1) Camp Marvin, Part 15. I remember the first training camp practice ever run by Marvin Lewis. My dad and I drove to Georgetown, already a little giddy about the new head coach, to see if a Marvin-run practice looked and felt different than what we'd watched under Marv's predecessors.
And man, did it look and feel different. I remember watching Marvin work the field, thinking that I was witnessing the hands-on work of a savior. I remember the players having an extra bounce, unseen the previous couple of years. And I remember the feeling of freshness and hope that permeated through the crowd at Georgetown College.
15 camps later, the vibe is different. Camp is (thankfully) no longer in Georgetown. Few look at Marvin as a savior. Little about the head coach feels fresh. But we are still hoping for one playoff win, so there's that.
And now, Marvin is on the hot seat, or so I read.
The easy way to look at Marvin Lewis' future is that if his team doesn't finally win a playoff game, his future lies in doing something besides coaching the Cincinnati Bengals. It's an understandable point of view.
But I'm not sure it's the most fair one when assessing this year's team. To finally break through in January, the Bengals will have to figure out a way to get there with an offensive line that has a low ceiling, an abundance on inexperienced players that'll have to make major contributions, an offensive coordinator that seemed in over his head a year ago, a quarterback that has limitation, an offense that has key performers returning from injury, and questions about depth on defense. It's not unrealistic to think that the 2017 Bengals will be better than last year's version, and it's very, very fair to have run out of patience with their Marvin Lewis, but do you look at what this team has this season and see a squad that's a good bet to be playing in the second weekend of the playoffs?
If the answer is no, then should Marvin be held to a standard that'd be hard for any coach to meet?
As the season is set to start, I'm more interested in the vibe than anything. Do things feel fresh? Are Marvin's messages being heard? Is the team improving? Are the Bengals trending upward? Is last year's staleness a thing of the past? If the answers to those questions are encouraging, than expectations for the team as a whole will be properly adjusted, and maybe it'll be fair to judge this year's team on whether it does what no Bengals unit since 1990(!) has been able to do.
If we're judging Marvin almost solely based on the work he does with this year's team, shouldn't we take into consideration what he does and doesn't have to work with?
2) Castellini's Kitchen. After yesterday's sloppy loss to the Yankees, the Reds are 41-60. A 90-loss season seems inevitable. 95 Ls isn't out of the question. And while I don't think they'll hit the century mark, a 20-41 finish, which would give them 100 losses to end the season isn't completely unfathomable.
Maybe this is all a means to a triumphant end that includes a downtown parade, a Fountain Square Rally, and eventually, fake championship rings for select season ticket-holders.
I hope so.
That end ain't coming next year.
What intrigues me about where the Reds are right now is how they'll manage to keep fans engaged when impatience grows with each loss, and messages about rebuilding get cluttered with every season that yields dramatically more losses than wins. It's easy to understand what the Reds are trying to do. It's harder to watch them go through it in real time, and for the large number of bottom-line oriented fans who lack either the time or interest to peruse follow what's happening in the minor leagues and really can't stand to watch more losing at the big league level, exasperation is growing.
How do the Reds reach them? And what kind of on-field results in the coming season and a third will make them think that a payoff to their patience is in the offing?
If you go to a restaurant, and the server tells you the meal is coming, you'll happily wait. If he returns and tells you again, the meal is coming, you'll wait some more, even as your hunger grows. If he returns yet again with no meal, but insists that he can't tell you when the meal will come but that it will arrive eventually, you'll start to think about other dining options. When he returns one more time with no food and a sheepish look on his face, you're collecting your things and leaving. Maybe never to return.
There's a lot of Reds fans wondering what's going on in the kitchen.
3) Reason number 283 why publicly-financed stadiums are a sham. Remember a few weeks ago, when the Atlanta Falcons unveiled their lower-cost Fan-First menu prices? Remember how so many people gave them credit for offering up more budget-conscious pricing? Remember when people here pointed to the Falcons as an example for what the Bengals should do?
Well, as predicted, there's a catch. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution...
While they’ve gone to great lengths to promote the cheap-eats menu at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, punctuated by $2 hot dogs, they’re mandating fans purchase season tickets and accompanying personal seat licenses (PSLs) that range from $500 to $45,000 per seat to get into that building, on top of the cost of admission ($55 to $385 per ticket).
There will be no sale of single-game tickets. This has been the Falcons’ public stance all along, but it never seemed realistic until now. They’ve sold approximately 55,000 of 61,000 available PSLs and they’re confident the final 6,000 will go in the next eight weeks.
So if you can’t afford PSLs and higher ticket prices, or prefer not to take out a home equity loan, or choose not to cut off a limb to pay for tickets on the secondary market, enjoy watching from home.
If you're a Falcons fan, and you want to watch the defending NFC champs play while enjoying $3 waffle fries, you will either have to be a season-ticket holder or buy tickets (with a big markup) on the secondary market. Now it's one thing if a team can sell out its games through season ticket-packages exclusively, but with a few weeks to go before their season begins, a few thousand packages have gone un-sold. It might make sense to sell the remaining seats as part of mini-packs, or - gasp! - offer up single-game tickets to fans who can't afford an entire season, or out-of-town fans that might be able to make it to one home game in a given year.
Here's the infuriating part...
Blank needs to recoup his investment in the $1.5 billion stadium. The PSL sales amount to more than $250 million. This will be on top of the $200 million for construction costs he received from an Atlanta hotel-motel tax.
But while the Braves’ stadium deal has dominated attention for the past two years, it’s worth repeating that the public investment into the Falcons’ stadium goes far beyond $200 million. There is expected to be another several hundred million dollars in tax money that will be used to service the debt over 30 years, and pay for maintenance and stadium operations.
It’s also worth noting that while this technically is a public facility, Blank will receive all revenue from events in the stadium, beyond Falcons and Atlanta United games.
So the good people of Atlanta - rich, poor, and everywhere in between - have paid a large of the freight on a stadium that the owner will almost solely benefit from (sound familiar?), and yet only a few elites will be able to actually access the stadium and get in on one of those $6 baskets of chicken tenders.
Are these the same tactics that team owners in our fair city would employ if paid for an future stadium construction? I'll guess no. Are the Atlanta Falcons providing the latest cautionary tale as to why public money should not go toward any new palaces that billionaires stand to gain from and can easily afford?
Recommended Link Of The Day: Dear 1987, you're not going to believe what has happened to baseball.
Radio Show: It returns Monday on ESPN1530. Yesterday's show, though, if you missed it, was very good. That statement is independent of my performance, but you should still check it out. There's also a few podcasts worth checking out....my training camp preview with Dave Lapham, this look at the beginning of UC practice with Jim Kelly, and an interview with former Bengal Willie Anderson....until my return.