On Sunday night, before a national audience, the Bengals season became clear: Either this team is going to participation-trophy its way in, or last season was a fluke and this city is doomed to another thirty years in the hinterlands.

There is no shame in sliding into the Super Bowl through the side fence, by being the girl the guy asks to dance because he feels sorry for her, only to find that she’s charmed him right into a marriage proposal. This was how the Bengals conducted their Super Bowl march last season. It happens. But probably not again. They see Cincinnati coming this time.

There are still joyous moments to come, to be sure, but confess: If there’s to be a road to a winning season, it’s not smooth, and it’s certainly not wide.

I doubt anyone is watching this team refuse to win against the Steelers in a missed field goal contest with more horror than the offices in Great American Ball Park. The only reason Cincinnatians aren’t pounding on the windows along Joe Nuxhall Way is that our parched search for respect in the sports world– inspire any fear, any consideration at all– has been quenched.

That’s why we weren’t devastated and flinging ourselves off the Purple People Bridge when the Super Bowl was lost. We were stunned to be there at all. We would have been satisfied with the Wild Card win. The tears that flowed after the AFC Championship were not so pure as the initial, overwhelming reaction of simply seeing a Bengals helmet on the postseason play boards.

Perhaps as a backup, our soccer team (we have a soccer team, remember?) has hoisted itself up by its weird European bootstraps and sneaked its way into the weird European playoffs. Like its American football counterparts, it found footholds in its own years of futility: Nobody saw FC coming.

The literary analyst in me wants to see a pattern in this, that since no one will see the Reds coming, the MLB will suddenly right itself. The ownership sweep its arms open, go on a free agency spending spree, and open its arm until its people, allowing backpacks and diaper bags larger than 16″x16″x8″ into the stadium.

But we all know how likely that is. The Bengals were willing to sell out its very founder, its namesake, in order to pay for the golden quarterback and the fleet-footed wide receiver and all the other first-class accoutrements necessary for putting their helmet graphic into the playoffs graphic. There’s no sign, no suggestion at all that the Reds are willing to do the same. This team is relentless in its pursuit of mediocrity and embarrassment. And so there are no bigger Bengals fans than the people running the Reds.

So what would the city’s attitude towards this team be if there were no golden quarterback, no AFC Championship hats? The shrugging we see now? Likely not. This is a baseball town and our baseball team is mortifying. All the Joey Votto social media posts of baby hippos in all of cyberspace cannot redeem it. Why have we continued in our patience?

Because we are happily distracted by the orange and black confetti, the penalty kicks that went our way, and the baby hippo. The combined attendance for an entire three-game series at the end of the season would fill perhaps half of the Bengals stadium.

Combined. Attendance.

Three-game series.

So pointedly Going Elsewhere has not worked. Ignoring social media accounts has not worked, or a fan-funded billboard to call for a new owner, or the determination to see the same movie multiple times rather than the pitiful story unfolding on the basepaths.  Nothing is going to work until the people in charge of putting this baseball club in a position to win decide to actually put this baseball club into a position to win. And so we’ve given up.

Maybe that’s why Cincinnatians are throwing our hands up and going to minor league hockey games. We’re letting the ownership get away with it, but if the Bengals offensive line continues to bend and then break, if the FC lets up one inch, casual baseball fans are going to remember about the baseball humiliation doled out on the daily.

This cannot go on forever. I don’t know what the end game will look like, but chances are… not a World Series trophy.

41 Responses

  1. LDS

    “This team is relentless in its pursuit of mediocrity and embarrassment.” One of my favorites from your writings. And so depressingly true. Being a Reds fan is really a futile endeavor in Castellini era.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Well, thank you. Sometimes furor is good for the muses.

    • Jim t

      @LDS I share your frustration in regards to the management of the franchise Don’t always see eye to eye with you where the blame should fall or how much is in field management versus what the manager has been given to work with.

      I’m 69. The franchise is a fond memory for me of my dad, brothers and lifelong friends sharing our evenings and weekends rooting for our hometown team. Present ownership is destroying those memories by its lack of effort towards being competitive. They have forgotten that it’s the fans who make the franchise. Their lack of investment in the product they are selling and what it means to the city is criminal. We are fans are being taken for a ride by this ownership. That said. I still don’t think I can walk away. Quite the problem for the fan base.

      • LDS

        @JimT, 67 myself and remember watching the Reds with my grandfather back in the 60s. It’s certainly not the same.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        See? Neither can I.

