It isn’t my voice in this column, but those of my fellow citizens of I-275, including your Cincinnati Reds.

Because what happened this weekend wasn’t the breaking of a 31-year playoff win streak. It was a total shift of responsibility half a mile upriver. The entire sports world is now looking with raised eyebrows at the stadium not shaped like a football: Well?

I started writing about winning several weeks ago and don’t quite know where to turn now that it’s happening. To us. And I’m not alone. It’s interesting to view how the Reds media machine dealt with the accomplishment of the now non-punchline Bengals. It wasn’t politic to ignore the situation, especially as the two exchange charming Opening Day greetings, and, from time to time, futile playoff good wishes.

So Saturday saw the following presentation of kind regards (in case an updated link now shows the Reds logo returned to its traditionally colored C, the C is Bengalsfied here):

The next tweet was this:

Because the optimum PR move here is to remind everyone that the last time the Reds hoisted a Commissioner’s Trophy, people were smoking inside… on airplanes… just inches from other human beings.

What was next in the Twitter timeline? Surely the Reds would have something congratulatory to say after the final whistle?

Nope:

We’re going to pretend this never happened.

Well, not really. It’s not the responsibility of the Reds to put the Bengals in perspective. It is, however, the responsibility of the Reds to put themselves in perspective.

But some thought the Bengals didn’t necessarily handle this any better:

This, of course, references the much-shared fact that until this weekend, a text had never, ever been sent regarding a Bengals playoff victory. Bengals winning stopped in 1991; texting began in 1992. Does this tweet cleverly acknowledge the obvious or lean into three decades of self-sabotage?

But the bigger question here is: What have the Bengals done that the Reds have not?

Is it Zac Taylor?

Is it Joe Burrow?

Is it both? Is it the combination of them, plus other pieces? Total dumb oval-shaped luck? Something else?

How did this happen, and how do the Reds duplicate this on a baseball level?

It was an odd situation for me, who was so throughly and emotionally involved in that most recent, text-free win. In the years since, my last spark of caring about the Bengals was made to gutter by an endless string of embarrassing player arrests, then smothered by the 2016 Pittsburgh debacle, then extinguished entirely by the NFL as an institution and the NCAA as its de facto minor league.

Yet, as I sat with my husband, who wanted to know what the Ickey Shuffle was as the actual Ickey shuffled, and I heard the crowd scream so loudly the Raiders were forced to huddle against the sound, I remembered how this felt. It rumbled from a long, long time ago, and I took a nap in the third quarter, but I recognized the echo. The people in the stadium were willing this to happen.

I wasn’t the only one unloading online:

There was a lot of crying in living rooms:

And outside the stadium:

But this one is my favorite:

This one is my favorite because it is the soul-center of the tears: It’s a dad and his boys (or boys and freshly minted girl, depending on who’s crying in the background) experiencing the moment together. I had that too. I wasn’t much older than these little guys when I collected the memory of siting on the couch with my big sister and our daddy as he yelled “Go Ickey!” at the TV, and despite the fact that one of his last sentences on this planet in 2010 was “Same old Bengals,” it is part of me always. Now it’s part of them.

These are the very definition of first-world problems. Those are nice living rooms we’re all crying in. Some videos were from well-stocked bars; others from Germany, Vegas, and college dorm rooms. There are bigger challenges than the inability to add championship sweatshirts to the closet pile for 3 decades.

But why did we put up with the gaps? Aren’t the Bengals embarrassed by this outpouring? That it took this long?

Are the Reds? If so, what are they doing about it?

And how much longer will we wait?

29 Responses

  1. Pablo

    I still consider Mike Brown to be a terrible owner (as is big Bob). But the Bengals previous futility gifted them the #1 pick in the draft the year that Joe Burrow was available. This season has been a fun ride but if they want to really impress me going forward, they’ll invest in a granite wall of linemen to protect the franchise. Otherwise he’s going to get maimed.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I’m always looking for the poetry. “Granite Wall of Linemen” is going in the vault.

