Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Womack wants shot at 2B

Tony Womack admits he's not good with words. In fact, he was among my least favorite players to interview when he was with the Cardinals.

But, Womack, who was acquired by the Reds from the Yankees last week in exchange for two minor-leaguers, said a lot when he addressed the media for the first time at Great American Ball Park.

"My mindset is to win a job at second base," he said. "Every year I'm out to prove myself. I want to earn it."

He'll compete with Ryan Freel who is a few million dollars richer after avoiding arbitration by signing a two-year deal.

Womack still has a chip on his shoulder after losing his starting job to rookie Robinson Cano mid-season.

After batting a career-high .307 for the 2004 NL Champion Cardinals, Womack saw his average dip to .249 while making only 80 starts for the Yanks.

"I'm going to put a question mark next to last season's numbers on my baseball card," said Womack. "They took the whole season from me."

Very eloquently put, my man.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Perry feeling the pain

Bengals running back Chris Perry wouldn't say much about the injury he suffered during Sunday's victory over the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. He didn't have to.

Perry's eyes were glassy and his expression glum as he stood on crutches in the Bengals locker room afterwards.

"It's injured, that's all I can say," Perry said. "The foot got caught up under me. That's the way it looked on the replay. It's frustrating."

Perry suffered what Marvin Lewis called a sprained left ankle. He is out for Sunday's game in Detroit. His future status is uncertain.

Perry, who is under tight orders to not discuss injury specifics, referred all questions to Bengals trainer Paul Sparling who is not permitted to talk to the media.

Detroit Lions fans are orange with anger

There will be a ton of fans wearing orange at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, and that's not just because of the multitude of Bengals fans making the trip up I-75.

Detroit fans are disgusted with the team's ownership (sound familiar?) and are staging a protest. Here's an excerpt from a press release issued last week by the folks at

Detroit, mi, December 9, 2005: The Lions Fanatics have officially announced an “Orange-Out” as a means of protest of the Detroit Lions December 18, 2005 football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. This protest is in direct response to the refusal of Team Owner and Chairman William Clay Ford to fire Team President and CEO Matt Millen.

The Detroit Lions under President and CEO Matt Millen have failed to live up to the standards of a professional football team and have the worst record of any team in the National Football League since his hire on January 9, 2001.

Lions Fanatics are asking fans to wear the color orange to the December 18, 2005 Detroit Lions’ home game. Wearing the color orange serves two purposes. First, the color is highly distinct and will not be confused with the Detroit Lions’ team color in an effort to maximize visibility. Second, the color orange is one of the team colors of the Detroit Lions’ December 18th opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Gall extends his 15 minutes of fame

Greg Gall, who interrupted play during the Bengals/Green Bay game on October 30 at Paul Brown Stadium, will appear on "Inside Edition" at 1 a.m. Saturday.

Gall, you'll remember, is the guy who ran on the field and took the ball from Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

The folks at "Inside Edition" have essentially rewarded Gall for trespassing.

What would he have gotten if he assaulted a player on the field? His own show?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

'The Mayor' moves on

Sean Casey is going home. The popular Reds first baseman, and Pittsburgh native, has been traded to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed pitcher Dave Williams.

The trade will be announced officially today pending results of physicals for both players.

The 26-year old Williams, who Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa called "the best left-hander in the league", went 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA in 25 starts for the Bucs last season.

It's a homecoming for Casey and his wife Mandi, who recently gave birth to the couple's fourth child, and first girl, Carli Renee.

Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Casey could only say that his "head was swimming" and he couldn't comment further until the trade is made official.

The deal is a money-saver for the Reds who will pick up only a portion of Casey's $8.5 million contract as part of the trade. Adam Dunn will likely be repositioned to first base.

Williams makes far less than Casey and should move into the No. 4 spot in the Reds starting rotation.

Reds GM Dan O'Brien has indicated the Reds aren't done dealing. Trades involving Austin Kearns and/or Wily Mo Pena have been discussed along with possible interest in Cardinals hurlers Matt Morris and Jason Marquis.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bengals on verge

As astounding as this scenario might sound to long-time Bengals fans, there could be some champagne corks popping in the home locker room at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

A Bengals win against the Browns coupled with a Steelers loss to the first-place Chicago Bears would clinch the AFC North Division championship for Cincinnati.

The Bengals, who beat the Steelers 38-31 on Sunday, are prohibitive favorites to defeat the Browns.

Although it is rather unlikely that Pittsburgh would lose a fourth consecutive game, especially at home in Heinz Field, a victory by the Bengals would reduce the "magic number" to one in pursuit of their first division crown in 18 years.

It was announced yesterday that ticket orders for a potential Bengals home playoff game at PBS are now being placed. Remarkable.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Steelers represent opportunity for Bengals

Marvin Lewis is growing tired of the questions. His frustration appeared to reach its peak following last week’s loss to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium.

During the post-game news conference, Lewis became somewhat perturbed when a reporter asked him what a relatively narrow 45-37 defeat to the Super Bowl shuffling Colts said about his team.

“Considering the Colts are probably the best team in the league, what conclusions can you draw about your team from this game?” the reporter asked.


Deep breath.

Ok, here goes …

“Well, we’re not satisfied with losing,” Lewis said. “We’re not going to go down that road again. The Colts are a very good football team and we went toe-to-toe with them. We’re a good football team. But, in order to prove that we need to go out and beat the other good football teams out there.”

The national media – I don’t believe the aforementioned reporter was local – are a little too eager to paint the 8-3 Bengals as a Cinderella story. A one-year wonder.

Truth is, the Bengals are anything but an overnight success.

The Bengals are coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons. They’ve managed to remain in the playoff chase into the month of December both of those years.

It has taken Lewis and his staff more than two seasons to make the personnel changes necessary to build the foundation of a winner.

This year’s Bengals are barely a shadow of their bungling past.

“We’ll keep climbing up that ladder,” Lewis says. “We’ll keep working at it. We’ll keep coming at it and swinging at the plate. We’ll stay together and we’ll be fine.”

