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Staff Picks

By Staff · March 27th, 2012 · Jocks
j_staff_daltonPhoto courtesy Cincinnati Bengals
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BEST NEW RED:
Nope, not Mat Latos or Ryan Madson, but Andy Dalton. The red-headed Bengals quarterback led the Bengals to the playoffs in his rookie season, throwing for 3,398 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He and A.J. Green teamed up to make the most potent rookie combination in NFL history, and it looks like that’s just a start. bengals.com.

BEST BEARCAT WHO COULD END UP BEING A BENGAL:
Isaiah Pead capped off one of the most successful UC football careers ever by helping the team win a share of the Big East title for the third time in his four years at the school (the ’Cats won it outright his first two seasons). Pead ranks among UC’s career leaders in both rushing yards and touchdowns, and his dual threat as a runner/pass catcher has drawn attention from NFL scouts, some of whom rank Pead as the fifth best running back in this year’s draft class. With the Bengals losing Cedric Benson to free agency and sitting with three picks in the first two rounds, could Pead, a Columbus-native, find his professional home right down the road from his college? We’ll find out April 26. nfl.com/draft.

BEST REASON TO CHANT ‘M! V! P!’ THIS SUMMER:
Joey Votto’s 2010 season was one of the most impressive Reds fans have seen in the last 20 years. Sure, Barry Larkin’s 1995 MVP season stands out (welcome to the Hall of Fame, Barry!), but Votto earned much-deserving recognition when he beat out the likes of Albert Pujols for the award in his age 26 season and then finished sixth in the voting last year. The Reds only have Votto under contract through 2013, and fans know that means a trade could be possible before he reaches the final year of his deal. This summer will be all about enjoying the batting clinic and overall coolness of Votto’s approach to the game. It’s not often a small market team gets to have one of the best players in the game — enjoy it while it lasts. cincinnatireds.com.

BEST FACE OF UC BASKETBALL:
If you had to choose one UC basketball player’s face to look at, it would easily be Justin Jackson — that dude looks cool! Jackson often mugs the UC student section after swatting shots out of bounds and smiles real big when the other dudes do cool stuff on the basketball court, and he can also can look very mean after jamming on someone. Jackson and fellow sophomore Sean Kilpatrick are going to make the next two years of UC hoops really fun to watch.
gobearcats.com.

BEST SIDE DISH FOR PANCAKES AND TOAST:
Every weekday morning UC Bearcat fans get a rundown of all the pertinent news and a helping of insightful analysis from Paul Dehner Jr.’s Bearcat Breakfast on GoBearcats.com. Add to that pop culture links and a music video — and no writing in the third person — and you have a nutritious sports breakfast that will make your mother proud. gobearcats.com.

BEST POST-SUPER BOWL CELEBRATION OF LOVE:
Right after Moeller graduate Greg Jones earned a Super Bowl ring as a rookie with the New York Giants, he got on one knee on the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and offered girlfriend Amanda Piechowski a ring of her own. She said yes. Top that one, guys.

BEST FUTURE RED TO CATCH — IF YOU CAN:
Last season Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton became the first minor leaguer to steal 100 bases in a season in a decade. Hamilton finished the season with 103 steals in 135 games. The 21-year-old probably isn’t ready to be in Cincinnati this year, but he will play in the Futures Game at Great American Ball Park two days before opening day. cincinnatireds.com.

BEST RETURN FROM THE BRINK:
Yancy Gates became a controversial national figure after landing a punch in the Crosstown Shootout brawl in December. Gates served a six-game suspension and struggled some upon his return before helping lead the Bearcats to the Big East championship game and their best run in the NCAA Tournament under Mick Cronin. Gates’ career narrative is now one of redemption, as his response — and the team’s success — caused UC fans and national media to focus on his maturity and appreciate the massive impact he had on Mick Cronin’s rebuilding effort.



BEST OVERDUE HONOR:
In his third year on the ballot, Cincinnati native and former Red Barry Larkin was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Larkin earned 86 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America and will be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 22. Larkin grew up in Silverton, went to Moeller High School and was twice drafted by the Reds before spending his entire career in a Cincinnati uniform.

BEST CALL-UP FROM THE MINOR LEAGUES:

Jay Gruden had been a head coach in the United Football League and the Arena League, but he hadn’t been a coordinator in the NFL before Marvin Lewis hired him after the end of the 2010 season. He impressed enough people to get noticed by other teams who were interested in interviewing him for head coaching jobs, but he chose to stay in Cincinnati. With a full offseason to work with young studs Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, Gruden has a chance to build upon his early success in 2012. bengals.com.

BEST ALTERNATIVE TO LITTLE LEAGUE:
The baddest women in Cincinnati are now taking apprentices, as the Cincinnati Roller Girls created a Junior Rollergirls program for girls 8 to 17 years old. Tattoos aren’t required, but a punny nickname is. The Junior Rollergirls program is led by retired Cincinnati Rollergirl Kathy Kissing (aka Panterrorize) and involves working on skill requirements as outlines by the Junior Roller Derby Association as well as teaching teamwork and leadership.
cincinnatirollergirls.com.

