Your eyes are not deceiving you. This is a new blog entry. With new words and sentences and everything.
Want me to be honest? Of course you do.
I have a little bit of a morning routine. Roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee, take said cup of coffee down to my home office - often with my now four-month old daughter in tow - pop on the TV to cycle through a mishmash of morning TV that includes Mike and Mike, Good Morning Football, Quick Pitch, SportsCenter, and The Today Show, and read what I find interesting from anywhere from ten to 20 newspapers and blogs. From there, I jot down a few things I want to talk about on the radio, draw up a to-do list for the day, and then work on my blog. Some days it's easier to stick to that routine than others.
Monday, it was impossible.
I sat in my office watching coverage of what had happened and was happening in Las Vegas, paralyzed by sadness over what I was seeing and resignation over the fact that while the images on my screen were shocking, what was happening unfortunately was not.
I alternated between watching the coverage, which included both terrifying eyewitness accounts of the mass shooting and continuing update of the casualty toll, and looking over at my daughter, napping in the swinging chair she sits in while I work, oblivious to the world we've just brought her in to, and it was all but impossible for me write about sports, or really, anything else.
I don't know how something like the Las Vegas massacre - if that's what we're calling it - will or should change public policy. I'm neither smart or informed enough to dive publicly into the nuances involved in talking about how we prevent the kind of mass shootings that have become all too common.
I do know that what we're doing right now ain't working.
And now, onto the sports, and other things.
I did want to blog about sports yesterday. Same for first thing this morning. The new show we're doing at noon during the week has cut into the time I'd ordinarily spend populating my tiny corner of the web.
I'm still figuring out how to adjust. Anyway, the normal three things will be eight things today to almost account for the two days I missed.
1) A little Bengals optimism. Like many, I spent most of the season's first few weeks burying the Bengals, dumping all over them for their 0-3 start and the things that led to it.
But, they did win on Sunday in Cleveland. Most importantly, the way the Bengals have played the last two weeks has me encouraged.
Not because I think they'll make the playoffs - I didn't think they were a postseason team before the season began - but because not only are the Bengals playing better than they were in the first two weeks, but because the team itself is different.
The offensive line is made up of more than just five dudes trying to block, with a rotation of large men proving to me moderately effective at keeping Andy Dalton upright. The offense as a whole is carving out an identity. Dalton himself is playing better. And most important, the team is getting good production from a number of young players, which was always what this season was about for me.
The next four games are each challenging - Buffalo's defense is outstanding, Pittsburgh has the Bengals' number, Indy is set to get Andrew Luck back, and Jacksonville might be better than advertised, but the next quarter of the season isn't an impossible one to navigate. Will they win all four? Ha. No. Will they win enough to keep their season someone afloat? I'll say yes.
2) What was Hue thinking? Had I been able to actually direct my attention to the screen of my laptop on Monday, this would've been a thing....
Can someone help me with what Cleveland's game plan was on Sunday?
The Browns decided to take the deep ball away from a quarterback who's not good at throwing the deep ball.
Make sense to you?
Mind you, their head coach had a front row seat for the best and worst of Andy Dalton. In fact, I'd say there's no one in the NFL more acutely aware of Dalton's attributes and limitations that Hue Jackson.
And yet, Hue's team allowed Andy to make the throws that he excels at making.
But yet, Hue Jackson is the next big thing in coaching. Right.
3) Successful losers. Let's put a bow on the Reds season, which ended with win number 68 on Sunday.
Can a 94-loss season be quantified as a success?
Ask me in a year.
By then, the Reds will either be on the cusp of doing something meaningful or on the verge of Rebuild 2.0. If it's the former, then 2017 will prove to be the year when a core started to solidify.
That did happen this year. Duvall. Schebler. Suarez. Gennett. Winker.To an extent, Barnhart. All of those players did things in 2017 that made you think they could be important pieces when contention becomes reality. Plus, Votto showed no sign of slowing down, Iglesias solidified his status as one of the better relievers in the game, and in the final two months, there were enough steps forward from the team's young pitchers that it's suddenly fun to think about what the rotation might look like next season and beyond.
They've also got the makings of a surplus in the outfield - for my money, Winker should get Hamilton's starting spot - and if Nick Senzel progresses at a rapid rate, and if Jose Peraza can hit the way I'd hoped, they may have one in the infield too.
The year wasn't without its disappointments. Injuries to Finnegan and DeSclafani essentially made another 90-loss year a certainty and stunted bullpen progress by making Bryan Price rely too much on it. Peraza didn't look like the guy we saw at the end of 2016. Hamilton really didn't advance as a hitter. Michael Lorenzen disappointed just enough to make one wonder if he can pitch in the types of situations he was earmarked for early in the season. Oh, and they still lost a lot.
But within the losses were signs of progress and hope. I feel about the Reds now the way I did in 2008 and 2009. Enough good things were happening amid the bad that it felt like winning was something that could actually be imagined. More development was needed and help had to be acquired from outside - it's vital that the Reds get a 200-inning guy this winter - and it's still hard to imagine the Reds being that good next season, but it's not too far-fetched to think that 2017 could ultimately be looked back on as a pivotal turning point in the franchise's lineage.
4) The UC/OSU thing happened. The opening of Fifth Third Arena next year was already going to be awesome. The announcement yesterday of the Buckeyes providing the opposition that night made it even better.
Also, I'm in hyperventilation mode thinking about UC basketball in 2018-'19.
Most importantly, the scheduling continues to improve, and yes, I do wish there were fewer Coppin State's on the schedule. But the first season of the new digs will have OSU coming to Cincinnati as well as UCLA. The Bearcats will play a hellacious December this season, with a trip to UCLA, a neutral game against Florida occupying back-to-back Saturdays in the same month as the Shootout and a home tilt against Mississippi State.
UC fans have - often justifiably - complained about the schedule for a while. It's gotten better.
5) These are glorious. Xavier has been rolling out some looks at its new uniforms this week. The throwbacks are awesome....
6) The MLB Playoffs have begun. My favorite two nights on the baseball calendar are the two Wild Card Games. Critics of the new-ish system will complain that a 162-game season shouldn't come down to one game. I say that if you don't want it to come down to one game, then win your division.
Anyway, obligatory guesses...
Red Sox over Astros in five.
Indians over Yankees in four.
Nationals over Cubs in five.
Dodgers over Colorado (who I'll guess wins tonight) in four.
Indians beat the Nationals in a very, very good World Series.
And I'm rooting for Dusty Baker.
7) Tom Petty died. Not long ago, I was having beers with some buddies talking about music, mainly that music, politics, and religion are three topics that I don't talk about with people who aren't my friends. That turned into a discussion about which artist, in a totally fractured society both musically and otherwise, would be the one that we most agreed on.
I think it was framed this way....
"If a bar with like 50 or 60 people in it had to settle on one musician's tunes to be played for the entire night, who would be the one that no one would be pissed off about?
The answer was, unanimously, Tom Petty.
I went to this show in 2008. It was awesome.
8) This Format is awesome. I wish I had more time to elaborate on what the NBA is doing with its All-Star Game. It's awesome. That it all.
Recommended Link Of The Day: MLB Wild-Card Games Are the Most Cruel, Devastating, and Wonderful Events in Sports
Radio Show: We are loaded. I promise. ESPN1530 today. 3:05. Listen at ESPN1530.com/listen