Bengals QB Carson Palmer, who was 25-for-38 for 335 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts, was asked the same question.

“We did some good things, but we lost,” Palmer said. “We don’t play to come close. We play to win. This game hurts. We don’t play to lose.”

Still, the Bengals have failed each time they’ve had an opportunity to silence the skeptics:

Jacksonville 23 Bengals 20 - Early penalties shifted the field position in the Jaguars’ favor and a late Palmer fumble helped Jacksonville seal the victory.

Pittsburgh 27 Bengals 13 – A replay-reversal negated a Chad Johnson touchdown and Chris Henry’s dropped pass in the end zone prevented the Bengals from building an early lead and shelving the Steelers running attack.

Indianapolis 45 Bengals 37 – Despite what the final score might indicate, it was an off-side penalty on a third-and-10 play which prevented the Bengals from forcing the Colts to punt on their first possession. Indianapolis kept the ball and took a 7-0 lead moments later. Game. Set. Match.

“We didn’t get off the field on third down,” Lewis said. “It started with that first penalty. We made some plays, but not enough plays.”

The Bengals have yet another chance to legitimize themselves to a doubting public when they travel to Pittsburgh for a rematch with the rival Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field.

The Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 42-19, at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.

A victory over Pittsburgh this week would provide more than just vindication for the Bengals. It would put them in the driver’s seat for the AFC North Division title and make them legitimate contenders for the postseason and, quite possibly, a home playoff game.

Few people would disagree with Lewis’ assertion that the Bengals are a good football team.

But, they’d rather not wait until the Pro Bowl rosters are released for confirmation of their talent.

“We can play with the best of them, period,” said Chad Johnson who had six catches for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. “We tried to show the world this isn’t the same Bengals anymore. We still need to put up a ‘W’.”

The “Cinderella” Bengals are dressed for the ball. They’ve been fitted for their glass slippers.

But, the invitation is, as they say, in the mail.

“We’re getting closer,” Lewis said. “One day we’re going to have that breakthrough victory. That will be great for everybody.”

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bengals fans: don't worry C.J. not T.O.

Chad Johnson and Philadelphia Eagles receiver Terrell Owens do have a few things in common.

They both are considered to be among the best receivers in the NFL, if not the best.

On the playing field, they are intense competitors who succeed in making their respective teams ,and teammates, better.

Oh, and they both are clients of super-agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Please, if there’s any justice in the world, let the comparisons end there.

In truth, anyone who would jump to the conclusion that C.J. and T.O. are of the same ilk has spent little or no time around the Bengals receiver.

To the outside observer, Johnson dances to taunt, jaws at quarterback Carson Palmer about his lack of touches because he’s selfish and creates lists to defy the authority of head coach Marvin Lewis.

That’s T.O.. Not C.J.

But, Bengals fans can’t be blamed if they watch the circus in Philly and worry.

Owens was unceremoniously released last week after he engaged in a series of altercations, physical and otherwise, with quarterback Donovan McNabb and head coach Andy Ried. He’s sparred with the media, made a spectacle out of doing push-ups in his driveway and spent much of the past ten days making apologies which couldn’t be any more lacking in sincerity.

Rosenhaus, who rescued a child who was drowning in a pool at Disney World recently, might need his complete arsenal of CPR skills to revive T.O.’s career.

Johnson’s infamous “List” of cornerbacks who “won’t” cover him during the 2005 season has been a popular topic among fans, media and Bengals opponents.

He says it’s more of a challenge to himself. Lewis called the list “irrelevant” but felt compelled to remove it prior to the Bengals game at Baltimore and replace it with a more “team-oriented” list.

Johnson complied with Lewis’ wish and proceeded to satisfy every request listed thereof.

How would T.O. react if Ried was fiddling with his “paperwork”?

Johnson has caught 53 passes for 808 yards and five touchdowns this season. He ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards. He and Palmer are making significant strides toward becoming one of the NFL’s top one-two combinations a la Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in Indianapolis.

The Bengals (7-2) play the Colts at 4:15 p.m. Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

In a recent interview with USA Today, Johnson said his antics are all designed to add a little more fun and entertainment on Sundays. No malice exists in his intent.

When Johnson unveiled his sign which read, “Dear NFL, don’t fine me again. Merry
Christmas”, we laughed.

When he unleashed the “Riverdance” earlier this season, we laughed again.

When Johnson talks trash on the field his opponents often laugh.

Ever see anyone “laugh” at Terrell Owens? Nope. That’s cause T.O. is no joke. Just ask Rosenhaus.

Johnson’s operates on a different level.

“The outside world doesn't know me,” he said. “They only see a cocky, arrogant, trash-talking receiver. But I want people to understand the hard work I put in each week. I put in hours of watching film and going over the game plan. I come in on my off-days. I wish people would understand I'm not just talk.”

Johnson has been known to call Lewis in the wee hours of the morning to discuss how to get open on a particular play. He has an insatiable drive to be the best.

The cliché “Don’t judge a book by its cover” aptly describes Chad Johnson.

What also differentiates Johnson from Owens is his support group. Although Ried finally took a stand, one has to believe that Lewis would have acted a lot sooner. See Corey Dillon.

The veteran-stability that exists in the Bengals locker room won’t allow any individual player, especially Johnson, to stray too far from the team’s task at hand. Willie Anderson won’t stand for it.

But, Bengals fans are holding their breath.

Johnson is due a substantial raise this off-season.

Rosenhaus will be crawling out from his proverbial sewer looking to manipulate the media, fans and the Bengals’ brass into believing he, er I mean Johnson, deserves every penny possible.

Here’s hoping the system doesn’t corrupt Johnson. Right now, C.J.’s just having fun.

So are we.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Today's trivia question:

Which is more astounding?

a) That a Bengals fan could scale a 9-foot wall at Paul Brown Stadium, reach the field of play, sprint 80 yards and steal the ball from Packers quarterback Brett Favre during the fourth quarter before security caught wind of what was happening.


b) That a group of local investors, including a food wholesaler, could wrestle majority control of the Reds away from Carl H. Lindner.