BEST COLLEGE BASEBALL SUMMER TEAM TO WATCH ON THE CHEAP:
The Cincinnati Steam has quietly built a quality baseball summer program on Cincinnati’s West Side. This year will mark the Steam’s sixth season playing home games at Western Hills High School, as part of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. The team last summer saw its first player make it to the major leagues in former University of Cincinnati and Princeton High School standout Josh Harrison, who played for the inaugural Steam squad back in 2006 and made his Major League Debut last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Summer league teams are comprised of college players from all over the country, and many local kids return to Cincinnati for college ball despite going to school out of state. The team does a great job of offering promotions and family friendly entertainment at games. The Steam’s 2012 season begins June 8.
cincinnatisteam.com.

BEST LOCAL MALE CHEERLEADER:
It must be hard to cover sports in a city where fans are eternally cynical, even after cracking the playoffs, but Lance McAllister generally keeps an optimistic view on local radio stations 700 WLW-AM and 1360-AM. McAlister isn’t quite the “Mike Brown’s cabana boy” some claim, but it was entertaining to hear his uncontainable, exasperated “What’s wrong with you people?!” rants every other week, especially during last year’s Bengals preseason. His trademark enthusiasm was a nice reminder to smile when you’re winning, but the instant playoff exits by the Bengals (and Reds in 2010) reinforced why it will be another year of being cautiously optimistic for Cincinnati sports followers. espn1530.com.

BEST REGION FOR COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
Cincinnati’s college basketball climate is an interesting mix of avid fanbases. Everybody knows about the Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry, but just south of the river you’ll find Kentucky Coach John Calipari on TV commercials, and there are plenty of Ohio State fans who call the Queen City home. This year, Cincinnati, Xavier, OSU and UK each made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, along with Indiana, Louisville and Ohio University. National analysts enjoyed discussing the fact that no state had ever produced four teams in the Sweet Sixteen in a single year. A college hoops hotbed for sure..

BEST BENGALS SUBSTITUTION:
Brad Johansen was a fine Bengals play-by-play guy, but the switch to longtime Bearcats voice Dan Hoard was seamless. Hoard’s enthusiastic and extremely likeable persona is a welcome addition to the broadcasts, which is no surprise since he’s been doing UC basketball games for years, in addition to his summertime gig with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston’s Double-A team. bengals.com.

BEST RIVALRY:
Bengals-Browns games aren’t that much fun to watch when both teams suck, and Ohio State doesn’t appear to want to play UC in football anytime soon. Thank goodness for the revitalized rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and Reds, launched in earnest after the two teams got into a brawl because Yadier Molina’s feelings were hurt in 2010 by Brandon Phillips’ offhanded remark to a reporter calling the team a bunch of bitches. The Cardinals returned the favor after the Reds won the division in 2010 — and the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series title was some metaphorical icing on a cake that tasted like crap. But the revamped Reds are poised to compete for this year’s division title — and a lot more. cincinnatireds.com.

BEST USE OF A MIAMI UNIVERSITY EDUCATION:
Downtown arena, play-by-play announcers, instant replay on the big scoreboard — it’s not the Bengals; it’s Fountain Square Broomball. Every weeknight in January and February, the Fountain Square ice rink is transported into a field of battle with this hockey-like game without the skates. Ask any MU alum, and they’ll tell you about the campus’ favorite sport — after blasting a slapshot into the goal.
myfountainsquare.com.

BEST UC FOOTBALL PLAYER DONE GOOD:
Onetime temporary “big man” on the UC basketball squad and star of the football team’s defense, Conner Barwin is one of the many great stories to come out of the Brian Kelly era. Barwin continues to be a major contributor on the Houston Texans’ stout defensive line, which helped the team win its division last year and make the playoffs for the first time ever.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY YOUR BEER AT THE BALLPARK:
Now, there’s no wrong way to drink a beer at the ballpark, but there is a best way. And you’ll have to wait until the Reds’ Aug. 25 game against the Cardinals to do so. That Saturday, the first 20,000 fans at Great American Ball Park get a free Reds beer stein — a perfect vessel for hoisting a victory toast. The Reds’ website includes a schedule of the team’s many promotions, including Joey Votto bobblehead night May 12. cincinnatireds.com.

BEST NEW NCAA DIVISION I SCHOOL:
Northern Kentucky University this year will join the Atlantic Sun conference, moving up to Division I athletics after finding considerable success in D-II. The Norse won 22 regional titles, 71 Great Lakes Valley Conference regular-season or tournament championships and won the league’s All-Sports Trophy seven times. The process will begin in July, with all of its athletic teams playing full A-Sun schedules during their 2012-13 seasons. nkunorse.com.

BEST WAY TO TELL IF SOMEONE WENT TO UC OR XAVIER:
Ask them whose fault the “Crosstown Punchout” was. Despite the fact that both UC and Xavier made the NCAA Tournament again this year, neither team could avoid the recap of their Dec. 10 brawl during the Crosstown Shootout. Regardless of whose fault it was, the incident marked the turning point for both teams, as each went on to make it to the Sweet 16. Here’s hoping cooler heads prevail next season to ensure that this rivalry continues without all the drama.

BEST FACE OF UC BASKETBALL:
If you had to choose one UC basketball player’s face to look at, it would easily be Justin Jackson — that dude looks cool! Jackson often mugs the UC student section after swatting shots out of bounds and smiles real big when the other dudes do cool stuff on the basketball court, and he can also can look very mean after jamming on someone. Jackson and fellow sophomore Sean Kilpatrick are going to make the next two years of UC hoops really fun to watch.
gobearcats.com.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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