On the Nightmarish Debacle

Embed from Getty Images

That’s the view of Cincinnati as one approaches from the Kentucky side of the river on I-75. Paul Brown Stadium is on the left – home of the Cincinnati Bengals.

I didn’t plan this post, but events in recent days motivated this post. Some are curious on my take of the craziness that was the Bengals-Steelers game at the stadium this past weekend. After all, some readers told me they thought of me during and after the game. So, pardon me as I stray from my normal routine in order to get things off my chest. My audience isn’t sports-based, but they know I enjoy sports.

It’s been interesting to read and hear the trashing aimed at the team, it’s coaches and players, the city, and the fans. I try to go beyond the surface where most of the comments reside. Most of the national press doesn’t tell the reaction here … the reaction by the fans, players, coaches, and writers. Actually, the news here has been much deeper and profound than most of the commentaries from anywhere else … and certainly including the Pittsburgh paper that I’ve purposefully read.

To loyal fans, this loss not only hurt, it left us frustrated and embarrassed. After all, we’ve been waiting for the next playoff win since 1991. Bottom line – the Bengals lost, and the Steelers won. Since the game ended, the city, the fans, the coaches, the players, the organization, those attending the game, and anyone I’ve left out has been battered and bruised by many … as if losing wasn’t enough.  So here’s a Cincinnati perspective – a reasonable one – an honest one – and one not filled with fan bias.

Two Bengal players lost their composure. They let their emotions overcome professionalism. No excuses because one must take responsibility for their own actions. Take the Bengal who fumbled late in the game. He’s feels the weight of all the subsequent events on his shoulders – yet accepts the blame.

A Bengal player who made the flagrant hit on a Steelers receiver near the end of the game. Unnecessary and horrific! The NFL suspended him for three games – but for this fan, that is not enough.

Referees are responsible for controlling the game, enforcing the rules, and protecting the players. The referees tried to control the game, but they let get away from them by the judgmental decisions they make. There were two clear instances of Bengals being targeted with helmet-to-helmet, but neither called. Helmet-to-helmet contact is in the rules, but like any rule, enforcement is left to the judgment of the enforcer. These misgivings by the referees increased tensions, not defusing them.

Are coaches responsible for the actions of their players? Absolutely, but not totally. Coaches don’t run, pass, catch, or tackle. They don’t interfere, jump off-sides, or fumble. They try to teach players the right way. It’s important they create the balance for a competitive environment. In the end, it’s on the players to execute their tasks and be responsible for their behavior. Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis is a respectful coach, and he certainly isn’t about disrespectful and irresponsible behavior. I wonder if those head coaches even exist.

A certain Steelers assistant coach frequently harasses opposing players … and on the crazy play in the final 30 seconds, he was on the field around Bengals players (yes, a clear violation of Rule 13, Section 1, Article 8). For whatever reason, no penalty was called (another referee judgment that would have offset the second Bengal penalty during the incident.). Keep in mind that when this coach was a player, referees threw him out of a game before it even started.

The NFL has created a macho-fan culture that leads to disrespect, harassment, and even violence. It’s not just in Cincinnati, it’s league wide. Finding fan-on-fan incidents is easy, let alone the throwing of batteries, beer bottles, snowballs, and whatever is available – and let’s not forget verbal abuse. The NFL, in their ever-pursuit of maximizing revenue, scheduled a playoff game between two bitter rivals on a Saturday night – thus creating an opportunity for an all-day tailgating experience. Not a good idea.

The majority of the players on both teams are good people, thus are not representative by the stupid. Anyone thinking that the Bengals organization is a house for thugs is extremely misinformed. Outside of the game, more players make the news because of bad off-the-field behavior than good – but those players are a small percentage of the whole – and this is true in all NFL cities – so is the fact that the good guys get involved in the community. After their playing careers are over, many stay in that city and remain good examples. Others return to their hometowns to build a successful life.

The majority of the fans in the stands are good people, not represented by the people jeering or throwing objects at an injured player. Sports fans can be terrible, and anyone thinking that bad fan behavior in the NFL is limited to Cincinnati is either naive or misinformed. As do the majority of fans across the nation, Cincinnatians condemn the behaviors of the few.

In the end, I think about these what-ifs. What if the Steelers  assistant coach would have been penalized, and the Steelers lost the game?

  • Would there be talk about the Steelers head coach who couldn’t control two assistants who received misconduct penalties?
  • Would anyone be talking about the two Steelers players who danced on the field while a Bengal player lay motionless on the ground?
  • Would anyone be talking about the Steelers hits to the head if they were called?

I think not … but as I said to others starting the day after the game, there is a lot of blame to go around on this one – and they all should not be pointed to Cincinnati. Interestingly, Cincinnati has owned up to their role – something that none of the other parties have done – not the NFL, not the referees, and not the Pittsburgh coaches, players, or organization.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 71

On a Joyous Time
In a world and times with so many negative events and attitudes, the rescue of the Chilean miners shines a bright light on humanity as one of hope and dignity – not one of reality shows, tabloids, political ads, and talk show dogma. Blessings to all involved.

