The Friday Funblast: THE BIG GAME™ Edition!

As FC Cincinnati’s preseason continues, we’re also keeping our eye on THE BIG GAME™ this Sunday. THE BIG GAME™ has extra meaning this year, with the Cincinnati Bengals playing for the first time in 30+ years. Will they win THE BIG GAME™? Stay tuned.

Also: Super Bowl. Super Bowl. Super Bowl. Fuck you, Roger.

MIKE CHECK

Before we begin, some full disclosure: The Chief is *not* a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Reds? Yes. Xavier hoops? Yes. Bearcats football? You bet. FCC? Eh, did we sign a midfielder yet? But not there with the rest of the greater-513 on the Orange & Black. I moved to Cincinnati as a little pig with a football fandom already intact from my previous home, and — let’s be real, the late-1990s Cincinnati Bengals didn’t do a ton to inspire one to switch their fandom to the local side. Although I don’t root for The Who Deys, I enjoy when they do well. I’ll be actively hoping for them to win on Sunday, but I fortunately (slash unfortunately), I won’t be living or dying on every single play. And, let me tell you from experience, you will be living and dying on every single fucking play. Pray for a blowout one way or the other so that you can at least get drunk in peace.

For me, the most interesting part of this Super Bowl is how it impacts the legacy of the Bengals in Cincinnati — and, by extension, how it changes the sports landscape in this city for The FC.

If there’s been one consistent thing in Cincinnati Sports during my lifetime, it’s been the universal hatred this city has for Mike Brown. He’s almost like a cartoon character villain — Scrooge McDuck without the wit, charm, or daring adventures around the world (to play the analogy out, that would make Jeff Berding Launchpad McQuack — [slightly goofy guy who eventually sets out on his own to start a new adventure with a clueless partner], Paul H, Pete and Katie some version of Huey, Dewey and Louie, and Bob Bedinghaus the faithful butler Duckworth). Everything about his ownership of the Bengals has been some degree of a joke about how many corners can be cut. There’s a legendary tale out there that the Bengals were courting Tony Siragusa in free agency back in the day and wanted to meet with him about signing a contract. To get him to Cincinnati, they provided a fucking coach-class airplane ticket. For a man who was 6’3 and over 350 lbs. He never boarded the flight. This past weekend, the Bengals were forced to practice at the University of Cincinnati because Mike is still too goddamn cheap to build an indoor practice facility for his $2.7 billion NFL franchise.

The wonderful thing about life is that your obituary is constantly being updated. Right now, Mike Brown has an opportunity to change the entire narrative about his ownership of the Cincinnati Bengals, and I’m absolutely fascinated by how the city will react to it. Imagine forward to this Sunday night around 10:00 PM — after beating the Rams 27 - 17 (hammer the under in this game, FYI), Roger Godell hands the Lombardi trophy to Mike Brown. In this moment, Mike has done for the city what no sports owner has been able to do in 32 fucking years: bring home a championship. When the Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl parade finishes up at the stage they’ve built in Washington Park (side note: in this scenario, don’t you wish they’d put the caps on Ft. Washington Way and had a giant park right there to host this event on) and Mike Brown steps up to the mic, trophy in hand, to address the crowd — is anyone booing?

Now, imagine that Joe Burrow wins another one in a few years. That’s two trophies for Mike Brown. Suddenly, he’s done more for this city than any sports owner since (checks notes) Louis Nippert and the Reds in the 1970s. Is it really out of the question to imagine 3 rings for Joe Scheisty? That would make Mike Brown not only the most successful sports owner in Cincinnati history, but one of the most successful NFL owners of all time. Is there a world where Cincinnati not only forgives Mike Brown, but actively embraces him and what he’s done for this city? The Bengals could’ve taken the same deal that the Cleveland Browns did in the 1990s (hell, “Baltimore Bengals” even has that swag alliteration everyone is always looking for). At some point, in the gleam of multiple Lombardi trophies, does the headline in the Irish sports page flip from “Miserly owner who bilked the taxpayers out of millions…” to “Philanthropist and Championship-winning Owner/GM who saved the Cincinnati Bengals…”

EARNING THE C(hampionship)

Sharing the city with a Super Bowl winning team also makes the world a vastly different place for the Orange & Blue down the road.

Breaking news: FC Cincinnati has been fucking terrible for their entire existence in MLS.

It’s been so fucking bad for FCC that we sometimes don’t appreciate enough what an absolute plate of awful their time in MLS has been. The National Football league has been playing, in its current form, for roughly 100 years. In that time, no NFL team has ever finished in dead last place 3 years in a row. FC Cincinnati. The current record holder for most seasons in last place for MLS is 4, owned by the San Jose Earthquakes (in their 27 years of existence). At +8000 to win MLS Cup, 2nd to a tie of Chicago / Austin / Houston at +10000, FC Cincinnati is one of the betting favorites to win the Spoon again and join San Jose in 1/7 the amount of time. It’s a record of sports futility that is virtually unmatched anywhere in the annals of American history.