  2. Russ S

    This sounds cliche, but comparing the Bengals and Reds is like comparing apples to oranges. What have the Bengals done that the Reds have not? The Bengals completely altered their trajectory by hitting it big with two high draft picks: Joey “Franchise” and Ja’Maar Chase. Having these two meet/exceed expectations while on rookie contracts (a.k.a. cheap) allowed and will continue to allow the Bengals to spend big in free agency where it is needed. Thanks to the salary cap, even the elite free agents won’t be out of the Bengal’s spending range while Joey, Ja’Maar and Higgins get lower salaries. The Reds, however, *could* hit it big in the draft (Greene? Lodolo? McClain?), but it takes years for those guys to get to the big leagues if they aren’t de-railed and – as the Angels have seen with Ohtani and Trout – not even two superstar ballplayers can carry a team to the playoffs like a franchise QB and WR can in football.

    What the Reds can learn from is the notion of drafting well and then surrounding those cheap great ballplayers with elite veterans from the free agent market. Sadly, the Reds feel they are too poor to do this. Meaning, due to massive salaries of MLB superstars, the Reds are saying “we can’t afford to surround India, Stephenson, Barrero, Mahle, etc…) with someone like a Carlos Correa. After all, we already have a $20+ million dollar Joey Votto. And if we do take on another contract of that magnitude, then we’ll never be able to keep an India or Stephenson after a few more years. This is why the window for small market baseball teams to compete is so tight. You have to do what the Indians did in the 90s, meaning develop young, cheap talent, lock them up for several years to team friendly contracts and then supplement with 1-2 expensive, elite free agents.

    • LDS

      When is the last time the Reds had an elite draft pick make it? And in all honesty, I have serious doubts about Bell’s ability to capitalize on them if they did exist. If the Reds signed Correa, Bell would play him out of position so that Farmer could continue at SS.

      • Daytonnati

        I was at the game and have to say that one of the biggest fan reactions of the night was when they put a video of Jonathan India on the Jumbo-tron. He was at the game, exhorting the Bengals and the crowd on. The place went nuts. At least one Red knows what is possible.

        I was at Game 2 of the 1990 World Series and saw Joe Oliver’s walk-off game-winning single in the bottom of the 12th off of Dennis Eckersley. I think the crowd reaction last Saturday topped even that. It was exhilarating! Grown men weeping, strangers hugging strangers, Covid be damned 🙂

      • Earmbrister

        LDS – in answer to your question:

        “ When is the last time the Reds had an elite draft pick make it? ”

        Jonathan India
        Tyler Stephenson

  3. Old Big Ed

    I had to Google the smoking ban on airlines, which started became law on February 25, 1990, which is close enough.

    They divided smoking and non-smoking sections by small cards, marked something like “Smoking Area”, which dangled from underneath the overhead bins at about Row 16 of a 25-row airplane. Magically, or so it was imagined, the small cards kept the smoke from drifting to Row 15 forward. Or not.

    • Gonzo Reds

      That’s a great idea… we could have the cards say vaccinated or non-vaccinated and the small cards would protect one from the other, except for when the air marshal is dragging the unruly passengers to the exit in cuffs. 😉

    • west larry

      Like this is going to prevent the non-smokers from inhaling the smoke-filled air. They should have made the smokers light up, in flight, while sitting on the wings

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      You could still smoke on shorter flights. I remember this being a huge debate… and also looking up at a vending machine for smokes in Frisch’s. wtf, us?

    • west larry

      I want to apologize for my harsh comments about smokers. I was trying to be funny with my comment that they should smoke out on the wing…it doesn’t look funny when I reread it I guess former smokers are harsher on smokers then those who have never puffed the stuff. Again, I apologize for my comments.

  4. Scott C

    I am glad for the Bengals. Saturday was the first Bengals game I had watched in probably over 15 years. And I kept thinking throughout the second half “Somehow they are going to blow it” I am glad they hung on. Both the Bengals and the Reds have suffered from poor management, but the Bengals have a better opportunity to be good for a while due to the salary cap. Perhaps though the Reds can get a dose of that magic in a bottle and we can send out texts about a Reds Playoff Series win.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yeah I think the ultimate shock here is that they didn’t absolutely destroy themselves in 60 whole minutes of football.

  5. David

    Kudos to the Bengals for toughing it out and winning on Saturday. We were in a bar-restaurant, and the game was on. Haven’t really watched an NFL game for years, but watched most of the 2nd half.
    Burrow has a quick release and a nice touch on the ball. Well, of course he’s good.