On a Philly Fanatic
The Philadelphia Enquirer Frank Fitzpatrick authored this unkind article about Cincinnati. The comments were the best part, so thanks to the many good Philadelphians who took offense at his article and stood up for us. Good luck Phillies.

On Two College Football Thoughts
Besides last weekend’s Reds playoff game, I also attended the oldest rivalry west of the Alleghenies … one of the oldest college football rivalries at one of the oldest stadiums  … the UC Bearcats hosting the nearby Redhawks at UC’s Nippert Stadium. Bearcat running back Isaiah Pead amassed 197 yards in 10 carries by halftime. Before dismissing Pead’s effort against a MAC school, let us not forget his 21/169 stats against Oklahoma.

Speaking of MAC schools, I earned by undergrad degree at Bowling Green, thus I am a proud Falcon. I know times on the sports front have been difficult of late, but last year’s football time had an interesting stat as they played three teams with a large “M” on the helmet. Who were the opponents? The answer is later in this post.

On the Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals limp into their bye week with a lower than expected 2-3 record. While some find the struggles with the offense I mystery, I offer these thoughts. The offense lacks an identity. Most of the time it behaves as a team that thinks it can run or pass at will. It also behaves as a pass-first offense, then run. Hence, the problem because it does best when running is the top priority. Oh well – guess this is why I am a fan, thus not an NFL coach.

On the Upcoming Elections
With the midterm election season on the home stretch, it is a perfect time to catch countless examples the self-centered, clueless nature of today’s political culture. On the plus side, their ads, comments, and behaviors provide good examples of teaching young people about how not to be. Then again, that requires someone looking politics without a filter, or at least a limited filter.

I continue to maintain that the independents are the most pragmatic voting group and the ones who consistently decide election winners. Many, many times on this blog I have stated that independents vote parties out, and not parties in – something that the winners do not get. It happened in 2006 and 2008, and will likely happen in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Here’s a good Wall Street Journal article.

Cincinnatians are receiving some good political news! Reports are that the Democratic Party is withdrawing money for campaign television commercials in a local Congressional race. Amen to goodbye to pathetic ads – well, at least half of them.

On an Ohio Hamburger
I recently learned that USA Today listed a Cincinnati establishment for having the best hamburger in Ohio. Figuring this probably done by some sort of voting (and not actual tasting), I need to step forward on this one. Granted, Zip’s Café has a loyal following – but there is also a strong band of Zip’s dissidents, of which I am one. Best in Ohio? Not even close – not even best in the Cincinnati.

Answer to the college football question: In 2009 Bowling Green played Missouri, Marshall, and Miami – all with a large M on the side of their helmet.

Have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

On Random Cincy Sports Thoughts

On the Reds
The Reds are in the pennant race! The Reds are in the pennant race! No matter if they make the playoffs or not, the Reds are currently in the mix.

  • Although they don’t have a hammer at the top of the rotation, the starting staff is deep.
  • Although middle relief is improving, Francisco Cordero continues to create restlessness.
  • In my preseason thoughts, I mentioned the importance of productive hitters from the right side. They have done well, but can Jonny Gomes come close to his first half numbers?
  • Although only a few Reds occupied the DL during the first half, second half injuries are starting the happen.
  • Most of the offense has been from infielders, thus why Orlando Cabrera’s injury is significant.
  • OF continues to struggle at the plate. Will Jim Edmonds be able to help? Well, at least he’ll make more contact. Health is his key question, so is he worth 1-2 starts per week?
  • On the other hand, the Reds are one of the better defensive teams and now improve defensively with SS Paul Janish.
  • No problem from this fan that the Reds stood pat at the trade deadline.
  • Joey Votto is one heck of a player.
  • By thought, and I hope I’m wrong, I see the Reds falling short of the playoffs. But, stranger things have happened, thus that’s why they play the games.

On the Bengals
The Bengals’ passing game last year was poor, and no question, Bengal brass addressed the issue, including signing TO. For sure, he has created a buzz – but only time will tell what the results will be. Since the team has the potential to exceed the expectation than any Barnum & Bailey Circus could ever imagine, I hope the Brown family considers hiring Sarah Palin.

On a visit to Bengals training camp we learned that Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari’s favorite teams are the Steelers and Bengals. I wonder if he’s also a Red Sox and Yankees fan. Sure he is.

Congratulations to Dick Lebeau on his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. This was long overdue, as Canton Crazy Cuts noted on October 20, 2008. This is a great read.

On UC
College football season is around the corner. I’m still a Cincinnati Bearcats season ticket holder, thus look forward to David’s Oklahoma Sooners coming to town. Nevertheless, I fret over the distinct possibility of coming out of the gate with a losing record. The first five games include away games at Fresno and NC State, plus the Sooners at home.

Again this year I will analyze the out of conference schedules of the BCS teams. I’m looking forward to the numbers because on first glance, this doesn’t look pretty.

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.