        And they know it.

      • Rednat

        great comment. the reds do have a very strong foundation in the city which has carried it through most of this century. the question is when will this foundation break. I think of the Cincinnati Royals who had some good teams in the 60’s with Big O but when they started to struggle they left town quickly without any protest ( that I can remember anyway). If management isn’t careful the foundation could be broken with the reds permanently. we have had a couple of good teams this century, no great teams and a lot of bad teams. Going to full 5 year rebuild plan is some what risky given the teams poor performance over the past 2 decades

  2. Mark Moore

    I have to echo what LDS wrote and “This team is relentless in its pursuit of mediocrity and embarrassment” just stood out as if it were in hot pink flashing neon against a solid black background.

    I’m cautiously waiting to see what the 40-man roster boils down to, but I seriously doubt that evokes much in the way of change. I’ve stated elsewhere that this ownership group just isn’t committed to winning. They hide behind the “small market” smoke screen and whine all the way to the bank. They are the wrong group to own such a storied club as the Cincinnati Professional Baseball Organization Redlegs.

    Sell it, Bob & Phil. There will be buyers. Do the fans that solid and maybe we’ll forgive you for giving us the virtual finger.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I haven’t heard (or worn) “hot pink” since oh, before two or three generations were born. Thank you for reminding me of a favorite pair of childhood shorts (and of course the kind words!)

    • Michael

      Kudos. I watch & listen to games w as much optimism as anyone can realistically have all things considered early on start of season. only for reality to kick in. Then not dedicatedly listen & watch expecting what we all know is coming sketchy leads or 1 run games fully expecting what’s coming . bullpen fails miserably offense leaves runners on base & royal ass kicking that’s par for the course plays out as usual at which time I chuckle . Then much like the movie groundhog day this broken record plays out on a regular repetitive basis . Anybody feel where I’m coming from?

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        “Sketchy leads” is an excellent way to put it.

  3. Rednat

    sometimes I think it comes down to karma. Cincinnati is the greatest town in the country in my humble opinion. low crime, pretty good weather, less traffic, great zoo and amusement park, great colleges, nice people, clean downtown, great restaurants. in return for living here we are stuck with crappy professional sports.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      It IS a pretty darn great place to grow up. Then again, the 1990 Reds and 1988 Bengals took place during my childhood, so I’m spoiled and biased 🙂

    • Oldtimer

      I might put an asterisk on Less Traffic* nowadays.

      *except I-75 in northern Kentucky.

      I grew up in Fort Mitchell, KY. Traffic here in The 859 is much MUCH worse than I remember it. Housing developments in Boone County have exploded the population but I-75 is similar to what it always was.

      In the late 1960s, I drove (or rode) on I-75 to St Xavier HS in Finneytown so I am comparing it to those days.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        I-75 is a nightmare at all times, in all ways

  4. Jim Walker

    The major league hockey season opens tonight and those guys who play up i71 between Cincinnati and the Mistake on the Lake will be on the very same cable channel and streaming service as the Reds!

    The CBJ even has Brian Giesenschlag hosting the pregame, intermission, and postgame shows. It has been rumored that Sam LeCure may even make a cameo appearance at some point during the season (but probably not tonight because they open on the road).

    The team was in the playoffs 5 times in 6 years ending in 2020 and is now in the 2nd season of a “reload” after finishing not at the bottom but in the middle of the pack last year, the first of the reload.

    And in the offseason they signed the consensus NHL top free agent and extended another of the top scorers in the league for 5 years instead of trading him for draft picks. All this yet they have the 2nd or 3rd youngest lineup in the league featuring a number 1st round draft choices (shrewd trading landed them 3 last year (2021) and 2 this past summer).

    Give them at least a look or two over the winter. Whatever the results they will rarely if ever be as boring as was the norm for the Reds in much of 2022. And when they are, the prospects of excitement from a fight usually rise! 😉

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      What I’m looking forward to: Further clips with Joey Votto in the booth.

