For the better part of 50 years, the Reds and the Bengals have shared the Cincinnati riverfront as the respective professional baseball and football franchises for the Queen City and Northern Kentucky.

Since the Reds are the oldest professional baseball franchise and the Bengals are relatively young—founded in 1968—the Reds, for years, were the more popular team. That made sense.

Even when Paul Brown elevated the Bengals from an expansion team to the playoffs in record time—without the benefit of free agency—the Reds still ruled. The Big Red Machine was reaching its zenith and as good as Ken Anderson, Isaac Curtis, Bill Bergey and Bob Trumpy were, the Reds could counter with Rose, Perez, Bench and Morgan.

So when the Royals fled to Kansas City (and partially Omaha) after the 1971 NBA season, it was just the Reds and Bengals who were left. They shared Riverfront Stadium.

Today, it’s a little different. Well actually, a lot different.

The Reds, like other baseball teams, are locked out. The Reds, like most other baseball teams, are looking to shed payroll. And the Reds have jettisoned players since the 2021 season concluded, one in which they didn’t make the playoffs, had a horrible bullpen, ran out of gas in September and then extended the contract of their manager.

The Hot Stove League? What Hot Stove League? There is none.

The Bengals are now the darlings of the national media and are getting nationwide support. Think of that statement. Think of how things have flipped.

I became a Bengal fan upon their inception. Like many of you, I enjoyed the good times—Boomer, the no-huddle offense, Peeeeete, the two Super Bowl runs but also the incredible string of calamities: poor drafting (Klingler, Akili Smith, just to mention a couple) the injuries (Archie Griffin in an exhibition game, Carson Palmer in the playoffs, Tim Krumrie in the Super Bowl), Homer Rice, the relapse of Stanley Wilson the day of a Super Bowl, bad actors like Vontaze Burfict, Palmer quitting the team and the incredible fumble by Jeremy Hill.

Remember the big Tim Couch-Akili Smith draft debate? I voted ‘none of the above.’

They almost blew the Burrow Bowl in 2019 when Cincinnati and the Dolphins had the two worst records in the NFL, thus the first-pick (Burrow) was up from grabs. Losing 28-12 after the third quarter, the Bengals scored 23 points in the fourth quarter and forced an overtime only to lose and get Saint Joe with the #1 pick.

The Bengals—especially Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase—are the fresh faces of the NFL and the NFL loves it. Stripes are in. My phone exploded with texts after every Bengals playoff victory.

In February, we should be hearing ‘pitchers and catchers report’ but instead we’re hearing about what Joe Burrow is wearing at his post game press conferences, the baby-faced kicker who oozes of confidence and booms 50-yarders, the incredible turnaround in the second half of the Kansas City game thanks to Lou Anarumo and how charged the City of Cincinnati is over the Bengals.

Don’t take this wrong; I love it. The Bengals are going to the Super Bowl. It didn’t hit me until 10 minutes after they knocked off the Chiefs.

Even when the Bengals went to Detroit and Miami in their first two Super Bowl trips, the Reds were in good shape. The Cincinnati Reds had the best record in baseball in 1981 only to be hosed out of the playoffs. They won the World Series in 1990.

Today? The Reds are an afterthought.

It’s not all their fault. Blame MLB as well and the Players Union. While the NFL is loving these close games decided in the final seconds and in overtime and ratings are booming, MLB is asleep at the switch.

I go to a Super Bowl party every year with guys I served in the military in Springfield, Illinois. It allows us to catch up, talk about good memories, bad memories and enjoy the game. We all wear jerseys of our favorite players/teams. Most of the guys are Bears fans, I am the only one in stripes.

It was cancelled last year due to the virus. This year, it is scaled down—just 4 or 5 of us. But everyone there will be rooting for the Bengals to win.

I hope you all have a good Super Bowl Sunday. I hope the Bengals win. Who dey!

And I’m hoping the Reds are competitive in 2022 and baseball comes to their senses and fixes their problems.

14 Responses

  1. James H.

    I hope you have a good Super Bowl Sunday too.

  2. Brian Rutherford

    I’m s happy you wrote this article. My personal hope that the Bengals having success either wakes up the Reds and shows them what an engaged fanbase looks like or it adds enough value to the team that the ownership group sells to someone who can afford to compete.

    The NFL model where all teams, regardless of market size, have the same opportunity to win is what the MLB union should be looking at. Otherwise, the slow and painful death of professional baseball in Cincinnati will be complete.

