It's a measure of how little sympathy plays in professional football that we want to think of the Arizona Cardinals as some new franchise. We don't think of the Cardinals in terms of their deep history — we just think of them in terms of losing. And we still do. Once the Cardinals punched their ticket to the Super Bowl with a 32-25 win against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, who among us said, "Well, the Cardinals must be pretty good?"
So it's two AFC North teams, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, playing for the AFC championship. One doesn't know if Bengals fans should be heartened or discouraged: Of the Bengals' 11 losses, four came against those two teams. If you're going to finish third in a division, it might as well be the division in which the top two teams are the only two left in the conference.
Football for Cincinnati fans made a rare intrusion on January, which turned out not to be such a glorious moment. But well take it and hope for more next year, understanding that the interim poses numerous challenging scenarios.
At the end of a charmed season, University of Cincinnati football officials are in the game they expected, a Jan. 1 meeting in the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech, which automatically goes to Florida as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champion.
In more than one interview, Pete Rose noted that he doesnt understand why anyone whos in the baseball Hall of Fame isnt a first-ballot Hall of Famer. After all, he said, its not as if the player became better in his second, fifth or 10th year of eligibility.
Less than a month old, the college basketball season is so new that it doesn’t begin to add up. Among the names to be found on top of the RPI listings are Butler, Evansville, Clemson and Northwestern. But one highly placed name that doesn’t read like a sampling error is Xavier, which is ranked fifth or sixth in various RPI ratings, 10th by the media and ninth by the coaches.
Nobody has ever accused the University of Cincinnati of overemphasizing football ... probably not even in 1885, when UC became the fifth American university to start a football team. For more than 120 years, locals wondered why the university should even bother with it. But in a flash of two years, UC's football reputation has changed. Today, with the Bengals at their worst, UC football is the star of the Cincinnati athletic scene. They're winners in a town starved for winners.
You've probably heard that a playoff system would solve all of big-time college football's problems, giving us a true measure of the top football teams, which will inevitably produce the best possible championship game. But you don't hear that kind of dreaming down in the college football shadow world, what used to be called 1-AA, where they really do playoffs and understand what it means.
Following the University of Cincinnati football team used to be one of life’s simple pleasures, a private and personal window on sports through which the wins and losses didn’t matter as much as the laughs, groans and occasional sense that these kids might be getting somewhere.