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.