Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Did you hear the one about the ... Chargers?

SAN DIEGO -- Chargers strong safety Terrence Kiel was cited for urinating in public last month, his second run-in with the law in less than three months and the eighth by a San Diego player since April.

So, let's cue up the most popular Bengals jokes and make them applicable to the Chargers:

1. What do you call a drug ring in San Diego? A huddle.
2. Four San Diego Chargers in a car, who's driving? The police.
3. Why can't Terrence Kiel get into a huddle on the field anymore? It is a parole violation for him to associate with known felons.
4. Coach Marty Schottenheimer has adopted a new "Honor System" for his players - "Yes your Honor, No your Honor".
5. The Chargers knew they had to do something for their defense, but they couldn't get the defensive coordinator they really wanted: Johnny Cochran
6. How do the Chargers spend their first week at mini-camp? Studying the Miranda Rights.

Nice for a change, huh Bengals fans?

The young and the Mayo-less

NORTH COLLEGE HILL -- Things are back to normal at North College Hill High. Well, almost.

Like two roving marauders, O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker swept into and out of this sleepy village just north of Cincinnati, leaving in their wake two state titles, a wealth of national attention and a load of controversy.

The thousands of fans who watched Mayo, Walker and Co. play hoops in college-sized arenas the past two seasons have been reduced to a couple hundred well-wishers at the tiny but adequate gym adjacent to the high school.

Mayo is tooling up for USC at a high school in Huntington, WV. Walker is playing for Bob Huggins at Kansas State. Meanwhile, NCH is getting by without them.

Returning contributors Damon Butler, Nathaniel Glover and Alphonso McPherson are beginning to gel just in time to make a run at another state title. While in the category of a miracle, a third-straight crown won by the Trojans without the Big Two would be some story.

Got my first chance to see NCH play basketball with homegrown talent last night, and they weren't bad:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Triumph amid tragedy at Taft

WEST END -- "Anyone with a G.P.A above 2.7 in the house?" the PA announcer bellowed to the crowd at last night's boys' basketball game between Taft and visiting Hughes. Many students in the stands responded with cheers. "Anyone accepted to a Division I college in the house?", he asked. More cheers.

Taft High School was in the news recently when shots were fired on campus by a student. It's an all-too familiar scene in this inner-city neighborhood where drugs and violence have become a way of life for many residents.

Although security remained tight on Saturday, the atmosphere in Taft's gym was one of positive encouragement, spirit and teamwork.

My task was to cover the game for the Enquirer and submit a roughly 500-word story on deadline for this morning's edition. But, it didn't take long for me to realize that there's a much bigger story at Taft, and a much more important tale than the one I was assigned to write.

That senior Derius Hemphill hit two free throws to lift Hughes to a last-second victory is certainly noteworthy. The Big Red has had to deal with the death of their head coach, Greg Mills, who passed away last year and a couple of key players who decided to transfer.

But, important too is that amid all of the challenges facing them collectively, students, faculty, and spectators chose to forgo their Saturday night plans to gather in this rustic, steamy gym and celebrate school spirit and a sense of community.

Here's a link to my story. While a decent representation of the game (I hope), it doesn't even begin to tell the whole story of what's happening at Taft High.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don't 'reference' Bengals players

When the concept of the 'role model' was first suggested in the 1950's, sociologists divided it into two distinctly different parts.

The 'role model' was someone who had assumed a position or "role" in life (doctor, fireman, professional athlete, astronaut) that you desired to assume yourself.

The 'reference model' was someone whose actions and behavior you chose to emulate.

So, in answer to the oft-asked question, "Are professional athletes role models?" the answer is yes. But, the concept of the role model has been grossly skewed by our generation.

Current Kenton County Jail resident Chris Henry is a role model to anyone who desires or dreams to one day play wide receiver in the NFL.

Henry is nowhere near being a reference model for your children, or anyone else for that matter. His character and conduct is clearly not something to be emulated.

If your son or daughter says Chris Henry is their favorite "player" on the Bengals, that's ok. But, we as adults and/or parents need to make that distinction clear.

If your child says Henry or (insert criminally-inclined Bengals player here) is their favorite "person" on the team, grab the nearest bar of soap.

