Sunday, February 20, 2011

Game Journal Prelude: Redskins at Bengals, 12/14/2008

Several years ago a good friend living in Charlottesville Virginia, home to our alma mater the University of Virginia, pulled up stakes and moved to Cincinnati Ohio to follow an opportunity... to stay married. We had been kicking around the idea of my coming out there for a football or baseball game for some time, and when the NFC Beast came round to play the AFC North in the 2008 season and the Redskins versus Bengals game was scheduled in Cincinnati, Lee challenged me to come out. I squared everything away and bought a ticket, coming out a day early.

Lee had big plans for our two day adventure, this is my journal entry for day one, a sunny bourbon soaked December day in Cincinnati.


Lee met me at the airport, everything I had was in a carry on, I hate checking luggage when I travel solo, he had two fine bottles of Willett bourbon with which to greet me, both of exceptional character, neither of which can be bought legally in Virginia and both of which would be outside my price range. We toasted our adventure and headed back into Cincinnati.

The plan for that day originally had been for Lee and me and his many brothers in law, all of whom were local, to meet up at a local bar, knock a few back and then head into downtown Cincinnati to do some Christmas shopping for the womens in our lives. As it turned out, this plan did not materialize so Lee and I headed out to one of his favored drinking establishments to get things started.

Willie's Sports Cafe in Covington Kentucky, as it turns out, Lee and his brood actually live in the Kentucky section of Cincinnati.

From the moment I entered I knew it was pure gold for the blog.

Our lovely hostess, I cannot remember her name, she seemed somewhat intrigued by the idea that she and the decor were photodocument worthy. Note the early presence of Bengals flair.

The obligatory Bud Light team themed banner hanging everywhere.

Need to cut his whiskey with something a little less potent, Lee orders a Guinness, I loved these pint glasses and thought very seriously about stealing and/or buying and/or stealing one.

At this point Lee had to take a work call, so I grabbed my camera and left the bar area to check out the rest of the place.

Up on the stage, looks like nights when there is not a Nickelback cover band or open mic nite they set this thing up and toss footballs through it. The more time I spend with midwesterners the more I realize every social activity is derived from Cornhole.

Leaving the bar and stage area and passing into the dining room, there were many jerseys and other items of memorabilia on the wall. From left to right in this picture we see former Bengals punter Lee Johnson's number eleven jersey, Lee punted in the NFL until he was forty years old, eleven of those seasons in Cincinnati from 1988 to 1998, the best years of his career, Lee is best known for expressing frustrations with Bengals management during the 1998 season, ten years after he and Cincinnati went to Super Bowl 23 where he just happened to boot the longest punt in NFL history, saying that if he were a Bengals fan he would sell his season tickets. He was cut the next day. Little has changed here in ten years.

Next is Tim Krumrie's number 69 jersey, Tim played nose tackle for the Bengals for twelve seasons from 1983 to 1994, also helping them get to Super Bowl 23. He is beloved in Cincinnati as a former player and is best known outside Cincinnati for breaking his left leg in three places below the knee in that Super Bowl, he initially refused to leave the game, wanting to stay in the locker room and watch it on TV, only agreeing to leave when the medical staff told him he could be slipping into shock. The put a fifteen inch steel rod into that leg, he was back for next training camp and played another six seasons with a metal rod in him, leading the Bengals defense in tackles as late as 1992. That guy is a football player.

Continuing the theme for this section of the wall, the last two jerseys are tailback James Brooks' number 21, James played for the Bengals from 1984 to 1991, making the Pro Bowl four times in that eight year period, he also played in Super Bowl 23, he is still at or near the top in several Bengals franchise statistical categories.

