successful sports teams. Football, basketball (boys and girls), and volleyball lead the way. Teams as St. Xavier, Elder, and Moeller get nation attention and college recruiters flock to the area, yet it was a smaller school (Roger Bacon) that beat LeBron James’ team in the state finals of his junior year.

On Bud Baseball
Despite Bud Selig, baseball continues to be popular. Despite its goofy economic structure, attendance continues to rise. Despite baseball’s double standards, Bud Selig continues to prohibit the Reds from retiring Pete Rose’s number.

On the Olympics
The decade gave us 5 Olympics games (Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens, Turin, and Bejing) and countless number of heroes and moments. Enough said.

On a Tragic Bengal

Cincinnati Bengals Chris Henry’s death was tragic. There is no doubt that he had issues, but he was sincerely trying to improve. At certainly was not at the pinnacle of human behavior, he vastly improved from where he was.

After he broke his wrist in the Baltimore game, I immediately wondered what would happen to him. After all, football gave him two things that he needed and used: structure (through the disciplines of being on an NFL team) and support (through the other players who sincerely watched and helped him). To me, the fact that the accident happened in Charlotte speaks volumes about my thoughts.

The reaction by two individuals and one general group caught my attention. The group were the many who were very against him in the past suddenly did an about face. You know the type, so elaboration is not necessary.

Many often criticize team owner Mike Brown for the franchise’s low achievement. I have often said that two of his biggest faults and two of his strengths are qualities that most people want in others: loyalty and opportunity – the latter being giving another chance to someone because he saw the positive that could come out. Regarding this accident, I am sure Mr. Brown hurts.

It was also interesting to watch Chad Ochocinco. For all his self-center antics, there is no question in my mind that Chad felt a deep loss. The game in San Diego is the first one I can remember when Chad did not bring attention to himself. The guy who would rather pay a fine for doing something goofy after scoring instead of donating to a charity, stayed focus on the team and his fallen teammate. Maybe it took Chris Henry to show give Chad some perspective on life.

On Cincinnati Sports as of Now

The Cincinnati sports scene has been a hodge-podge of ups and downs. The past 20 years have primarily been a downer for our two main professional teams: the Bengals and the Reds. So the fact that the Reds finished strong and the Bengals are off to a good start does help. On the other hand, our memories aren’t short – so many fans are skeptics.

UC Bearcat football is currently on a roll and has captured the hearts of many in the city. Although Ohio State fans exist, Cincinnati is not a Buckeye hotbed. Although the Bearcats are currently getting high accolades, Coach Brian Kelly admits that the Buckeyes are want his team strives to be – and adds that UC is not there yet.

Fans in this area love college basketball. Sure UC and Xavier lead the way, but UK Wildcats are just down the road to they get their share of coverage – but since I hope they lose every game, I’ve already given them too much space here.

UC basketball during the Huggins era was great; then suddenly, it was gone. The team was essentially dismantled and the struggles ever since are well known. On the plus side, they seem to be turning the corner so fans are starting to get some positive vibes.

Meanwhile, a mere 3 miles away on the Xavier campus, Musketeer basketball has been unbelievably successful through various coaching changes. They are simply a hallmark of consistency and another good season is expected this year. Although hardcore UC and XU fans don’t root for the other, many fans have a have a preference, yet pull for the other in all games but one.

Bottom line – it’s all about being in the wait-and-see mode. After all, by the end of November we’ll feel totally different.