  3. Steven Duncan

    Look I realize most people will say it’s not the players fault. The owners this. The owners that. To be honest I don’t really care. I grew up loving the reds and remember their run in 95. I went to that game against the dodgers when they clinched the series to move on and play the Braves in the pennant. I have so many good memories as a child going to riverfront stadium. That being said, MLB and the Reds are causing apathy jn our fan base. Especially when the NFL and college football are offering such a better product. Cincinnati is a sports town. Look at the teams excitement for UC football and the Bengals. If the Reds don’t play this year I unfortunately don’t care and will most likely give up on baseball. As Cincinnati sports fans we no longer have to settle for this. We truly can boycott and enjoy the bengals, bearcats, and buckeyes.

    • Droslovinia

      Don’t forget about how MLB sold itself out to gambling interests and now a significant portion of the fan base can’t even watch Baseball on tv. We could watch every Bengals game this year, but who wants to jump through hoops and struggle to watch the Reds, particularly under the current circumstances? Not making it easy for people to watch games leads to a death spiral for the sport, since it’s becoming so easy to forget about the team.

  4. Daytonnati

    Excellent callback article, John,! You seem to be around the same age as me, as that is how I remember those years. I have a brother who is 8 years older and was a Reds fan through the lean years prior to the Big Red Machine. We grew up in Dayton and he would take me to games at Crosley and later, Riverfront, always reminding me “don’t take this for granted.” I know it is hard for the younger readers here to believe that, for nearly a decade, the Reds WERE the Yankees! The standard of excellence. The benchmark team.

    As a kid, it took me a while to ween myself from the Browns, with the Bengals being the new kids, but I remember the moment that I flipped allegiance. It happened actually during a Browns – Bengals game late in the season. Thom Darden, corner for the Browns, clothes-lined Pat McInally with a vicious hit. It appeared that he either killed him or left him paralyzed. McInally not only recovered, but played in the second half. The Browns eventually won that game, but I was not happy about it. From that moment on, I was a Bengal fan.

    The ride the past three weeks has been glorious. I was at the Raiders game and after that win, breaking the playoff drought, this town has been electric. Wherever you go, people seem be a little lighter, a little happier. Enjoy the ride, folks. “Don’t take it for granted.” If the Stripes can keep Joe Burrow healthy, we are in for several years of fun.

    The Reds? Well … let’s hope ownership is watching this.

  5. Jon

    The Reds have been slashing payroll since the end of 2020, not only 2021. The apparent willingness of the owners to lose games in the 2022 season makes me wonder just how exaggerated teams’ financial losses in the 2020 season actually were. If they were in that bad shape financially after a season with prorated salaries and while still collecting advertising and television contract revenue, why do it all over again now?

    This was supposed to be the first full normal season since 2019. The first season with a packed ballpark on Opening Day. The first season with the parade and festivities. But now that’s all in jeopardy.

  6. Mark Moore

    I’m on the Bengals Bandwagon for this final trek. I don’t follow the NFL much at all (maybe I’d have come back had Joey B. ended up as a Phish). These close games have been amazing to watch.

    As for our beloved Reds … it just makes me too sad to think about right now.

    Great article, John!

  7. Old-school

    Bengals have a punter and long snapper from last playoff team . Thats complete roster turnover.

    They got better by getting younger and getting rid of overpaid bloated old malcontents and starting over with young champions and a new culture

    Reds need to have the courage to go young and get rid of the old. If that means sacrificing 2022 so be it.

    Find a way to treat Votto well until his retirement but otherwise get rid of everyone over 30 in the next 12 months.

    Bengals arent missing dunlap/green/Dalton/ or geno

    • Grand Salami

      This works when you have sure fire prospects. The Reds have young
      Talent but there isn’t much of a sure thing in baseball

  8. Hotto4Votto

    I know I’ve been more excited about the last couple of Bengals games than I have for just about a decade’s worth of Reds games.

  9. CallowayPost

    I’ve been waiting for someone to address the golden opportunity the Reds can find themselves in, by investing in a winner.

    Not just for the team, but the city.

    Win or lose, the bengals are accomplishing what the Reds hoped to start, and that’s a winning tradition.

    Imagine the hype of building around this young core with good FA’s, especially if the Bengals win it all.

    You can’t buy the PR of a Super Bowl appearance, lead by Burrow…and a rejuvenated Reds team and a youth movement, led by India, Stephenson, Barrero. Add in a dash of excitement with the other world ability of Greene, and we will feel closer to the team that Bruce sent to the playoffs…like a confident kicker…but a finger in the air while taking his shot.

  10. AMDG

    The Reds have more losing seasons than the Bengals over the past decade (6 vs 5), and over the past 2 decades (15 vs 9).

    You have to go back to the 1990’s to find a period when the Reds were producing more on-field success than the Bengals.

  11. indyDoug

    KiJana Carter injury not Archie griffin, right?

  12. Grand Salami

    John thanks. I went to KC and it was the best money I spent. Not getting a reds season ticket package made it justifiable so there is somewhat of a zero-sum exchange between these teams and the mutual fan base