Take your time. This is a tough one.

Bengals enjoying fine first half

The Bengals are halfway home.

With eight games remaining on the schedule their record stood at 6-2 putting them in excellent position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1990.

Coming off a 21-14 victory over Green Bay, the Bengals led the AFC North division by a slim margin over the Steelers.

Head coach Marvin Lewis finally conceded that his team had “written the script” for a good start. After beginning each of the past two seasons 1-4, the Bengals have reversed their early-season misfortunes.

“We’ve taken care of business when we’ve needed to,” said Lewis. “6-2 is a good record. We’re halfway through. Let’s be better in the second half.”

Four of the final seven games will be played at Paul Brown Stadium beginning with a nationally-televised clash with the Indianapolis Colts (game-time 4:15 p.m.) following this week’s bye.

Here’s the way we see the Bengals’ season thus far:


Lewis has been pleased with Palmer’s performance this season, but he still gets frustrated at times with the Bengals’ third-year QB who has a tendency to shoulder too much of the burden.

It was Palmer’s fumble which cost the Bengals a chance to tie the score or take the lead late in a loss at Jacksonville. He had his worst outing of the season in the biggest game of the year, a week-seven loss to AFC North Division rival Pittsburgh.

Still, Palmer maintained a 104 .1QB rating through eight games with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions and was quickly establishing himself as one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars at his position.


Ten years of agonizing dedication are finally paying off for Willie Anderson. He addresses reporters following each game with a narrow stream of blood running down his nose. We keep waiting for him to bleed orange.

Anderson, who is listed at 6’ 5” 340-pounds, is the locker-room neighbor of 6’ 4” 340-pound Bobbie Williams. The Bengals locker room leans noticeably in their direction.


Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to have one?


After an injury-riddled rookie season, Perry is finally displaying the ability that convinced the Bengals to make him their top draft choice last year.

Perry’s still learning but isn’t it fun to watch him display the type of turn-the-corner speed that made him a standout at the University of Michigan?


“We play well together,” said cornerback Tory James. “We’ve got some ball-hawks back there.”

Hawks is right. The loss of Madieu Williams hurts but Ifeanyi Ohalete has filled in admirably.


Need further confirmation of Lewis’ astuteness as a NFL head coach?

Remember all those penalties the Bengals were committing early in the season?

That’s good coaching. Identify a problem. Fix it and move on to the next one.


Remember him?


You’ve got to love him. He’s Jerry Rice with a personality. He’s Terrell Owens without the selfishness. He’s Jim Rome’s favorite NFL player. Ok, two out of three are positive.

Johnson has garnered his share of attention from “The List” and his dance moves. Let’s hope the sideshow doesn’t distract from the main attraction.


Has there been a quieter 681 yards in the NFL this season?


While Bengals fans were pressing the panic button following the loss to the Steelers, the Bengals players were all business.

“Good teams don’t lose back-to-back games,” said James following the Bengals’ victory over the Packers. “We worked real hard to come back and win this one.”

The Bengals have yet to lose two consecutive games this season.


The Bengals knew coming into this season that anything short of a playoff appearance would be considered a disappointment.

The difference between them and Bengals teams of the past is that they “expect” to win.

“We can always look back at the Jacksonville and Pittsburgh games and wish we were 8-0,” said Palmer. “But, we’re happy where we are. We’ve got a chance to take the division. We have to keep working to get better but we like where we are.”

The Bengals have executed Lewis’ training camp mantra “Do your job” to the letter.


The Bengals are poised to set the Queen City on its ear. If they haven’t already.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

SI reporter out of bounds on Wie's disqualification

The general public has always had difficulty understanding the role of a sports reporter.

Following the events of last week, they’re likely to be as confused as ever.

As you probably have heard, the actions of Sports Illustrated reporter Michael Bamberger resulted in the disqualification of 16-year old golf phenom Michelle Wie from her first professional event.

After Wie landed in the brush adjacent to the seventh green during the Samsung World Championship, she took a drop which was later determined to be illegal.

But, only after Bamberger, the only “impartial” witness to the event, investigated Wie’s actions and brought them to the attention of tournament officials.

The line between journalistic integrity and responsibility was once again blurred.

Even the greenest wet-behind-the-ears cub reporter knows this rule:

No cheering in the press box.

But, it goes much deeper than rooting for a particular team or individual and thus compromising your impartiality as a journalist.

Bamberger’s only responsibility is to his employer; Sports Illustrated. He isn’t, unless I’m mistaken, a paid rules enforcer. He shouldn’t have any personal stake in the success or failure of any team, individual or event.

Report the news. Don’t make it.

Let’s be clear, Bamberger did a wonderful job reporting on Wie’s discretion. He made a keen observation that Wie’s drop was too close to the hole. He asked questions, reviewed video tape and examined the area to determine if a mistake had been made.

Bamberger’s work was well within his rights as a reporter. That is, until he approached tournament officials and fibbed on Wie.

Truth is, Bamberger’s reporting and follow-ups are really the property of only one entity:

Sports Illustrated.

If he believed that Wie made an illegal drop and had the evidence to prove it, then he should have written it.

If there was a foundation in fact that suggested Wie, intentionally or not, cheated, then write it.

Let rules officials read it in SI and decide how to respond.

In reality, Golf is the only sport in which something like this can occur because there exists no statute of limitation on rules violations. Days, weeks, months and conceivably years can pass before an admission is made and it still can result in a disqualification.

Most parties involved in Wie’s DQ agree that she did not maliciously cheat. In her defense, Wie handled the entire situation with dignity and maturity well beyond her teenage years.

But, Wie’s only mistake was being Wie.

Unlike any other player at the Samsung event, her every step on the course was recorded, analyzed and scrutinized. Every time Wie so much as sneezed there was a camera present to capture the action.

Wonder how many other infractions occurred on the course that day by lesser-known golfers who were able to stroll anonymously from hole to hole?

We’ll never know, probably because Bamberger didn’t have time to enforce them all.