      • Jim Walker

        Eh, Joey should be a natural for hockey. But would you put him in the booth or down on the ice sideline between the benches where the CBJ analyst/ color man works from during home games? He might get so into it that he would be over the boards and in the middle of things before he realized it.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        That would be very Canadian of him! But I don’t know if he even played hockey? (Maybe parents are legally required to enroll their children in hockey up there>) I remember him saying that he was lonely sometimes because not a lot of kids liked baseball 🙁

      • Jim Walker

        I think you are correct that for the most part Joey has indicated he played little to no hockey as a kid but then I swear one night from the booth this year he sort of let it drop he may have played a little after all. So? 😉

    • MadMike

      Jim, btw check out the Bluejackets radio call if you have not heard it. I think it is better than TV. McElligott calls of hockey fights are particularly amazing, and he will crush the Jackets whenever they are playing poorly. Don’t see that often these days, most broadcast guys are afraid to criticize the teams they work for.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        My dad was always so happy to listen to him. “The CYC-lones”

      • Jim Walker

        Rimer criticizes, it just takes a while to figure out all his code words. And I think having Jody as his sidekick has sharpened his teeth a little too because Jody is not afraid to say “that should have never happened” or “how did this happen”.

    • Daytonnati

      I like the NHL and the NBA both, but don’t start locking in until the playoffs. It seems like they play a long time to eliminate 4 teams 🙂 The BIL in C-Bus loves, loves, loves, the Blue Jackets and has really nice season tickets. If they’re home over the Thanksgiving holiday, I usually go. There is no sport that is more misrepresented on TV as hockey. Being there is just one of the great experiences. So unlike watching on TV.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        My nephew brought two little banners with him to his college dorm room: One from his high school, and the other from the Blue Jackets 🙂

  5. AMDG

    Clearly, a great example of why those who do not follow football should not write about football 🙂

    The Bengals did not “slide” into the Super Bowl.

    At the end of the year they had to win at favored Denver, defeat division leading Baltimore, and pull an upset over Kansas City, to get into the playoffs.

    Then they had to win road playoff games against #1 seed (Tennessee) and #2 seed (Kansas City) – not an easy task.

    They fought and earned their spot in the Super Bowl. And to say anything less displays a lack of understanding of the Bengals’ accomplishment.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh! Goodness, that’s not what I meant. I didn’t mean to say that they didn’t belong in the Super Bowl. I was shocked each time they won, but the deserved it. I meant to say that by having the Wild Card slot, they “sneaked in” because just about everyone overlooked them. No one expected them to go anywhere, and they used that in their favor. It was astounding, frankly.

  6. RedsFan11

    I throughly enjoyed reading this article as I related at every step!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Many thanks for powering all the way through 🙂 It’s been a rough season for everyone.

  7. Pablo

    Banana Bob is 81 years old so you gotta wonder what he’s got left in the tank as far as being a business owner. Maybe he’s gutting the payroll to make it optimally attractive to a buyer? Maybe a ‘for sale’ sign will be his Christmas present to Reds fans soon?

    • Jim Walker

      And also with generational change a looming possibility, the financial austerity could be positioning for estate tax purposes depending on how the team ownership and their other family enterprises are set up.

      • Daytonnati

        I think of all the toys that Phil could inherit, the Reds would be the crown jewel.

        Maybe the TQL guys could buy the Reds. From expansion team to the playoffs in what? Three seasons?

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      My grandfather died at 91, still driving himself and ushering at Mass. He didn’t have Bob’s health care.
      I’m just saying.

      • Jim Walker

        True but when the time comes, it comes. Look at the recently departed QE2 of the UK. Until the last year, who would have laid odds her total life span was going to come up short of her husband (almost to the day 2 months short of 100) or her mum (101, just short of 102).

  8. William

    Thank you for holding ownership accountable. This is my last post until the spring. I will be reading the fan posts, but have no hope myself for 2023. I look forward to 2024.

    • TR

      At my age, I only allow myself to look forward to next year.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Man, I’m just happy when I don’t wake up face-down in a gutter. Although the past 2 years have kind of felt like that, baseball-wise.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Sometimes hope is the only thing we have. But that thing is a pretty good thing.

      I hope to at least see you here on Friday mornings 🙂


    The bengals went to the super bowl based upon luck and circumstance- no one was surprised to be there more than Mike Brown – who, by the way, was instructive to the owners of the reds on how to milk a franchise and have the city and fans pay for all of it.

    • Jim Walker

      If MB had been Castellini, he would have ordered Katy to trade Burrow the day after the Super Bowl to avoid having too great of a peak and even more importantly paying him more than he already was making!

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        I initially read that as MB=Mary Beth and I was like “Why yes, that probably is pretty close to what I would have done, which is why I do not own a sports franchise.”

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I think this season will tell the tale.
      Mike Brown, though– yeah, a Super Bowl trip still isn’t enough to make me un-mad about the insane stadium tax.