Here we see Elbert L. aka Ickey Woods' number thirty Bengals jersey, Ickey played tailback in Cincinnati for four seasons from 1988 to 1991 and was the Bengals leading rusher in Super Bowl 23. Two games into the 1989 season Ickey tore his left anterior cruciate ligament, it cost him more than a year of rehabilitation and by the time he came back the team had moved on to Harold Green in 1990. He hurt his right knee in 1991 preseason and was not a factor again for the team. Ickey is a seminal figure in NFL history, his Ickey Ickey Shuffle touchdown dance was a national story, coming as it did in the first officiating crackdown on celebrations, if Ickey did not coin the term then he was at minimum the first person I ever heard refer to the NFL as the No Fun League. The elevation of the Ickey Ickey Shuffle to a pop culture story exposed football to many young people that otherwise would not have been interested.

Moving on, here we see a Jim Brown number 32 Cleveland Browns jersey, Jim Brown of course is that Jim Brown, on of the greatest players ever to strap it on for the NFL.

But wait, why would a jersey honoring a Bengals Division rival's greatest player ever adorn the walls of a bar in Cincinnati?

Because of Paul Brown. Paul Brown famously coached the Cleveland Browns, which had been named after Paul Brown, for their first seventeen seasons until 1962, in that time Cleveland won seven league championships, four in the old All-America Football Conference and three in the NFL after the two leagues merged. Six years after Paul was dismissed by new Browns owner Art Modell in 1962, Paul reentered the NFL in 1968 as owner and coach of the brand new Cincinnati Bengals. Paul would coach in Cincinnati for eight seasons until 1975, Paul died in 1991 at age 82.

So what is the connection to Jim Brown? Jim's career was fully encapsulated by Paul's tenure as coach in Cleveland, Jim and Paul are inextricably linked by football history. You cannot talk about the Bengals without talking about the Browns and you cannot talk about the Browns without talking about Jim Brown.

This one I needed some help to figure out, this is Roger Staubach's Purcell Catholic High School number twelve football jersey, that same Roger Staubach that played for the US Naval Academy then the Dallas Cowboys for eleven seasons. Roger was born and raised in Cincinnati and still honors his upbringing by campaigning for Republicans. Roger's name does not come back up in this story.

Continuing around from the bar to the dining room, I came upon a nook with glass display shelves, the Willie's Sports Cafe Trophy Room

In this video we see a number of interesting bits of Cincinnati sports history and memorabilia:

A helmet from the Cincinnati Marshals of the defunct National Indoor Football League, not of the also defunct Arena Football League as a helpful off camera guest indicates;

A football with the logo of the Cincinnati Jungle Kats of the also defunct Arena Football League 2 aka af2, this team played one season in 2007 and was majority owned by former Seahawks, Ravens, Raiders, Bills, Bengals and Broncos defensive tackle Sam Adams and former Mariners, Reds and White Sox right fielder Ken Griffey Junior;

University of Louisville and University of Kentucky themed basketballs;

An ornate arrangement of Hudepohl beer cans honoring a legacy of Cincinnati's heritage of German brewers, Hudepohl Brewing Company was in continuous operation from 1885 through 1987 catering to regional tastes in beer, ownership of the facilities, labels and recipes bounced around for years until recently when a group of local investors banded together to purchase the intellectual property and bring it back. For those that have heard the cry WhoDey from Cincinnati heads, including the famed WhoDey Revolution blog, this term is derived from the nickname given to the Hudepohl beers, Hudys. Although the Hudepohl brewery is long closed, artifacts remain in the Cincinnati skyline, from the parking lot of Willie's Sports Cafe you can look north across the river and see smokestacks at the old brewery site clearly emblazoned with the Hudepohl name, Google Street View also captures them from Gest Street, the location of the defunct brewery here.

Most interesting: Among the tons of Cincinnati Reds baseball schwag, not a single Pete Rose action figure, bobble head, news clipping or photograph. I thought Cincinnati was the last redoubt of pure adoration for Charley Hustle?

Back in the bar, Lee was off his work call, we had another pull and decided to head out, I grabbed a shot of the Bengals schedule card hanging over the hostess station. There we are at bottom right, Washington.

Now meet my friend Lee, framed by the aging infrastructure of the Cincinnati and the city behind. This photo is looking northeast.

