Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A good man is leaving Cincinnati. The Bengals cut Brian Simmons today. Head Coach Marvin Lewis inherited Simmons, when Lewis arrived in town back in 2003. By then, Simmons was a fixture on a not so great Bengals defense (it still isn't even good), a former first round draft pick in 1998.

Simmons game was never physical. He was athletic, very active around the ball and involved in tackles. But his elongated neck left him susceptible to injury. "Stinger" was a word you heard a lot, when Simmons came up with an injury. But, oh, could he play. It's not a secret, when Simmons was out for a month with an injury, opponents exploited the Bengals defense by using their tight ends. Simmons was the only Bengals linebacker who looked like he had a clue how to deal with a pass catching tight end.

But as good a player as Brian Simmons was around here, he was a better man. After a loss, and there were plenty of those in his nine years in Cincinnati, Simmons would always talk to the media. On Wednesdays before games, media days when papers and TV stations gathered their interviews for the upcoming games, Simmons was always available. A lot of his team mates dodged the media, some even leaving the building.

Today reminds all of us that above everything else, the NFL is a business. It's not "what have you done for me lately." It's more like "what can you do for me right now"? The Bengals obviously believe their money can be better spent on a younger, stronger linebacker, someone who may be a better player. It's a slippery slope for this team, which has brought in its share of thugs in recent years.

The Bengals may find a better player. But they won't find a better man than Simmons. Good luck Brian. You deserve it. And thanks.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm back from an enjoyable (well almost) Saturday at my alma mater. Veterans to this blog know that I live and breath Ohio University sports. Veteran channel 5 viewers in Cincinnati, Ohio, heard me Friday night say no other games this weekend mattered except the one between Ohio and Kent State Saturday. I said it tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course. There were a multitude of big games this weekend, not the least of which is Ohio State vs Wisconsin Sunday.

It was great being back at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio. It is a virtual replication of the basketball arena at Notre Dame and it has held up well over time. Good seats, great viewing lines and wide concourses. In a lot of ways, the "Convo" was ahead of its time. If you live in Ohio, you should know at least some of your tax dollars were spent wisely.

Saturday was one of those rare family days you experience when your children are older and their lives have taken them exclusively from you. My wife (proud OU grad), son (not an OU grad but we're still proud of him, an assistant prosecutor in Hamilton County) and my daughter (very proud of her, Ohio class of '08 if the GPA hold up) watched our Bobcats take on a very good Kent State team. And by the way, thanks to Ohio graduate assistant coach Doug Dewey for the seats. Doug is a Cincinnatian, a solid student-athlete at Glen Este High School not so long ago.

The Bobcats are struggling these days, having now lost four of their last five. They should've beaten New Mexico State, but ran out of gas after being up 19. They should have beaten Kent State, but could not get a 'stop' in the final ten minutes and were too sloppy with the ball in the final minutes. This current Bobcat team is an enigma: it has balanced scoring, with strong inside play. It could use a true center, but what mid-major school couldn't? The Bobcats could also use a true point guard. The had one, but a young man named Antonio Chatman took a hike on the team earlier in the year for personal problems. It's hurting the 'Cats a lot right now.

Kent State won by two, when, inexplicably, the Golden Flashes were allowed to hold the ball almost at mid court while the clock wound down. That kind of maneuver you rarely see in the NBA anymore. A lay up, seemingly uncontested, with 3.5 seconds to go won the game for Kent.

But other than that, the experience of the event was terrific. The school now allows the students to sit courtside. It reminded me of when I called ACC basketball games on television and we made our trips to Cameron at Duke. And the theatrics of the students were a great side show. I used to think Duke, and to a degree Maryland, students were the best at their good natured bashing of the opponent. The "O" section is right there with them. I asked someone seated near me to point out one of my favorite posters on, a guy named "Dragon". I don't know how this kid has time to go to class, with all of the posting he does on that board. Sure enough, the person I asked knew who he was.

And, at halftime, they brought back some of the guys who helped make Ohio basketball the tradition that it is. It was good to see Tom Corde again, a Bobcat star some of the years I spent in Athens. If you didn't know, Ohio University is celebrating 100 years of basketball this season.

After an enjoyable dinner at at Stephens, a downtown Athens restaurant (my daughter always seems to 'rope' me into going there as opposed to The Diner, which is my favorite place), it was back on Route 32 West, through the sleet, back to Cincinnati.

I'm writing about this today because I know a lot of my friends and fellow Bobcats read this blog. Maybe some of you haven't been back to Athens for a basketball, or football game in awhile. You should think about doing that. The campus is beautiful, the atmosphere at the events is great, always something going on during time outs, and the teams can use your support. Take a day or a weekend, buy a ticket, and make some noise when you get to Peden or the "Convo".

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Xavier got done what it had to get done tonight. It beat Rhode Island in a showdown for first place in the Atlantic 10. Justin Doellman was simpy terrific. The senior inside man went 10 of 16 from the floor and dropped in 29 points. Junior guard, Drew Lavender finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. And even more impessive, the Muskies went to the foul line 36 times and made 30 shots. You won't lose many games when you make 83% of your free throws.