I think Paul Daugherty's column from Tuesday summed it up best:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Saarloos as a goose

The Reds this week acquired right-hander Kirk Saarloos (pronounced SAHR-lohs), the newest addition to my Microsoft Word dictionary.

Judging by his persona with the media, Saarloos seems to be a pretty cool customer. Here's a sampling of quotes.

On his various roles with the A's:

"That is cool. Save a game. End a game. Start a game. Win a game. What's next? Maybe I'll get an at-bat."

On a particularly rough day against the Detroit Tigers:

"When your day's (insert expletive), that's what happens. Even (good) pitches are hits."

On his new home, Great American Ball Park:

“It seems home runs don’t get hit into the first or second row. They always seem to go into that 23rd or 24th row. It seems like it’s built downhill."

His perspective on life and career:

"Whenever I catch myself feeling sorry for myself, I just think about all the other people in the world who have real hardships. Me? I'm in the big leagues. How bad can it be?"

Winter warm up

The Reds are inviting fans to attend tomorrow’s sendoff for the 2007 Reds Winter Caravan.

A pair of motorcades, one heading north and one heading south, will leave at 10 a.m. from Crosley Terrace on the front doorstep of Great American Ball Park. Fans attending will receive complimentary admission to the Hall of Fame.

GM Wayne Krivsky, manager Jerry Narron, pitcher Todd Coffey, outfielder Chris Dickerson, infielder Brandon Phillips, 2006 Minor League Player of the Year Homer Bailey, former pitcher Tom Browning, Chris Sabo, Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman and son Thom will be in attendance along with chief operating officer John Allen and VP business operations Phil Castellini.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Super Bowl tickets "never go on sale"

Want to know one reason why the Super Bowl isn't as exciting to watch as the World Series?

Here you go:

Face value for tickets to Super Bowl XLI is around $700. A lofty amount, but the saddest news is that few average citizens will ever get to sniff a Super stub at that price.

"The general public will never have legitimate access to Super Bowl tickets," said one ticket broker. "They never go on sale."

The tickets that aren't gobbled up by corporate sponsors will be held in lotteries for season ticket holders of the Miami Dolphins (it's their stadium), Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears. The rest are divided up among NFL teams and league officials.

On the street or on the web, Super Bowl tickets will sell for several thousand dollars.

The mass majority of fans in Dolphins Stadium next week have no allegiance to the Colts or Bears. They are there to be seen, collect their duffle bag of Super Bowl goodies, show off their ticket stub in its laminated lanyard, and mingle with fellow "dignitaries".

So, in between your chips and dips, take a moment to listen to the crowd when a touchdown is scored in Super Bowl XLI.

The fans heard cheering are those who care. They will be far outnumbered.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vern Ruhle loses battle with cancer

The Reds released the following statement this morning:

It is with great sadness that the Cincinnati Reds announce the death of former pitching coach Vern Ruhle, who died at 11:00 p.m. last night at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston of complications from a donor stem cell transplant for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

Ruhle, 55, is survived by his wife Sue, daughter Rebecca and son Kenny.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Ruhle entered last season as the Reds’ Major League pitching coach, but during routine physical examinations in February he was diagnosed with cancer. He missed the entire season while receiving treatment for multiple myeloma.

For the 2007 season, Ruhle had been assigned to work as the organization’s pitching rehabilitation coordinator at its minor league complex in Sarasota, Florida.

“The baseball and Cincinnati Reds families mourn the loss of an excellent coach, wonderful husband and loving father,” the club said in a statement. “In his 35 years in professional and collegiate baseball, Vern touched many people inside and outside the game. We are privileged to have been a part of his life. He will be greatly missed.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bengals receiver in star-studded ad

Britney Spears won’t star in Chad Johnson’s Super Bowl commercial but Paris Hilton reportedly will.

The NFL Network is planning a spot featuring the Bengals receiver hosting several famous “friends” at his own private Super Bowl bash.

Among the celebs expected to join the party are L.L. Cool J, Rascal Flatts and Martha Stewart. Janet Reno and David Beckham are on the network’s “wish list”

Spears was politely told “no” when she offered to participate.