We left Willie's, Lee executed a cute move with his all wheel drive Subaru and we headed about Covington Kentucky on a leisurely ride toward Cincinnati. Being that I am a novice to the area and quite excited once again to be able to engage my friend Lee in witty repartee, I ran video as we discussed our surroundings, with a great background of blues music on the radio.

Of note in this video:

Covington has drive thru liquor stores;

Even Covington's Kentucky neighbor Newport, home to the Newport Aquarium we would visit as a family on a Kentucky road trip in summer 2009, looks down on Covington;

There are horse drawn carriages on the streets of Covington;

The Roebling Bridge spans the Ohio River between Covington Kentucky and Cincinnati Ohio, this bridge was designed by the most famous American bridge maker in history, John A. Roebling, construction began on this span in 1856, it is truly a beautiful architectural specimen, John Roebling is perhaps most famous for designing the Brooklyn Bridge though he died before principal construction had begun, demonstrating once again that New Yorkers cannot let anyone famous get near their city without claiming all their works were inspired by and owing to the greater glory of New York. Seriously, the dude was not paying attention one day, got run over by a ferry boat and died 24 days of infection before brick one was laid but still 150 years later New York is all YEAH HE DESIGNED THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE SO WHAT IF HE MADE YOUR STUPID BRIDGE FIFTEEN YEARS EARLIER HE WAS THINKING ABOUT OUR BRIDGE WHEN HE DID IT.

Paul Brown Stadium is awesome. For want of offers or otherwise, the Brown family has refused to sell naming rights to this stadium.

Bengals ticket prices were plummeting at the time of this game, when the Bengals happened to be 1-11-1.

I asked Lee about the lack of Pete Rose memorabilia at Willie's, Lee assured me that the Reds in general are more beloved than the Bengals, but that the hit ticket in town at this time was the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, who were heading to their first ever BCS Bowl. Note that Lee dodged the question of Pete Rose's relevance.

After we got out of the traffic jam caused by the latest festival, parade or whatever relentlessly family friendly bullshit was happening downtown, we decided to do a little shopping, so we went to the mall at Carew Tower, located right in the heart of downtown Cincinnati.

I was dying DYING to see what there was to love about Cincinnati...

Ok so this, a t-shirt from the fictional radio station from the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati which ran from 1978 to 1982, I remember watching it in prime time as a kid, then became a giant of syndication before being briefly and regrettably revived as The New WKRP in Cinncinati from 1991 to 1993. In the fullness of hindsight the best part of WKRP was its Mad Magazine satire in issue 218, October 1980, it was called WKRAP in Cincinnati:

Image from here via here.

Moving on...

Cornhole reference number two. The shirt says, Cornhole: Not nearly as gay as it sounds. Nice.

Continuing we get over to the Bengals section, here is a Carson Palmer doll that gives hugs...

... and the obligatory Reserved Parking Bengals Fans Only sign.

Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati are locked in an eternal deathstruggle for the hearts and minds of Cincinnati college basketball lovers, that is not the reason I took this photo, I took this photo because the Xavier University Musketeers logo is a blatant ripoff of the University of Virginia Cavaliers logo:

Images from here and here.

We decided to head to the Macy's across the street perhaps actually to do some shopping since all we were really doing was wandering the Carew Tower mall and snickering. As we passed the food court I caught on camera what appears to be the mall Santas' mandatory union break.

Four Santas conspiring to corner the market for Webkinz.

Continuing on through the tunnel to Macy's, we passed through that portal, Lee brought me up where I could get a good look at the diorama pictured, Lee assured me there was some historical significance to the model and or the display window, in retrospect I think he may have been bullshitting me.

We made our way into Macy's, which like everything else in Cincinnati according to Lee, has a story. Macy's corporate headquarters, or at least one of them, is located in Cincinnati, making the Cincinnati store a flagship. Federated Department Stores, owner of Bloomingdale's and a number of other regional stored and chains, merged with Macy's Inc. in 1994, and the resulting company set up shop, called Macy's Inc., set up shop in the old Federated offices in Cincinnati.