Is it Hal McCoy’s job to serve the greater good of Major League Baseball?

No, his job is to report on the Reds for the Dayton Daily News.

Is it Mark Curnutte’s job to act in the best interests of the NFL?

Nope, it’s to report on the Bengals for the Enquirer.

Just the facts, man.

Golf needs to get over itself. This has been apparent for quite some time. But, Bamberger’s actions establish a dangerous precedent for other sports.

Should he make an observation while covering an event and then report his findings in Sports Illustrated?

Absolutely. That’s what he’s paid to do.

Should Bamberger make an observation while covering an event and then report his findings to rules officials in an attempt to alter the results?

Absolutely not. It’s not his job. Nor should he care.

Write a column. Write a feature. Start a BLOG. Use the headline – ‘Teenage Cheat!’.


But, do not under any circumstances cross the line of journalistic responsibility and willfully impact the results of a game or event.

Many have said Bamberger, who is a former caddie on the pro tour, was simply protecting the integrity of the game of golf.

They’re wrong.

Games don’t have integrity. People do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Paula Faris: Our loss, Chicago's gain

While her move was formally announced weeks ago, a few of us in the local media "officially" bid farewell to WCPO sports anchor/reporter Paula Faris following Marvin Lewis' press conference today at Paul Brown Stadium.

Paula will be taking a similar role with WMAQ-TV in Chicago and we wish her the best of luck. Her last day at WCPO is Sunday, October 16.

I was fortunate to work alongside Paula at various local sporting events. Whether it was standing in the pouring rain on a prep football sideline or in the clubhouse at Great American Ball Park, Paula was always the ultimate professional. In addition to being extremely good at her job, she is equally as great a person.

In this case, Cincinnati's loss is, without a doubt, Chicago's gain.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Griffey grateful for award

Ken Griffey Jr. was both gracious and grateful in expressing his thoughts after earning the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award on Thursday.

“I didn’t think about trying to prove to anybody I can still play the game," he said. "It was more just proving to myself that I can compete at a high level and produce and help a team win. I’m not going to waste somebody’s time and be out there just to collect a check. That’s never been me and it never will be me."

Griffey also expressed his gratitude to the fans who cast more than one hundred thousand votes to earn him the honor.

“Anytime somebody takes time out of their day, that means a lot," he said. "It means they care about you and want you to go out there and play. That includes the All-Star Game and things like that. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me. That’s a great honor in itself.”

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Griffey's honor well-deserved

A press release just arrived in my e-mail inbox announcing that Ken Griffey Jr. has been named NL Comeback Player of the Year. He led the voting wire-to-wire and finished with 101,264 votes. Jason Giambi won the AL honor.

Griffey spent the past offseason recovering from a horrific hamstring injury. He played in 128 games and batted .301 with 35 homers, 92 RBI and 30 doubles.

Griffey posted a .528 slugging percentage and finished the year with 536 career homers tying him with Mickey Mantle for 12th all-time.

Not only did he perform well on the field, Griffey was as gracious as ever with the media and fans this season. He was fun to watch on the field and a joy to work with.

It's a crying shame that Griffey's first "full" season since 2000 was such a disaster for the ballclub.

Don't miss Dillon

When Corey Dillon declared himself a changed man before the throngs of media last Super Bowl Sunday, I wasn’t fooled.

When Dillon announced to the Boston media last week, “You won’t hear from me the rest of the year”, I was relieved.

Ah, where had you gone Corey Dillon? A nation turned its lonely eyes to you.

The Patriots were struggling at 2-2. The Bengals were 4-0. Rudi Johnson had rushed for 388 yards. Dillon had 223 yards on 73 carries.

After rushing for more than 1,600 yards last season, Dillon was on pace for fewer than 900 yards. His performance was partly to blame for the Patriots ranking last in the NFL in rushing. Dillon’s solution was to, well, not talk about it.

Big surprise.

If things get any worse, perhaps Dillon will finally make good on his promise to flip burgers rather than play for (insert losing team here).

A headline in a Boston newspaper said Dillon wasn’t going to “run from the slow start”.

Well, from the looks of his stats, Dillon isn’t running anywhere.

“The thing I admire and respect about Corey is that every day, he’s the same guy,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Is this the same Bill Belichik that has been anointed a genius for leading New England to victories in two of the last three Super Bowls?

Couldn’t be.

“Whenever there was any negative situation down there (I think he means in Cincinnati), it always stemmed from not winning,” Dillon said. “It was never me going off. It wasn’t what people would call an attitude. They tied it into me having a negative attitude.”

Dillon rushed for 8,061 yards with the Bengals from 1997 to 2003 making him the franchise’s all-time leader.

He made it clear following the 2003 season that he wanted no part of Marvin Lewis’ grand plan. Lewis had just led the Bengals to their first non-losing season since 1996. It was no longer about Corey, so Corey left.

“People will view me how they want to,” Dillon said. “People didn’t think Jesus was Jesus, so who am I?”

Well, Corey, you’re not Jesus. Let’s just start there.

Running backs are recycled like old newspapers in the NFL; see Denver Broncos. The Bengals had Johnson who proceeded to rush for more than 1,400 yards after Dillon departed.

You’re either a team player or you’re not. There are fair-weather fans. There is no such thing as a fair-weather teammate.

What Dillon fails to understand is that his teammates need his leadership most when the ship is sinking. Such was the case with the Patriots after their 41-17 loss to the Chargers. But, as soon as the cabin springs a leak, Dillon is the first to snag a life boat.

One of Dillon’s more infamous declarations came during a heated contract negotiation when he said he’d rather flip burgers than play for the Bengals. The statement had little to do with losing. It had more to do with Corey.

Dillon the running back: Hall of Famer.

Dillon the person: Farce.

Lewis spent the past three years compiling this year’s Bengals. Throughout the process, he had to weed out a number of talented football players who simply were not willing to buy into his program.

Dillon was one. Takeo Spikes was another.

Lewis and the Bengals regret nothing.

“The best thing for this team was to do what we did,” Lewis said. “We got a pick. (Dillon) didn’t think he could function here. It worked out best for both sides.”

