THE SPORTS GODS HATE MY HOMETOWN
Author: Ken Wolf
You can measure sports futility by different metrics, but I’d argue there’s been no tougher town to root for the past twenty-five years than my place of birth and current residence, Cincinnati. The Bengals finished the season in last place. The Reds are in last place. Our MLS team is in last place. University of Cincinnati basketball lost in the first round of March Madness after blowing a twenty-two point lead with eleven minutes remaining the year before. Xavier failed to make the tourney after getting their first number one seed ever and bowing out in the second round. UC football is on an upswing, but will always be in the shadow of the juggernaut up north in Columbus.
Minneapolis, you are certainly in the mix. Buffalo, as well. San Diego, you have zero titles and lost the Chargers to LA, but you live in climate Xanadu where it’s tough to concentrate on sports when every day is gorgeous and you’re surrounded by jaw-dropping terrain. Cleveland, you had a legit argument until hometown hero Lebron took you to the promised land. Typically cities with multiple teams have at least one that carries them through a drought. Chicago, I’m talking about you. Boston, too. And now your cup runneth over.
The last time the Reds advanced in postseason play was 1995. The Bengals in ‘90. The Reds had a chance at winning it all in 2012 when they blew a two game lead to the Giants and only had to win one of three at home. Epic meltdown. The Bengals had a legit shot at the Super Bowl in 2005 when, on the first pass of the game, a man named KImo from Pittsburgh ended the season of a man named Carson. Ten years later, even with their starting QB out with a broken thumb (sustained against the same team weeks earlier) they were poised to break their playoff curse with the lead and ball on the Steelers goal line and less than two minutes remaining. Historical collapse. Up there with or even worse than Palmer’s ACL tear was Kenyon Martin’s broken leg in 2000 during the conference tourney. At the time UC was favored to win a national championship. That likely won’t happen again in my lifetime
To be very clear, while there’s been plenty of bad luck for Cincy teams over the past few decades, a large chunk of our lack of success was and is self-inflicted. From sketchy ownership, management, and coaching to suspect in character players. And we are a small market city. But similar sized and tinier towns win it all. Or at least win more.
On a positive note, the Reds are playing decent after a dreadful start. The Bengals have a new coach and are coming off an admirable draft. UC basketball is likely looking at rebuild with Cronin’s departure, transfers, and graduations. But at least Jarron Cumberland is coming back. Xavier ended their season considerably better than it started. UC football could make some noise. Not huge noise, but some. And FC Cincinnati just started its MLS tenure, their quick rise in the ranks partly due to the fruitlessness of the Reds and Bengals. It’s been a good story.So, if your team/city has been struggling, take solace in the fact you’re not from Cincinnati. I’ve used my own parameters and included college teams because, to many here, they’re on a comparable level of fandom. I’m sure I’ve left out plenty of places with plenty of sports heartache. Make me feel better and share your own. I’d still prefer to have teams that excessively lose than no teams at all. And if this town wins a title, in anything, we’re going to go off. Hope I’m alive to see it.