Marcus Musings: Ohio State-Michigan, St. John Arena, Bengals blow it again, Reds optimism and more
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 25: The Cincinnati Bengals mascot reacts as Cincinnati looses to the Cleveland Browns 35-20 at Paul Brown Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Last year’s Ohio State-Michigan game was the epitome of a one-game season, and it figures to be again this time but in a much different way. That and more in this opinion dump to help you pass the time until Thanksgiving!
This time around The Game stands alone because it has no impact on the Big Ten standings, but it still feels like the center of the college football universe this week. A loss might not prevent Ohio State from making the College Football Playoff, so pride really is the biggest thing on the line Saturday in Ann Arbor. But it doesn't feel much different, does it? There's still a major buzz, perhaps because pressure seems to be mounting in Michigan even though the Wolverines have nothing to lose. At some point you really start to wonder if Michigan will ever win again since everything was pointing in UM's direction last season and Jim Harbaugh's team didn't get it done, a feeling Ohio State fans over 30 know all too well. And that's why the hype has a hard time dying south of the border, too. FLASHBACK: Ohio State's blowout of Michigan resets Buckeyes' goals (again)
Rarely has an Ohio State-Michigan game better lived up to its billing as a one-game season than the 2018 edition https://t.co/Zbe4x0d5zl
Speaking of Ohio State: The Buckeyes men's basketball team beat Kent State on Monday night at St. John Arena, and the I am feeling less lonely in my position that should be their permanent home again. I have seen just about every type of event from almost every part of Value City Arena, and I can say the only things it is good for are the state wrestling tournament and Disney On Ice. Some day that should be all it is used for, too*, and I'm starting to believe that might come to pass eventually. Maybe I'm naively fooling myself, but they've maintained two buildings with different purposes for so long, why not continue doing so if a majority of people see the positives in St. John Arena? *And concerts, though the acoustics that ruin the basketball atmosphere are also a drag on those unless you sit on the floor. Nationwide Arena is a much better option and also preferable from a location standpoint because there is actually stuff to do around it.
COMMENTARY - While St. John Arena isn't nearly as nice or up-to-date as its younger brother down the street, Monday night was a reminder of what used to be in the historic barn as a basketball venue before big $$$ dictated the landscape. #Buckeyeshttps://t.co/qxoZuI2fV1pic.twitter.com/VDePZEhqMI
The Schott was the home arena when I was a student, so my affection for SJA is not a matter of wanting to relive my younger days. The Schott is just a bad building, and St. John provides a much better experience. Even with a few hundred people there for a volleyball game it is loud, not to mention the din from a few thousand for an NCAA women's basketball tournament game that would have been much more sterile across the river. RELATED: Ohio State's reason for staying at VCA is sadly hilarious
Perhaps playing games at SJA annually will convince enough people of this they will eventually invest the money necessary to update it. Redoing the locker rooms and concessions and whatever other maintenance will bring a huge price tag, no doubt, but they've spent millions in additions to VCA and so would putting up yet another building (they need another ice rink and an indoor track before they can tear down St. John). Think how much easier it would be to raise money for refurbishing St. John compared to, like, anything else they've done in the last 20 years?
Of course, Value City Arena is not going anywhere, and Ohio State can keep using it for all that ancillary stuff it was built for, but why make the basketball teams (not to mention men's hockey) continue to suffer for a mistake Andy Geiger made before any of these players and plenty of fans were even born?
Watching Oregon's season be ruined by Arizona State (with Marvin Lewis helping out the Sun Devils, coincidentally enough) I was struck by this: If the Bengals drafted another Oregon QB after hiring another Dave Shula that would really be something.
Speaking of the Bengals, I figured out their 2019 slogan: "Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day."
Going back to Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback is absolute lunacy. There is no way to put a positive spin on this (although The Athletic inexplicably tried). Either the coach is clueless or he's powerless and acting on the whims of upper management that has bungled move after move over the last four years in allowing one of the best rosters in the league to deteriorate then bringing in an F- coaching staff to drag it down even further. Neither of those options are very encouraging, are they?
Dalton has been a bellow average quarterback since 2016 and a bottom-third one for the past two. He was part of the reason they started 0-8 as he played badly in close losses to Buffalo and Baltimore (the first time) before almost single-handedly losing the Jacksonville game with three fourth quarter interceptions. As I wrote a month ago when they foolishly chose to stay with Dalton, the decision either meant the team has no plan or Ryan Finley is so bad he can't even run the plays. Maybe it is both, but Taylor himself admitted three games is not enough to go by, and that was after he and his offensive coordinator both said it wasn't fair to blame the veteran Dalton for the team's 0-8 start even though he stunk in four games of the eight games (and was admittedly very good in two).
Was Finley the difference between winning and losing the last two weeks? Maybe. But losing with Dalton is worse than losing with a rookie unless they've decided there is literally no chance Finley can play in the NFL, which considering they have already lost to four rookie and/or backup quarterbacks this season is pretty damning of the staff's ability to prepare a guy they traded up to draft to be at least competent.
Hey, but maybe happier days are just around the corner for the Reds? Via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "At the annual general manager meetings held this week, executives from two different division rivals mentioned manager David Bell's Reds as the rearview-mirror contender everyone should see coming for 2020. They're closer than the standings appear." Obviously there are still a lot of question marks for a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2013, but at least it's nice to think they are not only answerable but that the team is actually very interested in finding those answers. READ MORE: Robust rotation, cutting-edge pitching approach has Reds rising as Central threat
Among the many differences between the Reds and Bengals is one always feels like a sleeping giant and the other always feels like a disaster is waiting around the next corner. Even when things are bad for the Reds, there are real glory days to think about (despite how long ago they were) so they feel more tangible. What's good could be again like as soon as tomorrow, right? Even when things are good for the Bengals, isn't there always a feeling they are about to go off a cliff?
Alas, MLB appears determined to destroy itself from the bottom with a plan to eliminate a big chunk of the minor leagues, where it develops future players and lifetime fans across the country in a way other sports would love to be able to replicate. This plan apparently endorsed by commissioner Rob Manfred is another example of it being literally unbelievable how bad the leadership of every major sports league is. If you have any concept or what drives the popularity of baseball now you should understand shrinking the minor leagues is exactly the opposite of what MLB should be doing. Grass roots is where it's at these days in sports. Money is in TV, sustainable fan support is local. The people in charge of everything do nothing to acknowledge or sustain this, and some day that rooster is going to come home to roost. READ MORE from the New York Daily News: Rob Manfred's plan to destroy minor league baseball
One last thing: The guy the Steelers benched Sunday has a better QB rating than the guy the Bengals reinstated as their starter Monday. Just thought you should know.
“Marcus Musings” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter or Facebook.
About the Author
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox's Ohio newspapers the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News since 2016.