Best Of 2018

2. Carson Williams

3. Jalen Billups

Sports & Recreation
Illustration: David Wilson


2. Coach Mick Cronin

3. Kyle Washington

2. Andy Dalton

3. AJ McCarron

The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum is a shrine to all things Reds and the sport’s most immersive museum outside the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Its 10 full-time galleries include “Glory Days,” a tribute to championship teams like the Big Red Machine; “The Reds Are on the Radio,” where fans can compare their own calls to those of legendary broadcasters in a recreated radio booth; and changing exhibits like the super popular Bobbleheads (which closed in February 2017), featuring more than 800 ball-park-giveaway bobblehead figurines from the 1960s to today. Among other plaques and statues surrounding the museum (which is adjacent to Great American Ball Park) stands a dynamic recreation of Pete Rose doing his famous head-first slide. Rose is both a hometown hero and villain — honor and/or disgrace his likeness while taking a picture with the bronzed Charlie Hustle then learn more about his likeness in the exhibit Red to Bronze: The Story of Reds Statues. Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, 100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Downtown, reds.com.

Though he played just 376 defensive snaps as a true freshman in 2017, University of Cincinnati linebacker Jarell White still made a worthwhile impact as part of the Bearcats’ defense and flashed star-level potential. Dubbed a four-star recruit by Rivals and a three-star by 247Sports, ESPN and Scout coming out of Cincinnati’s LaSalle High School, White turned down offers from a number of Power 5 programs (i.e. Boston College, Iowa, Purdue, Pittsburgh) to represent his hometown as a Bearcat. In his collegiate debut, White recorded 46 combined tackles (29 solo) and 2.5 tackles for loss, revealing just a spark of his bright future with Cincinnati. White will surely receive an increased workload in 2018 because of Jaylyin Minor’s graduation, allowing him to join forces with budding star linebacker Perry Young and continue to pad out his résumé. University of Cincinnati, gobearcats.com.

A former rodeo athlete turned linebacker, the University of Cincinnati’s Jaylyin Minor took the road less traveled before becoming one of the most productive linebackers in the school’s history. With no offers coming out of high school as a two-sport athlete (football and rodeo), the Texas native opted to continue his football career in his home state at Tyler Junior College. After just eight games with the Apaches, Minor was considered a two-star recruit as part of the 2014 class and accepted an offer from UC over a handful of Power 5 programs. After taking on a backup role for his first two seasons with Cincinnati, Minor exploded as a senior in 2017, as he led the AAC and ranked ninth nationally in total tackles (125). He also accrued 4.5 tackles for loss. Now moving on from Nippert Stadium to test his talents in the NFL, Minor is training in Atlanta to prepare for Cincinnati’s Pro Day and take his story to the next level in the big leagues. University of Cincinnati, gobearcats.com.

Want a beer? How about a bike? Maybe a canoe? Find all three — and a chef-driven seasonal food menu — at Fifty West. The brewery has expanded its empire to include the great outdoors and taken over a mile-long stretch of Wooster Pike with its Production Works facility — home of a canoe and kayak rental business and sand volleyball courts — and Fifty West Cycling Company, offering bike rentals, fittings, lessons and planned group rides. Volleyball leagues and boat rentals start in spring but Fifty West Cycling, located just off the Little Miami Scenic trail, is open year-round. Social group rides take place Tuesday nights, and every Thursday “beer lovers with a running problem” can run with Fifty West. They’ve also recently started offering a Sunday morning yoga series for beginners. Drink, eat and then burn those calories right off. Fifty West Brewing Company, 7668 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, fiftywestbrew.com.

While some are quick to chalk up the Bengals’ seven-win season in 2017 solely as a disappointment, the team’s rookie class flashed enough in Year 1 to give reason for fans to look toward a much brighter future. Of course, first-round wide receiver John Ross, who played just 17 offensive snaps this past season, remains a question mark within the class, but his performance — or lack thereof — is an anomaly compared to fellow rookies Joe Mixon, Jordan Willis and, most importantly, Carl Lawson. A fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, Lawson exceeded expectations during his first year in the NFL, finishing his rookie campaign tied for 25th in the NFL with 8.5 sacks. Bengals, bengals.com.

A graduate of Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller High School, Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard officially declared for the 2018 NFL Draft following his junior campaign with the Buckeyes, essentially punching his ticket to the big leagues. Projected as a first-round pick in some of the early circulating mock drafts, Hubbard shined bright along an Ohio State defensive line riddled with stars like Tyquan Lewis, Nick Bosa and Jalyn Holmes. Hubbard finished second on the team in sacks (7.0) and total tackles for loss (13.5) in 2017. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound edge product will work to improve his stock prior to the draft April 26-28.