    I remember the older Bengal teams of the 80’s; the Forest Gregg coached team that went to the Superbowl, and the Sam Wyche coached team that went to the Superbowl (lost both times). Back when Paul Brown (GM and owner) ran the team; somebody who actually knew something (well, quite a lot!) about football. Maybe with Marvin Lewis finally gone, they can actually WIN some playoff games. Marvin was a choker. His coaching was being a choke. As inspirational as a snotty kleenex.

    I am not a “real” fan, but happy for all the real fans that stick with it.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Culture situation with Lewis, maybe? That seemed to go on forever.

  6. Rednat

    i am getting old and the chances of me seeing the reds winning another playoff series are fairly slim. i never would have imagined that after we beat LA in 1995. can we all just admit that Marge was a pretty good owner!

    • Mark Moore

      By comparison, yes, she kind of was.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I just want an owner who holds regular press conferences and answers pretty much every question with “I’m only here so I don’t get fined.”

    • ChrisInVenice

      The Reds won despite Marge Schott. She was such a tight-wad, she kept employee coffee under lock and key. I’m saying this with firsthand knowledge.

  7. Mark Moore

    Great stuff! I don’t watch NFL games anymore, but if the Tigres advance, I may have to jump on the bandwagon. I’ve got a Buffalo friend who is elated with what’s going on up there.

    As for our Reds ownership, I’d wager they aren’t paying attention at all. Very sad for us.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      One of my co-workers lives in Buffalo and I mentioned that I remembered the events of “The Four Falls of Buffalo” in my youth.

      He said “Oh the last of those games happened the year before I was born lol”

      Maybe I cried, maybe I didn’t.

  8. Andy

    The Reds cannot catch lightning in a bottle like Bengals have. NFL is just different. Looking at 2021 salaries, Bengals and Reds were both middle of pack… but salary as a % of top spending team was not close. Bengals were 13th, $188M when highest spender was $205M, lowest $172M. Reds were 16th, $125M with high of $270 and low of $42M.

    The NFL salary structure makes every team viable. Look at teams in playoffs… Cincinnati, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Kansas City, Tampa Bay…All “small market” cities that have do not try to pay salaries similar to LA/NY teams in MLB.

    Also, even if Reds drafted next Griffey Jr. in draft, it would not make same waves as QB. (Griffey himself did not lead to postseason success in Seattle.) Only a starting pitcher matters as much as a QB, and even then only on days they start. So if Hunter Greene exceeds our wildest expectations, he will only be about ~20% as valuable as Burrow. Tanking for 1-2 years can flip an NFL team, as with Bengals, but tanking in MLB needs a good 5+ years (as in Houston) to really work, and only then with luck. (Pirates are still working on theirs…)

    Another thing… FA prices in NFL make more sense. Players with talent of Hendrickson, Reader, Awuzie, Bell, etc that Bengals have signed would cost twice as much in MLB. Their value would not be double, but price to sign would be. (I place Hendrickson and Castellanos in similar value level… but Hendrickson signed for 4/$60M… only $16M guaranteed. Nick C’s deal was 4/$64, all guaranteed… and was a bargain he opted out of, and is now asking for $100M+.

    At current salary level, Reds can only hope that a 1-3 year window opens once every 10 years. In NFL, teams that find The Quarterback can see sustained success, even in cities like KC, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh…. and Cincinnati.

    • Andy

      Thanks for the link to Willie’s Twitter thread.. it’s that is glorious.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        I’m so glad he posted the request. The replies are a screengrab of history.

  9. TR

    I was a Brown’s fan as a kid, but have been an off and on Bengal’s fan since they started in the late 60’s. National media gives scant attention to Burrow and the Bengals. That’s ok. All that matters in pro sports is winning. Burrow and the Bengals have a good future.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Tomorrow will tell the tale!

  10. Mark Moore

    I’ve said here and elsewhere that I don’t watch the NFL play. Well, I just saw the final 2 minutes of the Bengals “pull it out of their ears” win and that’s the most NFL time I’ve experienced this season. I realize they will very likely get slaughtered next week, but given the 31-year drought and having NEVER won a road playoff game, my hat is off to the Queen City Tigres tonight. You couldn’t have scripted it better.

    Now, if only we knew for a fact there would be baseball in the next month or so …

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      A convent full of nuns in OTR saw the score in the 4th quarter and knelt down to pray 9 Memoriaries.

      and that is how they won.