There was quite a line of kids waiting to sit in Santa's lap at the Macy's, I could not resist taking a picture of the guy in the bib overalls and Bengals cap talking to Santa. About sums up Cincinnati so far.

Despite the desperate economic situation nationwide there was plenty of commerce happening at the Cincinnati Macy's. I bought the wife a sweater.

From the Macy's we went back to Carew Tower and stopped for a drink at a bar called the Palm Court, a very sophisticated looking place with high ceilings and wood panels and chandeliers all in Cincinnati's old style art deco, I did not get the camera out for so I grabbed this one off Flickr so you can see it:

Photo from here. Top notch professional bartender service and a great selection of bourbon, the only disappointing thing about it was the overwhelming presence of the fanny pack and white sneakers crowd, people sitting at the bar tables to relax and drink water and not tip and kids complaining about no mac and cheese on the menu and parents asking if there was a Chili's nearby.

From the Palm Court we left on a leisurely ride back to Lee's house, or as they call it in Union Kentucky, the prop'ty. We saw some more of the sights of downtown Cincinnati...

Cannot recall why I took this picture of the partially obscured PNC Bank bulding, maybe Lee used to work in that building? Maybe I was just trying to get a sense for how old all the big buildings appear to be in Cincinnati.

Coming out of the parking garage, that is the Macy's on left and Carew Tower on right, downtown Cincinnati kids.

This is an open air ice rink right downtown, it is sponsored by US Bank and is free to the public, there is no charge for ice time. Lee tells me that it is so popular and so crowded that no one can ever get on the ice so no one goes there anymore.

A shot of the Proctor & Gamble worldwide headquarters, P&G has been around and in Cincinnati since 1837 and makes and sells consumer products like CoverGirl cosmetics and Crest toothpaste. A couple of grad school mates of mine went into the P&G grinder about a decade ago and we never heard from the again. Making margin on commodity items is a bitch.

I think this was shot just to give some idea of the weekend weather, overcast and bright, cold but not at all gloomy.

Another picture of the sky, the weather for the game was predicted to be very nice all things considered.

We had one more stop to make before heading out to the prop'ty, and that was for bourbon. Lee is the original bourbon drinker in my life, taking two cubes and two fingers while I was still proudly belching Budweiser and calling it good, since his move to Kentucky, the cradle of bourbon, he had developed quite a palate for the stuff and the place with the widest selection in the area is... The Party Source.

I shit you not, there is more bourbon in this place than in any one place in Virginia, the locked cabinet of one hundred dollar plus bourbons alone is larger than the entire bourbon section of my local ABC Store. Look at the smug motherfucker, that is the look that says yeah that's right, shit tons of bourbon right here, welcome to my neighborhood.

So we bought a bunch of whiskey and headed back to Lee's prop'ty in Union. Once we got there I reacquainted with Lee's family, we ate a great home cooked meal, afterwards Lee took me on a tour of the prop'ty, out in the barn, yes he has a real live barn, he showed me his homemade Obama '08 HOPE sign.

This puppy was out in the yard for the whole campaign, Lee tells me there was not a lot of Obama action happening in Union.

Last picture of the night, one of Lee's old Farmall tractors, he actually fixes these things up and tools around the prop'ty on them.

We finished the tour of the property, headed back in, we had another couple of whiskeys, Lee then wen off to bed, I fired up the laptop and finished the preview for tomorrow's game, then sat on the deck for a while and took in the quiet of Union Kentucky, very different than life in the nation's capital.

Not pictured: The rest of the property tour, including the chicken coop, the garden and the bonfire, then bunking down in the guest room slash craft workshop where there were enough glass tubes, beads and rods that I was looking for the furnace.

Tomorrow: The game.

All photos and video by me unless otherwise credited.


Lee Walke


That's a Ford (54 NAA) Not a Farmall. But, the rest of it is OK.

Super Bowl 2012


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