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Monday, July 23, 2012

My column 'Win one for us young folks, Cincy" as it appeared in the April 4th, 2012 edition of The News Record.

The majority of Cincinnati sports enthusiasts can reach into the depths of their sports viewing memory and retrieve some semblance of better times, greener pastures and glory from the years gone by.
In 1990, the Reds went wire-to-wire and added their fifth World Series title. The Bengals won the AFC Central Division to advance to the playoffs, but then something happened — something that has robbed Cincinnati’s 20-and-younger generation of the sports memories enjoyed by those a few years our senior.
Anyone privileged enough to witness the Cincinnati Reds play baseball in the ’70s should realize they saw one of the last true pro baseball dynasties, as free agency has ensured that a nucleus of talent that strong will never again take the field for any team who plays outside of the evil triumvirate in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.
The Big Red Machine won six division titles, dominated the ’75 and ’76 World Series’ and came within one run of adding a third in ’72.
The ’80s saw the Bengals enjoy the only decade of success in franchise history. In ‘81 and ‘89, they were within one minute of winning the Super Bowl, only to be devastated by Joe Montana and the 49ers both times.
In my family, it’s a long-standing joke that my birth signaled the downfall of Cincinnati’s professional sports teams. I like to point out that the death of Cincinnati Bengals founder and owner Paul Brown on Aug. 5, 1991 — which left his son Mike to run the team — was far more detrimental to Cincinnati sports than my entrance into this world.
Nevertheless, I was born four weeks later on Aug. 27, and the sports-related depression that ensued is undeniable.
In the last 21 seasons, the Reds and Bengals have made five total playoff appearances, and only the 1995 Reds’ squad managed to advance past the first round. During that same period, both teams have a combined record of 1,763 wins and 1,909 losses for a dismal joint winning percentage of 48 percent.
For Cincinnati sports fans younger than 25, like myself, there are no flashing images of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose and no thoughts of Boomer Esiason or the Icky Shuffle.
Instead, we remember eight agonizing years of Ken Griffey Jr. tearing every last muscle in the human anatomy — he suited up for only 843 of the 1,296 games the Reds played during his time with the club. This coincided with 10-straight losing seasons for the Reds, spanning from 2000 until the Reds finally clinched a division in 2010.
After 15 years of losing seasons and flopped No. 1 draft picks — David Klingler, Kijana Carter and Dan Wilkinson — we nearly rioted in 2005 when the Bengals made the playoffs, but as we should have expected, the game quickly ended in tragedy when Carson Palmer’s knee exploded before our eyes.
My generation has tolerated a lot — 21 years of having Mike Brown as an owner, 10-straight losing seasons by the Reds, and for God’s sake, we had to watch Akili Smith throw a football.
Through it all, we’ve somehow carried on with a lingering sense of hesitant optimism and now, more than ever, it might be justified.
Coming off of a pleasantly surprising playoff appearance, the Bengals appear to be making all the right moves this offseason.
With the Reds spending money like they just won the Mega-Millions, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto and Sean Marshall are all under contract through 2015.

Things in Cincinnati look very bright, possibly a bit too bright for our comfort. Regardless, it appears on paper as if our time is coming, and I believe it is.
Following 21 years of mediocrity, it won’t be surprising if something goes wrong once again. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t.
If nothing else, at least we aren’t Cleveland fans, and our river doesn’t burn.