Major sports championships are a funny thing. They seemingly avoid your state while another state's major sports team always seems to win title games. Since 2002, the state of Massachusetts has won more major sports championships then any other state in the union with the Boston Red Sox's winning two World Series' (2004, 2007), the New England Patriots taking three Super Bowls (2002, 2004, and 2005) and the Boston Celtics winning one NBA Title (2008).
For this article, I define major sports to include college football and basketball, pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Sorry soccer fans, but it is not a major sport.
Over this same time period, Ohio accumulated just one major sports championship but contended for four others, ultimately losing them all. The Ohio State Buckeyes football team won the BCS Championship in 2002 and contended for two others (2007, 2008) losing both. The Buckeyes basketball team played for a championship in 2007 after making the Final Four, ultimately losing to Florida in the championship game. Later that year, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Had each team won their championship opportunities, the five trophies would not have equaled the six Massachusetts gathered. But unlike Massachusetts at any time, Ohio has three top sports teams either in contention or expected to contend for championships in the same year. The Cincinnati Reds, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cincinnati Bengals are looking to collect precious ware this year.
Now I am sure most of you are probably thinking that I should put down the crack pipe and back away slowly. Hear me out. For those of you who are Bengals fans but not a Reds or Buckeyes fan, skip over the next two paragraphs as you will not believe anything I say until I talk about the Bengals.
The Cincinnati Reds are achieving heights not seen in years. The last time the Reds were in contention was 1999 when they lost to the New York Mets in a one-game playoff. Since then, they have had only one winning season and that was the following year. Despite recently being called "frauds" by ESPN Radio talking head Colin Cowherd, the Reds have wrestled first place from the favored St. Louis Cardinals. Looking quickly at the schedule reveals two teams, Colorado and San Diego, of the seven remaining teams are playing .500 or better. With Aroldis Chapman being called up from Louisville fortifying an already strong pitching corps and an offense led by Triple Crown threat Joey Votto, an appearance in the World Series, first since the 1990 sweep of the Oakland A's, can be anticipated with a possible upset over the Tampa Bay Rays (that's right, the Rays, not the hated Yankees).
The Ohio State Buckeyes come into this season carrying lofty expectations to play in the BCS Championship game. Of the 22 starters for this season, 19 are returning from last year's Rose Bowl team including QB Terrell Pryor, RB Brandon Saine and WR Dane Sanzenbacher on offense with LB Ross Homan, DT Cameron Heyward and DB Chimdi Chekwa on defense. Most sooth-sayers and prognosticators have the Buckeyes winning their seventh consecutive Big Ten title followed by their fourth appearance in the BCS National Championship game. Only one sooth-sayer, Brian Griese (Wolverine) thinks they will lose three games. Just as he didn't know how to play quarterback as well as his dad (Bob Griese), he doesn't know how to prognosticate. The schedule is not easy as they play 13th ranked Miami Hurricanes on 11 September, who will be looking to avenge the 2002 BCS Championship game. Road games to Madison on 16 October against the always tough Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa City on 20 November to play a much improved Iowa Hawkeyes team will be difficult tests. As Griese predicts these games as losses, I perceive convincing wins completing an undefeated season with a BCS title win against Boise State. Sorry, Tide fans. "Bama" will lose two games and not be considered championship worthy.
This year's Cincinnati Bengals team is built to make a run at the Super Bowl with a high powered offense and stout defense. Adding Terrell Owens may have been the final piece to get the offense back to their 2005 form when they finished sixth in total offense and fifth in passing. Cedric Benson helped reestablish the running game last season becoming the featured back. The defense is coming off a season where they finished fourth in total defense with nearly everyone returning. So far this preseason, the team as a whole has fared well, but I know preseason doesn't always translate into a prosperous regular season. However, you can't help but get a little giddy thinking about the prospects. It's a long season and they will be tested. The Bengals will have to prove that they can beat teams they should, then beat teams they shouldn't, to be considered championship material. Many people think that the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto need to align correctly in order for the Bengals to win a Super Bowl. I don't think so, as this year's version looks to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Cincinnati. After winning their second consecutive division title, the Bengals can look to make the franchises third Super Bowl appearance bringing home the coveted hardware.
Sports championships are tough to win. Very few states have ever had multiple champions in one season due to that difficulty. Ohio's major sports teams rarely carry a favorable reputation of winning championships as many have made it to the pinnacle, failing to grab the gold. That reputation may change this year as three major sports teams could bring home the coveted prize in one year. I know I made some very bold predictions, as it is a long haul that includes a number of pitfalls. But if Lady Luck befalls the Reds, Buckeyes and our beloved Bengals, Ohio can accomplish something that Massachusetts couldn't.