And yet, the blow has been somewhat softened by the oft-repeated trope of “Hey, it’s Cincinnati — being shitty is what we do!” Lamenting Cincinnati’s lot in sports life is #3 on our list of most sacred traditions, behind only asking people where they went to high school so you can judge their social status and bitching endlessly about how LaRosas and the Montgomery Inn used to be so much better than they are now. It was this warm comfort to know that it wasn’t *just* the ineptitude of local teams causing our misery — it was inherent in the very being of the goddamn city. Of course FC Cincinnati was going to fucking suck as an MLS franchise. What, do you expect teams to win in Cincinnati? You’re out of your goddamn mind. It’s exactly the kind of dumb shit a person from [insert high school here] would say. You probably like fucking Gold Star too, don’t you?

Cincinnati summarized.

Except, it isn’t about the city. It never has been.

And, for better or worse, a Cincinnati Bengals victory is going to force us all to confront this reality: There is absolutely no reason why sports teams in Cincinnati cannot be successful every year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have six rings. The St. Louis Cardinals have won the World Series 11 times. Columbus Crew have hoisted MLS Cup twice.

The reason why sports teams in Cincinnati haven’t succeeded is because sports teams in Cincinnati have been terribly run. The Reds spent most of my college years being run by a dipshit who got hired because his power point presentation was great and who turned Joey Votto into a .250 hitter in the minors by forcing every player to take the first pitch for a strike. Can you imagine how fucking infuriating it would be as a player if every single pitcher you faced knew you were being ordered by the head of your organization to stand and take the first pitch no matter how much of a right-down-the-pipe meatball it was? The same organization also burned through more arms than a fucking cartel, and is now in the process of “payroll re-alignment” (read: being fucking cheap, again). Even in the college landscape, the University of Cincinnati has been consistently behind the wave of college athletics realignment for decades. While other schools, like rival Louisville, were constantly upgrading and angling for admission to the big kids table, UC was always running desperately to catch up. They got the memo on “Hey, football’s gonna be a big fucking deal for TV money…” way too late, and are perpetually the team that shows up in a conference right when the important people step out of the room to go get some cigarettes (Florida State, Virginia Tech, etc. in the Big East, Oklahoma and Texas in the new Big 12). The U figured this out in the 1980s and gave us the 7th Floor Crew as a reward (video below -- watch at your own risk). Pittsburgh and Louisville figured it out in the 1990s. Cincinnati? Well, you know how it is…

A championship Bengals team switches the narrative. And it forces CL3 and His Jeffness to accept what should have been the case since day one in MLS: losing should not be an option. Next year should be this year. Poverty franchises complain about salary caps and league rules. The New Orleans Saints are perpetually $70 billion over the fucking cap, yet somehow they manage to field a team and win shitloads of games every year — and that’s in a league where the player pool is limited to people from the United States and the only real means of cheap player acquisition is the 7 rounds of the NFL Draft. This is fucking soccer — there’s a goddamn universe of players out there and the only thing stopping you from identifying the best values and brightest stars is a refusal to spend the fucking money to scout and assess. Your ability to be creative in any sport is limited only by your ambition and spending limit on your AMEX card. We’ve been conditioned to tolerate losing in this town as a birthright. When the “WHO DEY”s ring out over Washington Park at the parade next week, maybe it’s time for that birthright to end — and maybe it’s time for us to start demanding more of the billionaires who we’ve hitched our fandom to.

WHAT’S BEHIND DOOR #6

As we sit on Friday, February 11th 2022 the FC is still without a true defensive midfielder. I ranted weekly (in a progressively more unhinged manner, admittedly) that the biggest flaw with the Nijkamp-era of FCC was not having a player for every single position prior to the start of the season. We asked players to play out of position and adapt to new tasks because of a stubborn refusal to simply sign competent talent for every role on the soccer pitch. I’m accepting that the Albright Rebuild is going to take some time, but there’s zero excuse for the FC to be sitting on cash (which they are, after their use of the “GET THIS FUCKING BUM OUT OF MY SIGHT” contract termination provision on Kamohelo Mokotjo) and not even make the basic effort to have a starter at every spot in the 11.

Good vibes only, though. Let’s get something done, Chris.

ALLOCATION SERVICES ENABLED

Is there anything more “This fucking league…” than the fact that FC Cincinnati made $100,000 in Dungeons & Soccer money for trading the rights to acquire a player it had never once signed or rostered? All credit to Albright for working the system to make this happen, but Jesus Fucking Christ — how do the people running this league not see what a goddamn joke it is? And also, in hindsight, why the fuck do people from overseas want to come work in the front offices of MLS teams? Playing here? Sure, I get that. Go collect a check and live in a gigantic American house at half the tax rate of Europe. But actually trying to understand the rules of this league and adapt your skills as a team builder to it? You’ve gotta be out of your fucking mind or have an ego the size of a semi. Actually applying to work in MLS from Europe should be considered an instant disqualifier for employment, as you clearly lack the judgment to work in this business.

I’ve rested to make this section about Nijkamp. I swear to god I’ve moved on.

THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT L.A. RAMS FANS…

It’s called “Ghost.”

Alright, that’s it for the week. We’ll return to more FCC-centric content next week (hopefully) as the season draws closer. Until then: Who Dey Forever. Sheep never. See you motherfuckers at the parade.