Today's entry has a specific theme, which very few posts in my very-disjointed and only moderately-successful blogging career have had.
The theme is that human beings are capable of feeling multiple things at the same time.
*For instance, I feel pretty good about the overall direction of the Cincinnati Bengals. I'm thrilled that they're finally relevant, elated to even be entertaining the prospects of a playoff berth, and I feel very strongly that with Joe Burrow at quarterback for the foreseeable future, the Bengals are entering window in which they will be regarded as legitimate contenders.
Simply put, I believe it is pretty fun time right now to be a Bengals fan.
And yet, it is impossible for me to simply shrug off yesterday's loss to the New York Jets.
It was maddening, a cacophony of bad execution, poor gameplanning, dreadful tackling, crappy officiating, shaky quarterback play, and complete inability to stash away a bad opponent that the Bengals had multiple chances to finish off.
*Want more simultaneous thoughts?
Lou Anarumo's defense has been a pleasant surprise, but to give up 400+ yards passing to Mike White is inexcusable, and I'll never understand why the gameplan apparently involved giving him the kind of easy and short throws that can allow a guy making his first NFL start at QB a chance to get comfortable.
There is every reason to be smitten with Joe Burrow. There is also every reason to look at some of his interceptions this season and wonder what he was thinking as he threw them. The fourth quarter pick would fall under that category.
Zac Taylor being aggressive is awesome. Zac Taylor chasing points in the first quarter down 7-zip was silly.
NFL officiating is really hard. This call against Mike Hilton was terrible.
The Bengals are 5-3, and there's reason to believe they can go into the bye at 6-3. There's also every reason to believe the Bengals can and should be a playoff team.
There's also every reason to wonder if yesterday's defeat will be the difference between playing beyond the second weekend of January and staying at home.
*The sequence that sticks in my craw: The Bengals gained possession after a Jets fumble at their own 47, leading by a touchdown. Manage the clock well, get seven points, then keep New York from scoring and you're up 21-7 and getting the first possession of the second half with a chance to essentially seal the game.
Instead, the Bengals get to the Jets three yard line, run terribly-executed pass plays, and settle for a field goal. THEN they allow the fighting Mike Whites to go 67 yards (after a good kickoff return) and score a touchdown before the half.
Then they get the ball to begin the third quarter and no almost nothing with it.
That left the door open for a bad team to have a chance.
*Even still, when you're up ten against a shitty team playing with an inexperienced backup at quarterback midway through the fourth quarter, you're supposed to win.
And when you don't, you get whatever comes to you regardless of whatever prior goodwill you've earned.
*This UC football season is a blast. I'm having fun. We should all be having fun. The Bearcats are a terrific team having a fantastic season, with a conference title and an unblemished record still within its grasp.
And yet, the last two weeks have felt underwhelming.
Saturday's performance was, to me at least, uninspiring. It never felt that the outcome against Tulane was in doubt, and yes, a few of us are being awfully snooty when we walk away from a 19-point win that pushes the record to 8-0 with dour looks on our faces, and I do believe many of us are so fixated on the possibility of a College Football Playoff berth that we're a little too focused on the Bearcats playing to a standard that's almost impossible to meet, but still....
That wasn't a great 60 minutes for Cincinnati. The offense was off. The tackling wasn't good. The running game could use a burst of creativity. The defense was pushed around a little too much. And Luke Fickell not going for it on fourth and one with a chance to salt the game away was very unlike Luke Fickell.
I'm less interested in what back-to-back underwhelming performances mean for the College Football Playoff rankings, and more (slightly) concerned about what the last 120 minutes might mean for the weeks ahead.
Especially since the focus on how well they play during a given week is only going to get more intense.
*As for where UC will be ranked tomorrow, I don't know. Neither do you. Nor does anyone who covers this sport closely.
Although, I guess I'd be stunned if they were higher than fourth. Fourth wouldn't at all be surprising. Fifth wouldn't either. I think if anything, we'll have a decent idea of where they stand big-picture based on where the Bearcats are in relation to Oklahoma.
Here's what I feel like I do know:
For Cincinnati to be ranked in the top four after they've played 13 games, they need outside help. Even more than they've gotten already.
And they need to play better than they have the last two weeks.
Yes, as UC fans, we truly are enjoying first world college football problems.
*By the way, informing a college football fan that their team is not going to play in the playoff is not the slap you might think it is.
*I love baseball.
I don't love the version of baseball, dominated by an endless parade of pitching changes and mostly anonymous relievers that's taken over the postseason.
30 years ago, I watched the best baseball game I've ever seen, the Minnesota Twins' 1-0 10-inning triumph over the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
John Smoltz pitched into the eighth for Atlanta. Jack Morris went all 10 for Minnesota. Two future Hall of Famers, dueling each other pitch for pitch, inning for inning.
In today's game, both would likely be gone by the end of the middle innings.
I'm not one who spends a long time yearning for what a sport used to be. I like much about the the way baseball has evolved, from the way the game is played to how its managed, to the impact of new rules, to how front office decisions are made.
I don't need baseball as it was in 1961, or even 1991.
But the revolving door of relievers, which lends itself to teams putting their least-known guys in starring roles, gives us a much less fun product than one that used to carry the possibility at least of high-end starting pitching duals that have given us some of the most famous games in the history of the sport.
When you love a sport, you want what's best for it. I'm not sure that ending the era of the starting pitcher is what's best for this sport.
Radio Show: At Twin Peaks in Florence for the Tony and Mo Footbal Show. Talk to you at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
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