The Biggest “What Ifs” In Cincinnati Sports History
By: Tyler Dugan
Last week, there was an article done by the 10 and 3, and they ranked the most miserable sports cities in North America. Cincinnati tradition held true and we came up just short. They ranked us the 2nd most miserable sports city on this continent behind Winnipeg. That’s right folks, so what were some of the events that could’ve made these last 30 years a little less miserable? I’m here to give you the biggest what ifs in this cities recent history. I’ll talk about the obvious ones, then dig a little deeper into some forgotten ones.
We will start with probably the most obvious and the one that is brought up probably weekly:
What if Kenyon doesn’t break his leg?
Something that is hard to even fathom. In a blowout early round conference tournament game Kenyon goes to set the screen and his leg gives out. One week before March, the best player on the best team in the country breaks his leg. To make the pain worse, UC slipped to a 2 seed in the tournament, where they lost to Tulsa in the second round. It’s hard not to imagine that UC team not getting to the final four. K Mart was by far the best player in the country, Dermarr Johnson was a lottery pick, Steve Logan…the list goes down the line.
What if Texas loses to Nebraska?
How does this relate? Lemme take you back to 2009. The Cincinnati Bearcats just topped off a thrilling comeback in the house of doom against Dion Lewis and the Pittsburgh Panthers. Remember that? Pike to Binns? Good memories.
That game moved UC to #3 in the country. That night #2 Texas played against Nebraska for the Big 12 championship. With a minute and 44 seconds left, Nebraska pulled a one point lead. Then all hell breaks loose. Nebraska kicks the kickoff out of bounds giving Colt McCoy good field position. He marches into field goal range, and with 7 seconds left Texas ran one more play to make it a gimme. Colt got rushed out of the pocket, and threw it away. Time appeared to run off. Nebraska rushed the field. The refs then added one second. Then Texas wheeled the field goal unit out, and they sunk it by a about half a centimeter.
That solidified Texas in the National Title against Alabama (the start of the Saban dynasty). It is fascinating to think about all the implications that follow. It was almost set in stone that UC was going to go to the title game if Texas lost. Does Brian Kelly stay to coach it? How does UC football look now? Does the Big East attempt to stay together knowing they can get into the title? If the big east doesn’t, does UC get in a better conference?
The ’05 draft class
“With the 17th pick in the 2005 NFL draft the Cincinnati Bengals select… David Pollack. With the 48th pick the Bengals select, Odell Thurmann. With the 83rd pick the Bengals select Chris Henry.” Remember those guys? The young core. Two dominant defensive players, and a flat out dynamic offensive threat that rounded at that great ’05 Bengals team. They were built for the future. Then it all came crashing, one broke his neck, one is in jail, and one died. It truly is sad. Pollack and Thurman could’ve head hunted a defense for years, and Slim was Deandre Hopkins-esque. Just a freak. It’s a true tragedy that as he began to turn his life around, he died. Hard to believe how that turned out. Do the Bengals keep a solid core? How different are those teams in 2011 and 2012?
What if Uber was around in 2005?
Uber could’ve helped the great Bobby Huggins. Now, Huggs was pretty much on the way out because Nancy Zimpher hated his guts. The story is that Huggs was going to finish out his two year contract and kindly be asked to not come back (similar to what the Bengals should’ve done with Marv), but the DUI pushed him over the edge. Nancy told Huggs he could resign or be canned. This all happened right before the ’05 season (UC’s first season in the Big East), and that’s it. Zimpher let Huggins go with zero succession plan. Zero future. She threw Andy Kennedy into the position a couple months before the season. He was a 1 year gap. No one recruited. No one cared. No one considered this program’s future. The keys were handed over to Mick, and we stand here today. Is Huggs still here today? Do Beasley, OJ and Walker come to UC? Does Devin Downey stay at UC? How different would the ’06-’10 years have looked?
What if the Reds never traded Josh Hamilton?
Josh Hamilton was a wild card story. He was a top pick in the draft, he was highly talented, and many thought he was the best young prospect in the game. That all went to hell when he became addicted to heroin and alcohol. He left the game, and after EIGHT stints in rehab he recovered. He figured it out. And at 26 years old he made his MLB debut with Reds. He played 90 games hitting 19 homeruns, hitting about .290. He looked extremely promising. The Reds decided to ship him to Texas for Edinson Volquez. Volquez was good. He was young and promising, and he even made an All-star game. That was no where close to what Josh Hamilton ended up doing. The year after the Reds traded him, Hamilton hit .300 with 30+ bombs and 130 RBI’s.
He won the MVP in 2010 (same as Joey Votto) and piled on huge years after that. Imagine the young core. Votto, Bruce, Phillips, and Josh Hamilton. Then in 2012 add that with Cueto, Leake, Chapman, Latos. Its hard to not imagine a World series run with group. Josh Hamilton was arguably the best player in baseball from 2009-2012. The same years the Reds peaked.
Kimo Von Oelhoffen
A name that makes every person in Cincinnati cringe. It’s almost impossible to not drop an f bomb somewhere in the middle of his name. It can only be explained as dirty. Kimo rolled into Carson’s leg on like the 3rd play of the ’05 Wild Card game against the Steelers. In came Crazy Legs Kitna, and there went the season. The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl. The Bengals spiraled into misery, but that team was the best team in Bengals history, they were a shoo-in for the AFC title game. It makes me sick, damn.
Hill doesn’t fumble: I didn’t include this is the main piece just because it was an in-game play. It was a football play that went bad. Not an injury, just a fumble. Also, I don’t think the Bengals were going to go to New England the next week and beat them in Brady’s palace. So it definitely sucks, mostly because it was against the Steelers, and because it would’ve been the first playoff win since ‘Nam, but it wasn’t franchise changing to me. I still hate Jeremy Hill though don’t you worry. This game remains the worst collapse in sports history.
Kemba Walker Commits to UC: This is pretty unknown, but there was a real shot that Kemba was going to come to UC. UCONN was always the number 1 choice, but took forever to offer him.
UC was at one point pretty high on his list, some thought number 1, but UCONN came in late and swooped him up. Recruiting what ifs are always a stretch but this was real, and many people thought he had a shot at coming to Cincy.
Akili Smith: There was no what ifs about the player, he just stunk. This is about the fact that Mike Brown once turned down like 2 million picks to keep the Bengals position so they could take Akili. Obviously Akili turned out to be pathetic, but what if Mike Brown just took the trade? We have to get some good players outta that deal, right?
I’m sure I am missing an absolute ton. I’d love to hear more. Also, I know there are no Xavier ones in here, I don’t know Xavier basketball history, and I don’t like them, so that is why they aren’t in here.