Dillon’s disposition was, perhaps, his best asset. He was an intense competitor with one of the most punishing stiff-arms of any running back in the NFL. He rushed for a then-NFL record 278 yards on October 22, 2000 vs. Denver at Paul Brown Stadium.

But, when Bengals fans see Johnson pedaling on the exercise bike behind the Bengals bench at Paul Brown Stadium, they should be thankful.

Thankful it’s not Dillon.

The undefeated Bengals were the NFL’s media darlings heading into the fifth week of the season.

Meanwhile, Dillon decided he was going to institute a gag order.

Corey, we don’t miss you in the least “down here”.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Has baseball "balance" arrived?

He dragged his feet on the steroid issue, wrestled with the players union during a couple of ugly labor disputes and helped deadlock an All-Star Game, but give baseball commissioner Bud Selig credit for this:

The pennant races have gotten progressively better during his tenure.

We're three weeks deep into September, the NFL is in its third week and college football is well underway yet more people in more cities are thinking about baseball.

Sure, the Yankees boast a $200 million payroll and the Braves are once again leading their division (yawn) but the Red Sox are right on the Yanks' heels, the Indians are on the verge of completing one of the most remarkable rallies in baseball history as they chase the White Sox and the Astros, Phillies, Marlins, A's and Padres are all eyeing the postseason heading into the season's final week.

This is good stuff. Perhaps competitive balance has arrived. If so, Selig must be given the bulk of the credit. Albeit reluctantly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bengals breed confidence

Solid quote from Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis during today's press briefing:

"Confidence comes from being prepared," Lewis said. "I tell our players they shouldn't be afraid to sit in the front row for the exam. If you prepared for the test, you should know the questions and the answers. Confidence is being prepared to do your job."

Of course, the biggest challenge for the 2-0 Bengals this week is OVER-confidence.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Great trivia question

The Reds released roving hitting instructor Jim Hickman as part of a series of moves made this week in their minor-league system.

Hickman was one of my favorite Chicago Cubs players growing up. He's also the answer to one of my favorite trivia questions.

Reds fans will always remember Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 1970 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium. But, who delivered the hit which scored Rose?

You guessed it, it was Hickman.

You have my permission to stump your friends with that one.

A rare Friday night off

No high school football assignments tonight due to a family obligation.

This will undoubtedly be my only Friday night off until late November. It's also my first Friday evening free since the third week of August.

Can you imagine working all but one Friday night for three consecutive months?

Welcome to the wonderful world of sports writing.

Oh well, we choose our own fate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Reds rally for Katrina relief

Sean Casey sat in the Batter’s Eye Pavilion at Great American Ball Park and autographed copies of the Oh Say Can You Sing CD prior to a Reds/Brewers game last week.

“Can you sing for us?,” asked one eager Reds fan.

“No, I’m more of a studio guy,” quipped Casey.

Casey, who was one of several major leaguers to perform on the CD, sings Toby Keith’s hit song How Do You Like Me Now.

But, the autograph session was not an attempt by the Reds first baseman to further his musical career.

Rather, all of the proceeds from the sale of the autographed CD’s went directly toward Matthew 25: Ministries and the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

“I had planned on doing a (CD) signing this year,” Casey said. “I decided to put the money toward the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. We've gotten together as a team and decided to raise some money. We can’t give our time but we can put some money toward helping out.”

Disasters such as Katrina bring out the best and worst of humanity.

For every looter and criminal terrorizing the streets of New Orleans, there were thousands of other examples of compassion and support among those looking to help people in need on the Gulf Coast.

The Reds and other local sports teams have responded generously in the wake of the hurricane’s devastation in New Orleans and in other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Casey convinced each of his teammates to donate one day’s salary to the relief effort. The Reds players’ total donation was estimated to be more than $200,000.

This past Saturday, Raquel Aurilia, wife of Reds infielder Rich Aurilia, lent her beautiful voice to the cause by agreeing to give a copy of her CD single, The Need, to the first 300 fans entering Great American Ball Park provided they agree to donate $5 or more to hurricane victims.

“We wanted to help in some way, to not only seek help from others, but to give people a little something in return,” Raquel said. “Music is so therapeutic. By sharing the song with others, maybe it will leave them with a sense of hope when there are so many devastating things going on in the world today.”

At each of the Reds remaining home games at Great American Ball Park, barrels will be located at each gate. Fans can drop off canned food, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products which will then be forwarded to the relief effort by Matthew 25: Ministries.

The Bengals also helped out by teaming with the Salvation Army and Clear Channel to raise more than $62,000 during their final preseason game against the Colts at Paul Brown Stadium.

Major League Baseball expected to generate more than $3 million in relief through various initiatives.

“We in Major League Baseball express our sorrow to those who have lost loved ones, and we pray for a swift recovery for those whose lives have been so tragically and unbearably disrupted,” said baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

It’s natural for sports writers and athletes to attempt to put things into ‘perspective’ when world events supersede the importance of runs, hits and touchdowns. Come to think of it, when don’t they?

As Casey patrolled his hotel in Houston, home to thousands of evacuees from the New Orleans area, he was afforded constant reminders of the dire reality of their situation.

Hurricane Katrina challenged our country in a manner not experienced since 9/11. But, this is very different. There was no terrorist steering Katrina toward the Louisiana coastline with the intention of killing thousands of Americans to forward a religious and political agenda. Katrina was a natural disaster; an act of ‘God’.

Hurricanes have been rolling across the globe for millions of years unimpeded. If the storms could talk, they’d probably tell us to get off the beach. To build our million-dollar mansions, luxury resort hotels and tourist destinations elsewhere.

Much like volcanoes, tornados and earthquakes, hurricanes are a necessary and, in many respects, beneficial force of nature. It’s the price we pay for living on a rocky planet with an atmosphere and a sun. Hurricanes enrich our coastlines and provide new resources for wildlife. They also, on occasion, bring death and destruction to populated coastline communities.

As hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana and Mississippi deal with the loss of property and loved ones, many folks in other parts of the country were just as concerned about their stock options and rising gas prices.

Disasters such as Katrina come along once or maybe twice a century. When they do occur, our faith and even our trust in one another are put to the test.

There’s an age-old saying that God gives us only what he believes we can handle.

Amid all of the political posturing over who’s at fault for the failed levees, and why it took more than four days for adequate federal assistance to arrive, Hurricane Katrina offered many examples of how Americans can rally for each other.

“We need for our whole country to open up their hearts and their wallets and give these people what they can't get,” said Casey.

Now, that’s a tune we can all sing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The bar has been raised ... Bengals head to Cleveland

There’s a popular coaching cliché which tells us no team is as good as people think or as bad as people think.

The Bengals surrender themselves to the court of public opinion at 1 p.m. Sunday when they play their season-opener against the Browns in Cleveland.

How big is this game?

If the Bengals win, they’ll return home to begin a stretch of three games against the Vikings, Bears and Texans; teams which combined for just 20 wins last season.

Visions of a 4-0 start will be dancing in the Bengals’ heads. Teams who begin the season 4-0 typically reach the playoffs, a plateau not achieved by the Bengals since 1990.

Even 2-2 would be an improvement after consecutive 1-4 starts which inevitably prevented the Bengals from extending their season beyond the first week of January for the first time in 14 years.

Lose to the Browns, and they’ll be serenaded with a chorus of that unpopular tune, “Same Old Bengals” cascading throughout the Lake Erie waterfront.

The Browns are out to prove they’re better than last year’s 4-12 club.

The Bengals are looking to escape the bounds of mediocrity following back-to-back 8-8 campaigns.

The Browns have won 5 of the last 7 meetings. And, let’s face it, neither team or city cares too much for the other.

“(The Browns) are going to try to win the football game,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “People come hard after you every week, but there will be some excitement when we go to Cleveland.”

It’s easy to say the preseason doesn’t matter, especially when your team has played as inconsistently as the Bengals have this summer. They appeared to have hit rock bottom in a 27-17 loss to the defending NFC champion Eagles in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Lewis kept hammering home this point:

“What you did in ’03 and ’04 doesn’t matter,” he said. “This is a new year. The bar has been raised.”

The entire preseason regime beginning with ‘Camp Marvin’ at Georgetown College has been geared to preparing the team for a fast start. While ESPN pundits were singing the Bengals’ praises and fans were gobbling up season ticket packages at a record pace, Lewis struggled to put the blinders on his players.

“You guys (the media) have beat them into a frenzy,” he said. “They think they’re pretty good. What have we done? We haven’t done anything. We’re not here to be average. There’s a certain sense of urgency now of things that need to be done.”

Much of the optimism stems from the off-season retention of Rudi Johnson, who rushed for 1,454 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and the continued maturation of QB Carson Palmer.

The Bengals have one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL led by the flamboyant and quotable Chad Johnson and his Oregon State University pal T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Top draft choice, defensive end David Pollack, who signed after a lengthy holdout, should help anchor an improved defense.

But, honestly, much of the excitement surrounding the Bengals this summer is that they’ve been on the brink of the playoffs in each of Lewis’ first two seasons as head coach. The Bengals won 6 of their last 9 games last season.

Lewis has tried to shield his team from the hype. In a sense, he seemed oddly pleased with his team’s poor play during the preseason giving him more ammo for what many players considered the toughest preseason practices in the NFL.

“I’m never happy,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a wake up call, but you have to be consistent when you play good football teams. We need a consistent level of execution in all three phases. That’s what we’re not very good at. We need to coach harder and work harder every day.”

The Bengals won’t be taken lightly by opponents this season. Considering their recent history, rivals also won’t be losing any sleep playing them either.

“The AFC North teams have gotten better,” said Lewis. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. They haven’t been staying up at night worrying about us.”

At approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday, Bengals fans will know whether they should begin to worry.

“From what everybody tells me, I guess this year is supposed to be pivotal,” Lewis said. “Every year is pivotal. Getting back to mediocrity has not gone to our heads. We all want to go to Detroit.”

Detroit’s Ford Field is the site of Super Bowl XL.

Browns Stadium should be the only NFL venue on the Bengals’ minds this week.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Griffey a "Bridesmaid"

Ken Griffey Jr. finished second in the balloting for NL Player of the Week two weeks in a row.

He was bested by teammate Felipe Lopez and then by the Mets' David Wright.

"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride," said Griffey to Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News.

Yeah, but what would Junior rather be ... All-Century or just All-Week?

What now for UC hoops program?

Just returned from vacationing in Seattle, which is a wonderful town, by the way. This is my first opportunity to weigh in on the firing of University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins.

So, here goes ...

The University of Cincinnati’s entrance into the Big East Conference was expected to be greeted with a great deal of pomp and circumstance. Instead, it’s been a time of protest on the Corryville campus.

When head basketball coach Bob Huggins was given his walking papers by university president Nancy Zimpher it ignited a firestorm of local and national scrutiny.

Honestly, if you’re looking for further confirmation of Bob Huggins’ sainthood, turn the page. He made his own bed in many respects. The negative image of UC’s hoops program, right or wrong, is real.

“We expect to recruit very strong students on the court and in the classroom,” said Zimpher. “We expect our coaches to be role models, and we expect our students to be role models. I will not apologize for setting high standards.”

Zimpher took a stand that few, if any, college administrators these days are willing to take. Her stance is noble but reckless.

Cries of “How dare she!” echoed throughout town last week. But, Zimpher’s primary mistake is that she should have made the move sooner in order to ease the strain on recruiting.

Zimpher has made other significant and, at times, unpopular personnel moves during her tenure. But, changes in the law department rarely make news. Dumping big-time basketball coaches does.

She insists there’s a concrete vision for the University. What Zimpher needs now is a plan for the athletic program.

The big question on the Huggins front is not “Why?” but “What now?”.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Blame it on Rijo ...