I don't think Xavier has the stuff to play deep into the NCAA Tournament. But the mission its been on since the season opener is well within reach. For the first time since joining the Atlantic 10, Xavier's goal is to win the regular season conference title. Now 10-3 and tied for first with UMass (and really ahead of the Minutemen since they beat UMass earlier this season), that should be a realistic possibility.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I spent some time on the phone tonight with Joe Nuxhall. The beloved Reds broadcaster is out of a Florida hospital tonight and back home. In fact, Nuxie under went the first of his chemotherapy treatments immediately after getting out of the hospital. He then went to visit friends at the Reds training complex. After that, it was out to buy a set of tires for the family car.

He continues to battle lymphoma. But he told me tonight, he'll be at Great American Ball Park for Opening Day. We'll roll out the red carpet for you, I told Nuxie. He said "I'll walk on it."

ESPN's poll has Ohio State number one in mens college basketball. AP has Wisconsin number one (though not for long, after Michigan State beat the Badgers on Monday night). I don't think either of them are the best team in the country. Florida is, despite its loss last weekend at Vanderbilt. There is no team in America that wants to face the Gators in the NCAA's.

You think by Bernie Williams refusing to accept a minor league deal from the Yankees, he's actually admitting he doesn't have it anymore? The Yankees aren't in a position to offer him a spot on their 25 man roster. But he would have every opportunity to earn one with a solid spring training. Williams isn't even returning phone calls to Joe Torre or the Yanks GM, Brian Cashman. Sad way for one of the last links to the latest Yankee dynasty to go out.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It's a fascinating story playing out in Sarasota. It could have a happy ending, or one that could be devastating.

The Cincinnati Reds have reported to spring training. Pitchers and catchers reported over the weekend along with a handful of everyday players. Josh Hamilton is there.

Hamilton was the number one overall pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. Coming out a small high school in North Carolina, Hamilton was one of the best baseball players in a generation. He could hit for power and average, run, throw and field. Hamilton was the classic 'five tool player'. Within two years, after injuries had prevented him from playing a full season in the minors, Hamilton was mired in a world of alcohol and drug abuse. Instead of standing in the outfield for the Rays, he was flat on his back in a crack house. The Rays were patient, giving him chance after chance. But this past winter, they finally cut their ties with him. Sensing this might happen, the Reds did their homework on Hamilton. The had a first person encounter with him: Reds manager, Jerry Narron, had known Hamilton since the one time phenom was in grade school.

Reds General Manger, Wayne Krivsky snagged Hamilton in baseball's Rule 5 draft, in December. It was a calculated risk. If Hamilton isn't good enough to make the Reds' 25 man roster, he has to be offered back to the Rays for $25,000, half of what it cost the Reds to draft him. If he is good enough, the Reds have found an ultimate bargain, one who has options, the ability to be sent back to the minors without risk of being claimed for three years after this coming season.

Monday, in Sarasota, Hamilton held a 40 minute news conference. He says he's clean and sober. He and his wife brought only one car to spring training, he caries no cash and will have someone handle his meal money on the road this season. He wants no temptations. Hamilton even quoted a verse from the bible. But like most recovering addicts, it all sounds good. The proof will be how he lives his life, not how he talks about it. On a lot of levels, Reds fans can't help but pull for him.

Reliever Gary Majewski, damaged goods when he arrived from DC last summer, is still not healthy. He's been put on a 'pitching program'....not good....The Bears go to the Super Bowl on the strength of their defense, then fire their defensive coordinator, Ron Rivera, Monday...there's a story behind that that's about to explode....Norv Turner surfaces as head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He's flamed out twice as a head coach. But even Turner can screw up with the talent he has in San Diego....Dressed in a black vest and purple shirt Monday night, Kansas State head coach Bob Huggins appeared to be dressed more for hosting a Mardi Gras party, not a basketball game...NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, is bringing in some of the best and the brightest from his game this week to discuss how to cut down on the trouble some of his players get into, off the field. Here's a question: why bring in the 'good guys'? Bring in some of the idiots that get into trouble. And don't ask them how they can stay out of trouble. Tell them if they get into trouble again, they're suspended for a year. Then work it out with the union.

Check out the latest edition of Broo v. Broo. You can find it on my web site: Broo v. Broo is 'the' most opinionated sports show in cyber space. This week, we deal with NASCAR's cheating, free agency in the NFL, who's number one in college hoops and a myriad of other this.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It was great to see Carson Palmer win the MVP award at this year's Pro Bowl game. It gave us a taste of what it might be like, if Palmer and his Bengals could ever get to that next step and be a legitimate playoff contender. But I have a serious question about the Pro Bowl: what is the point?

Has this game outlived its usefulness? It used to be a nice reward for players who'd had outstanding seasons. Most weren't making a lot of money, so a week paid vacation to Hawaii, with only a few grunts, groans and tackles asked for in exchange was a pretty good deal.