"She's too much of a train wreck," said an NFL insider. "Besides, we already have Paris Hilton."

Johnson’s commercial is shaping up to be a super hit.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ross catches Reds pitch

For more than five seasons, one thing was a certainty for the Reds - Jason LaRue behind the plate. With LaRue traded to the Royals, the Reds are handing the reins over to 29-year old David Ross.

Today Ross avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year deal through the 2008 season reportedly worth $4.5 million with a club option for '09.

Shortly after being acquired in a trade with the Padres during spring training, Ross quickly assumed the role of starting catcher batting .255 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI. He appeared in 90 games, catching 32 of Bronson Arroyo’s 35 starts.

"It'll be a different feel than I've ever had before," Ross told "Usually, I'm going to spring training battling for a job. It's nice to know I'll be able to go down there preparing to win."

Ross impressed many within the Reds organization with his professionalism and competitive spirit. If he can cure some of his fundamental struggles on defense, Ross has the potential to be mentioned among the finest catchers in the league this season.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A glimmer of hope

Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez part of solution, not problem inherent in college athletics.
Well-done piece by Rob Oller in today's Columbus Dispatch:

Monday, January 08, 2007

Big Mac has my vote

Enquirer feature writer, and respected baseball buff, John Erardi approached me in the press box at Paul Brown Stadium recently to get my thoughts on Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame.

Erardi asked if I have a HOF vote. I do not, but I was more than happy to offer him my opinion.

It it were up to me, McGwire would be a Hall of Famer. Here's why:

I have no rock-solid evidence, scientific or otherwise, to prove that McGwire's accomplishments in the game were steroid-induced. None.

I have conjecture and opinion, much of which is akin to the Monty Python skit in which an angry mob agrees to burn a woman based on the conclusion that if she floats she's made of wood and thus a witch.

Even if it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, which it's clearly not, that McGwire took steroids, how can we accurately quantify the statistical impact of the drugs? Did they help him hit 100 more homers? 50? 30?

Who knows.

Besides, baseball had yet to institute a policy on performance-enhancing drugs. What McGwire reportedly did was not, technically anyway, against the rules.

Now, before you accuse me of being naive, I'm sure that McGwire was taking something, just as I'm sure that O.J. Simpson probably had something to do with his wife's murder.

But, I still believe in the concept of a fair trial. Without proven guilt, I must assume innocence until jurisprudence runs it's course.

If McGwire took steroids, what did he really do? He attempted to make himself bigger, stronger and better by using a technology readily available in this era.

Remember, if steroids didn't have health risks, they'd be perfectly legal and free for use by anyone who cared to.

The irony is that baseball writers/journalists are the ones doing the voting, the same writers who must type 'allegedly' in their stories until justice has been appropriately served.

In lieu of proper justice for steroid-era ballplayers, many baseball scribes have decided to annoint themselves judge and jury.

Not me. Mark McGwire would get my vote. If I had one.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Big Willie bringin' it

Got my first chance to review the tapes of Bengals post-game comments from Sunday. Willie Anderson's comments, some of which have already made it into print, are particularly notable.

It's not unusual for reporters to flock to Anderson's locker following games, but after Sunday's playoff hopes-imploding loss to Pittsburgh, it was soapbox central for the 13-year veteran offensive tackle.

The highlights:

"People should be embarrassed by the performance of our football team. I don’t have time to stay positive. Next year might be my last year. Who knows. Time’s running out for a lot of us. I started off with eight (wins) in my rookie year. It took me 10 years to get to 11 wins. Now, I’m back to eight. We keep fighting the same fight.”

“We have guys shooting shots in their arms, foots and their knees just to try and play. We do have those guys. It’s not a totally negative situation here. We have a group of veterans who stay late, meet on their own with the coaches, put in the time. We need more of them.”

“We’ll never get over the hump with selfishness. It isn’t all about talent. You need selfless players. The lack of that hurt us.”

“The coaches know what the problems are. We knew where they were last season. We just thought they’d go away. We need to shake things up. If people hate hearing the truth, I’m in the wrong business.”

"I want to use my words smartly, but when I think about the amount of time we use up practicing and meeting just to go 8-8 … that pisses me off.”

Good stuff.