Still one of the great quotes of all-time:

Former Reds pitcher Jose Rijo discussing the trade which sent he and pitcher Tim Birtsas to Cincinnati from Oakland:

"The Reds got two good arms in that deal," said Rijo. "Unfortunately, both of them were mine".


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Holbert make it to the big leagues

Batting practice had been “weathered out” so Aaron Holbert and his Louisville Bats teammates were relaxing in the clubhouse enjoying a friendly game of cards prior to their game against Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

“We were just going to hit in the cage,” said the 32-year old infielder. “We were sitting there playing cards, Dominos, what have you.”

Fifteen years have passed since the June 1990 draft when Holbert was selected in the first round by the Cardinals. Since then, he’s played his share of card games, made a lifetime’s worth of bus trips and heard the National Anthem sung in countless degrees of quality.

Unbeknownst to Holbert, the Reds had already been dealt their hand.

Utility-man Ryan Freel was placed on the 15-day disabled list with torn cartilage in his left knee. Freel’s injury required arthroscopic surgery. A prognosis as to his recovery was to be made on Thursday following the procedure.

Bats skipper Rick Sweet entered Louisville’s home clubhouse with a somber expression and told the players he had an announcement.

“He had kind of a mean look on his face,” said Holbert. “We were wondering who was in trouble.”

Instead, Sweet uttered the sweetest words of all.

“Hobey, you’re going to the big leagues,” he said.

“I thought he was kidding.” Holbert said. “I told him that he could mess up my game playing a joke like that. Then he said he was serious and they needed me there by game-time.”

After exchanging hugs and high-fives with his teammates, Holbert was packing for Great American Ball Park.

All the while, he couldn’t stop thinking about his wife, Jackie, who has stood by his side through all the ups and downs of his arduous minor-league baseball career.

“It’s just not the ballplayers who go through the rigors of baseball and travel, she’s gone through it too,” Holbert said. “Without her strength and support, I probably would have retired by now. It was great to allow her to experience this with me.”

Holbert said he and his wife had discussed retirement on a number of occasions.

“I contemplated retirement,” he said. “Without my wife, I probably would have. My wife’s the main reason why I’m still playing. She still saw the fire in my eyes. She didn’t want me to quit. She knows I enjoy playing but she also enjoys watching me play.”

The Torrence, CA native became Louisville franchise’s all-time hits leader earlier this season. He was batting .304 with six home runs and 23 RBI in 68 games at the time of his promotion. In 2004, his first year in the Reds organization, Holbert hit .271 in 115 games. In addition to ranking first in Louisville franchise history in hits, he’s also among the leaders in at-bats, triples, runs and games played.

The Reds are Holbert’s eighth organization since 1990. He had previously spent time in the farm systems of the Cardinals, Devil Rays, Blue Jays, Marlins, Red Sox, Pirates and Mariners.

The trip from Louisville to Cincinnati was longer than just an hour’s drive for Holbert.

It was a nine-year journey.

Holbert arrived in the Queen City on Tuesday just in time to pinch-hit in the fifth inning. He struck out swinging. The ball popped out of the mitt of Giants catcher Mike Matheny who threw to first base to complete the out.

And, Jackie was in the stands to see it all.

“It was a great moment,” he said. “I wanted to bless her with the opportunity to see me on a major league field in a major league uniform. That’s what kept going through my mind.”

It was the fourth big-league at-bat for Holbert who made three plate appearances for the Cardinals in 1996.

“When I was up back the first time, it was only for five days,” Holbert said. “She didn’t have the opportunity to come see me play. Since then I haven’t gotten back. I’ve been trying to get back to the big leagues ever since then.”

Following Tuesday’s game, a 10-8 loss to the Giants, Holbert changed out of his uniform just as he had hundreds of times before. Only this time he hung his No. 7 jersey on a big-league hook.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “I’m most happy for my wife. I wanted her to see me out there playing with all of the big names of the game. Today she got that opportunity.

It was just fate, I guess.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

'Perfect' quote from Browning

As reporters waited outside the Reds clubhouse following Wednesday night's game, former perfect game pitcher Tom Browning strolled through the waiting area.

Browning, who was known to be quite the 'contact' pitcher in his day, overheard the writers discussing Milton's rocky outing.

"You think those balls were hit hard, wait 'til I get out there," said Browning, drawing laughter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Los Rojos en la Radio

Tonight's Reds/Giants game was broadcast in Spanish. It is the first Reds game to ever be broadcast locally in Spanish.

Perhaps Reds starting pitcher Eric Milton, who allowed 12 hits and six earned runs in five innings, should learn the Spanish verb "castigar".

It means, "hit hard".

Back to the ballpark

This is always an odd time of year. The days are getting shorter and football season begins to bleed into baseball. It's a juggling act at times.

This week is a good example. Four high school football stories, one Bengals column, a monthly minor-league baseball piece and my typical Reds coverage all deadlining at once. Strange.

Anyway, tonight it's back to Great American Ball Park for the first time in more than a week. The momentum of a 10-game road winning streak has vanished with back-to-back losses, but third place is still within a reasonable reach for the Reds.

I hear Reds COO John Allen had some venom in his voice when he shot down the Griffey trade rumors yesterday. Looking forward to learning more about that tonight.

Also, hoping see Chris Haft who used to cover the Reds for the Enquirer and later Chris is now the Giants beat writer for the San Jose Mercury News. He's one of the good guys in this business.

Lewis says top pick Pollack being "selfish"

Wide receiver Kelley Washington told me at training camp a few weeks ago that the biggest difference since Marvin Lewis was hired as head coach is the lack of individualism that now persists in the Bengals locker room. "We're more of a team now," Washington said.

So, it was no surprise when Lewis chose the following words to describe top draft choice David Pollack's lengthy holdout and contract dispute.

"We have guys who have chosen to be here, and we've eliminated selfishness that occurs," said Lewis. "If that's what it comes down to, a dollar here a dollar there, they're on the wrong football team. This football team will never, never be guided by one guy, or we won't be a very good team. We will not be compromised by one player or one person. And that's not going to change. We have fought very hard over these three years to establish that, and it's important to our players we do not change that. It's been proven around the league. It's what wins in this league."