Now, virtually every player selected to play in the Pro Bowl is making hundreds of thousands of dollars every season (some of course, much more than that.) Almost 20 percent of those selected beg off, most with some phantom injury.

And you have to ask why any team would want one of its star players involved in a meaningless game where a serious injury could occur? I'm sure the Saints are asking themselves that tonight, after Drew Brees dislocated his elbow in Saturday's game. The Bengals are breathing easier, after holding their breath watching Chad Johnson go down with what turned out to be only a knee 'tweak'.

I have a much better idea as to how the NFL can address its all star situation. In fact, it's part of this week's Broo v. Broo, which you can find posted on my web site: Head on over there and check it out. It's in the "Podcasts & More" section.

Friday, February 09, 2007

We're on the verge of some big, big college basketball games this weekend. Xavier plays Saturday night at George Washington. The emerging landscape in the Atlantic 10 would suggest that Xavier needs to win this game if it wants to win the conference champioship. "GW" is just a game behind the Muskies and Rhode Island, who are both just a half game out of first

Indiana and Ohio State will both make the Tournament. But it's all about seeding. Ohio State has a Saturday game against Purdue....Indiana plays Illinois. And Kentucky's Saturday night game at Rupp against Florida will give the Wildcats a good indication if their recent solid play is for real. UK could play Florida three times this season, counting the SEC Tournament.

Finally at .500, Miami plays Ball State in Oxford and UC is trying to finish with dignity, having lost ten of its last eleven. The Bearcats are at Rutgers.

And there's an intriguing game in Athens, where the Ohio Bobcats take on Northern Illnois. Ohio is two games back of Akron in the MAC East. Akron has lost once in conference play, to Ohio. Northern Illinois is dead last in the MAC West, 5-17 overall.

A wild week for the Reds ended Friday without a wimper. But on Tuesday and Thursday, the Reds were spending freely. Between Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, the Reds have invested $71 million over the next four years. Four year deals for pitchers can be dicey (see Eric Milton who only signed for three). But for quality arms, it's the price of doing business these days.

The Reds are paying a little more now, to avoid paying a lot more later. Harang still had two more years before becoming a free agent. But his arbitration salary could have increased to the nine million dollar range next off season. Arroyo still had two years to go before his current contract expired. He too, could be in that seven to nine million dollar range. As scarce as quality pitching is, and with the Reds trolling for even more, these deals make a lot of sense. But get this: the Reds payroll was just a little under $61 million in 2006. In 2007, six players, Ken Griffey, Jr, Eric Milton, Adam Dunn, Kyle Lohse, Harang and Arroyo will earn a total of $45.5 million.

If you're scoring at home, or just lonely, pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota one week from tomorrow. The first workout is Monday, February 19.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's National Letter of Intent day all over the USA. The best high school football players are signing up for free rides.

Brian Kelly did well. He's been on the job for about 60-days as the head football coach at the University of Cincinnati. Kelly snagged one of the better running backs in the Tri-State, Montez Patterson from Cincinnati Hughes HS. His senior year, Patterson rushed for over 14-hundred yards and 13 touchdowns. At 6-1, Patterson could also be moved to defensive back.

Miami only signed one greater Cincinnati player today. Lakota West linebacker, Alex Kaufman will head to Oxford.

Kentucky took only one Tri-Stater, Holmes wide receiver-quarterback-defensive back-kick returner, Duran Jefferson.

My Bobcats did very well. They got four from the greater Cincinnati area, including two very good defensive lineman. I saw both Wyoming's Jeff King and Harrison's Curtis Meyers play this season. Meyers was very active, good block shedder and run stuffer. And in getting Lakota East wide receiver, Riley Dunlap, the Bobcats get a major upgrade in the speed department.

More scholarships will open up at Ohio. I know of at least one player who's been told he's losing his spot on the team. So Frank Solich may not be done signing players just yet. But for a school that has long abdicated southwest Ohio to Miami, the Bobcats appear to be back in business in these parts.

Friday, February 02, 2007

How does Indianapolis not win this game Sunday? The way I see it, only one way: if Peyton Manning doesn't show up. If he goes to a movie theatre by mistake and gets engrossed in a film, the Bears have a chance. If Manning hits Taco Bell on the way to the stadium and it doesn't go down so well, the Bears have a chance. If, by chance, Manning is abducted by aliens and flown for a rendezvous with the Hale-Bopp Comet psychos, the Bears have a chance.

But if Manning shows up in Miami Sunday night and is the Manning we all have come to know and respect, the Bears don't have a shot.

I know all about the track record for big favorites in this game. I know if you give a good coaching staff two weeks to prepare for a giant, the giant can be slayed. But I don't see it happening Sunday.

Colts 27 Bears 14.

Just posted on my web site, the latest edition of Broo v. Broo. We get into it this week about who'll win Sunday and various other disagreements. Zip on over to and check it out on my "Podcasts and More" page.

Also, get a grin from my latest offering "Broo Ha Ha", a weekly bit of sports humor. It's posted on the front page of