It was one of those days we’ll remember always. The difference is, we didn’t know it at the time. I was in Goodyear when Reds camp shut down. I listened to Tucker Barnhart say something like, “hopefully we’ll be back here in a couple weeks’’ and while I thought that was optimistic I didn’t think it was wishful thinking times 10.
Joey Votto talked that day, too. 354 days later, almost to the day, he tested positive.
What struck me most that day was, Votto and Barnhart were addressing the media in the media room at the team complex. That room is no bigger than a master bedroom. We were shoulder to shoulder and mask-less. I thought nothing of the danger in that, only of the irony.
Mobsters' special:Check out this subscription offer
If I knew last March 11 what I know today, I’d have been beyond worried. Sometimes, it’s best not to know everything. At the time, I assumed the great United States of America would get this thing under control quickly, and within a month or two we’d be back to normal, a little wiser and no worse for wear. It was, after all, just a few folks infected, in an assisted living facility in the state of Washington.
The NBA shut down the next day. I thought that was a little extreme. The Players Championship followed suit the day after, March Madness the day after that. The rest has been a sports eclipse from which only now the light is re-emerging.
What have we lost? Beyond lives, obviously.
Cynics would suggest nothing. We have, in fact, gained an understanding that we can live without sports, at least without attending games. I don’t share that view. I think sports is an essential stitch in our country’s quilt. Live sports are among the few joys that actually bring us together. There’s no division among football fans for three hours at a Bengals game.
Here’s what we’ve lost: The notion that we’re all in this together. Whatever “this’’ is. Apply the sports metaphor if you like. Our national “team’’ operates the way the fractious Boston Red Sox operated a couple generations ago:
Twenty-five players, 25 cabs to the ballpark.
We don’t share the ball.
Maybe we never really have. COVID-19 only served to make that plain.
Fingers crossed, we are making progress. The virus is still here, might always be here, but thanks to science we’re learning to deal with it. Maybe someday, the plague really will be no worse than the flu. Maybe sooner than that, the joy of sports will be what it was before this day last year, and we will honor that moment with gratitude, reflection and an honest desire to be good to each other, knowing better than ever that we’re not immortal.
A year ago today, we were forever changed. For the better?
Now, then. . .
I’M NOT SURE WHAT ELSE TO SAY about Xavier’s plummeted basketball season. To have it end the way it did – three successive Ls, the last one after blowing a 19-point lead to a mediocre opponent – was unfamiliar turf for the program. I think Travis Steele deserves to come back, but it wouldn’t surprise me if X pulls the plug. If only because Pat Kelsey is straight outta central casting to be the Musketeers next coach.
Regardless, whoever is coaching this team next year will need to find (1) a serviceable, dirty-work post player who can defend and rebound and (2) a player (or two) you want to have the ball in his hands in must situations.
Zach Freemantle is a nice player, but he belongs on the wing, where he can shoot jumpers and create mismatches and not have to worry about defending the post. Steele has more than enough guards. He needs to find the next Matt Stainbrook, Jason Love or Kenny Frease. Sean O’Mara had limited skills, but he worked his tail off and became a very useful guy in the post.
Paul Scruggs is a good player who had a good senior season. But he’s not a star and he was asked to do too much. He didn’t score in the second half (before OT) Wednesday night. Xavier needed him badly.
NAME JOEY VOTTO’S REPLACEMENT, WIN FABULOUS PRIZES CHOSEN JUST FOR YOU. . .
"Cheslor Cuthbert, Scott Heineman, Nicky Delmonico and Alex Blandino are the remaining players who have spent time at the position this spring,'' says The Enquirer.
HAVE WE MENTIONED IT’S THE BENGALS TIME to go shopping? The league announced the ’21 salary cap yesterday. It’s $182.5, or 8 percent less than last year. In normal times, the cap increases about 5 percent a year.
The Bengals are $43.8 million under the cap. Only four teams have more space, according to figures provided by overthecap.com.
USA Today:As of Wednesday's announcement, the Saints had released six players, restructured the contracts of seven players and still found themselves roughly $31 million over the mark, according to OverTheCap.com.
Five other teams (Rams, Eagles, Chiefs, Bears, Falcons) found themselves in double-digits of millions of dollars over the spending limit.
While teams will resort to doing magic accounting tricks to cram their rosters under the cap, the Bengals remain in a prime position. “We’re going to be in a position to add some really quality football players,’’ Zac Taylor said Wednesday.
Get to it, Fam. You’re never going to have a better opp than the one you have right now.
LICENSE AND REGISTRATION PLEASE. . .
Body-cam footage shows former Major League Baseball player Johnny Damon claiming that he was targeted by police in February for suspicion of DUI as a result of his support for former president Donald Trump.
At one point during the stop, Damon says, “I know people are trying to target me because I’m a Trump supporter.”
An officer replies, “I don’t think that has anything to do with it," to which Damon responds, "Yeah, it does."
Damon's blood alcohol content was reportedly .30, nearly four times the legal limit of .08. (AP)
THIS, FROM MOBSTER BOB IN LOUISVILLE. . .
“This is a HUGE story for Reds fans living in Louisville. Louisville people will not be able to watch Reds games on TV this season unless they have the traditional cable box. No streaming with anybody as Louisville has been designated as a “BLACKOUT” zone.
Suggestion: Find yourself someone who knows how to find the games illegally. It’s not hard. A fan of the Washington Team last fall might or might not have used Reddit to watch their games.
AND NOW. . . FunMaster Brien gets arty in The Pool.
There is a new art exhibition opening at Wave Pool Gallery (2940 Colerain Avenue) this Saturday. The Camp Washington art gallery is hosting “New Images of Humans,” which explores the “radical ways in which contemporary artists are engaging with the figure.” The concept here is a series of works, which show how visual art can reflect different concerns and anxieties of the contemporary era. Riffing on the 1959 Museum of Modern Art “New Images of Man” series, this exhibit showcases what the art looks like today, featuring black, female, and non-binary artists.
Wave Pool is a community-led initiative whose mission is to “pair communities knowledge of their needs with artist’s sense of possibility.” The goal is to use experimental art as a way to connect communities and to provoke change therein. In 2020, the gallery paid 205 artists, worked with 41 partner organizations, and reached more than 26,000 people. And they continue to grow in 2021 with enticing galleries such as this. There are also volunteer opportunities if you’d like to get involved.
This exhibit runs March 13th – May 1st and has free admission. For more information on this or any other goings on at Wave Pool, head to www.wavepoolgallery.org.
Imbiber Dave has new drinking options and this makes him happy,
TUNE O’ THE DAY. . . In keeping with the theme at the top of the post. . . nobody sings the blues any better than Otis.