Good stuff.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Marvin Lewis "excited" about loss to Pats

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was all smiles following his team's loss to the Patriots in the pre-season opener for both teams.

"Now, we can get back on course," he said. "I'm excited. We can stop reading about how great we are."

This is just one example of why Lewis is the coach that will lead the Bengals back to the playoffs.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Third time's a charm for Lewis and the Bengals?

Pre-season NFL football games aren't typically things of beauty and tonight's Bengals/Patriots tilt at Paul Brown Stadium has been no exception.

Missed tackles, dropped interceptions and mental mistakes have been numerous.

Marvin Lewis, who has guided the Bengals to consecutive 8-8 seasons since taking over as head coach, is in the final year of a purported three-year "plan".

Had it not been for consecutive 1-4 starts, the Bengals might be working on their third straight playoff appearance. A good start to the season is imperative for a team which hasn't qualified for the postseason since 1990.

Carson Palmer threw an interception on the game's first play from scrimmage. The Bengals trailed 10-6 at halftime.

"We had opportunities, but we didn't take advantage of them," said Lewis at halftime. "We missed some chances on offense, we had chances for interceptions on defense that we didn't convert. Some guys played well, but overall, we've got to do better."

Game-time temperature in the Queen City: 94-degrees. Not exactly football weather.

Team nicknames about honor not insult

The political correctness police are back on the team nickname patrol and the NCAA, that bastion of social sensitivity, has agreed to join their fight.

The NCAA announced recently its plan to place restrictions on schools who misuse Native American imagery in their mascots, logos and team nicknames. Schools refusing to comply with these guidelines could be prohibited from hosting any NCAA-sanctioned event.

The message is clear:

Leave the Indian mascots at home and cover those logos which depict Native Americans in a negative light, or else.

The Florida State Seminoles, Central Michigan Chippewas, Alcorn State Braves, Illinois Fighting Illini and the Arkansas State Indians are among those targeted for being “insensitive” to Native Americans.

This battle has precedent.

The Miami Redskins are now called the RedHawks.

The Marquette Warriors are the Golden Eagles. The St. John’s Redmen have become the Red Storm.

If you ever see a “red” storm approaching, I suggest you forgo the cellar and run for the hills.

Before the politically-correct cops decide to organize a new wave of protests at Cleveland Indians games, perhaps they should consider this obscure piece of historical fact:

In 1915, the Cleveland Naps were in search of a new nickname after their star player Napoleon LaJoie departed for Philadelphia. Readers of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper were asked to provide their input on the choice. The readers selected “Indians”, a nickname utilized by the Cleveland club two decades earlier.

Thus, the Cleveland Indians were born.

The new moniker was praised not protested. In fact, the Plain Dealer called it a “honorable name”.


Well, because the nickname “Indians” was first used in honor of a Native American ballplayer named Louis Francis Sockalexis who starred for the Cleveland club from 1897-1899.

Sockalexis batted .313 during three seasons for the Indians. His throwing arm and base-stealing ability quickly became the stuff of legend.

Cleveland fans and Indians players were so enamored with Sockalexis’ skill they named the team after him.

So, the Cleveland Indians’ nickname wasn’t meant to be culturally insensitive. It’s origin was to recognize a Native American man who not only excelled on the playing field but also had to endure many similar racial prejudices as Larry Doby, the Indians’ first African American player, did many years later.

Perhaps if the NCAA, and others, looked deeper into the origins of team mascots they would find many of the same types of stories.

Wonder how the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have escaped this sort of scrutiny?

“I happen to be an American of Irish descent,” said Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla, who wants the NCAA to wise up. “Should I be outraged at the notion that the Fighting Irish suggest a brawling, half-drunken Irishman?”

While we’re at it, let’s sick MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) on the Brewers; atheists on the Angels; or Baptist ministers on the Blue Devils.

Predictably, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is already on board.

They’ve asked South Carolina and Jacksonville State to refrain from using the nickname “Gamecocks” because it refers to the banned practice of cockfighting.

While they’re at it, why doesn’t PETA do something about the popular T-shirts and caps which display a shortened version of South Carolina’s nickname? That word is far more obscene than a few chickens pecking at one another in a make-shift ring.

Truth is, Florida State and Central Michigan have an agreement with the Seminole and Chippewa tribes.

They said it’s ok to use their nicknames as long as it’s done in a respectful manner.

Two high schools on the Navaho Indian reservation in Arizona don’t seem to have an issue with this.

Their nicknames are “Warriors” and “Redskins”.

It’s been reported that the local Potowattamie tribe gave permission to Miami of Ohio to use “Redskins” many years before other people began to complain.

Florida State University officials called the NCAA ruling “outrageous and insulting”. Many other schools, including FSU, were in the process of appealing.

On a personal aside, I am part Cherokee Indian. When I first learned of my Native American heritage I was thrilled and honored. Still am.

Name a team after me. I won’t care. Call them the Redskin Warrior Columnists, if you want.

Finally, wonder why the most offensive team nickname in the history of sports was never abolished?

Washington Senators.

A little about myself ...

If you're like me, you dislike lengthy introductions. So, I'll keep this as brief as possible.

My first story was published in February 1994 by Chicago Cubs VineLine. In the 11 years since, my sports writing career has evolved more quickly than I could have ever imagined.

In addition to covering Cincinnati Reds baseball for the past seven seasons for the Downtowner Newspaper, I also cover the Cincinnati Bengals, local college and minor-league sports. For the past three years, I have covered prep sports for the Cincinnati Enquirer and Community Press Newspapers.

I am a regional stringer for and a correspondent for At the Yard Magazine, a national minor-league baseball publication.

My writing and reporting has been published in the Boston Herald, New York Post, Northern Virginia Daily and Baseball America.

God blessed me with the abililty to write. I developed a passion for sports on my own.

I'm extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to write and report on the games I love.

I am equally pleased to have the chance to share my experiences and opinions with you in this rural outpost on the World Wide Web.

But, enough about me ...