Mason High School senior running back Matt Sora was highly regarded throughout his Comets career for a number of on-field feats, but no statistic or single-game effort outshines Sora’s 35-game start streak. The 6-foot, 200-pound Sora first took over as Mason’s starting running back as a sophomore in 2015 and proceeded to make 35 consecutive starts, rushing for over 3,000 yards and 39 touchdowns in the process. His production is a feat within itself, but his ability to maintain his hard-hitting, gritty running style for 35 consecutive games without slowing down or suffering injury speaks volumes to his toughness and character.

Best Dollar Beer Night
Jesse Fox

Typically an entertainment option in what we’ll describe as “lesser” cities, minor league sports offer the type of value anyone can appreciate. Skating at the Queen City’s U.S. Bank Arena, the Cincinnati Cyclones satisfy locals’ craving for cheap beer, on-ice brawls and infectious crowds. A chant of “Sucks!” is traditional after the introduction of each opposing player at Cyclones hockey games, and fans can suck down responsible amounts of beer, too, as they watch the two-time ECHL champions play on dollar beer nights. Offering $1 beer nights sporadically throughout the season, Cyclones games have quietly become marquee sporting events for those interested in drinking on a budget as part of a rowdy, high-paced atmosphere. If your tastes are just slightly elevated, the team also introduced $5 Craft Draft night, with pours of Moerlein and MadTree beers on the cheap for all the jerks who are too good for Miller Lite. U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway, Downtown, cycloneshockey.com.

A native to Thiès, Senegal, former FC Cincinnati forward Djiby Fall scored 16 of the club’s 42 goals, including four game-winners, to lead the team last season. However, Fall’s knack for finding the back of the net likely won’t be what keeps him in the minds of the FCC faithful as he suits up for Kazakhstan’s FC Irtysh Pavlodar in 2018, but rather his knack for drawing cards from referees’ pockets. The 32-year-old Fall conceded 58 fouls — the second-highest count on the roster -— and a combination of five yellow/red cards through 25 games with FCC in 2017, a testament to his aggressive on-field demeanor. Fall also received a six-game suspension following the club’s draw against Louisville City FC on April 25, 2017 -— he was given a one-game suspension for a red card in the 87th minute and an additional five-game suspension for what was deemed “major game misconduct.” The additional five games were believed to be the byproduct of Fall and Louisville midfielder Niall McCabe’s scuffle following the red card, in which Fall was later accused of biting McCabe’s cheek by Louisville coach James O’Connor. Surely, Cincinnati will be chomping at the bit for a player to fill Fall’s tenacious presence in 2018, as will those in attendance. FC Cincinnati, fccincinnati.com.

First rolled out in 2006, the Cincinnati Rollergirls are the Queen City’s first all-female, amateur, flat-track roller derby team, and for those interested in trading in their mainstream fandom for something more unique, these girls have you covered. All members of the team — including the coaches, referees and skaters -— are volunteers, and the team is primarily owned by the skaters themselves as the girls double as roller derby athletes and #girlbosses. The team has also been voted as Cincinnati’s best amateur/semi-pro team by CityBeat readers every year since 2011. To show support, roller derby die-hards can watch either Cincinnati’s varsity team, the Black Sheep, or JV team, the Violent Lambs, live at Schmidt Memorial Fieldhouse at Xavier University for all home games. Tickets start at $10 for adults and can be purchased through the team’s website. Schmidt Memorial Field House, 3824 Winding Way, Evanston, cincinnatirollergirls.com.

High school sports coverage is a vital component of local network news during the football and basketball season, and the various local channels’ unwavering commitment to that coverage suggests it’s a big enough ratings-grabber as fans tune in to see how their alma mater or kids’ school or “that high school up the street” fared. The substantial blocks of time dedicated to high school sports can be a little mind-numbing for those not interested in micro-local sports, but on Fox19 the tag-team of Joe Danneman and Jeremy Rauch makes a gallant effort to entertain rather than just read scores. During the station’s Friday night “Final Quarter” chunk, the duo throws out obscure or niche pop culture references over game highlights like a slap-happy SportsCenter team working the overnight shift, whether it’s singing Miguel’s “Luke skywalkin’ on these haters” as a teen pulls up over defenders to make a jump shot, or saying, “Like Bobby Brown in the ’80s, he is good to good to good to go solo,” during a breakaway touchdown run. It can be slightly cringe-y when first tuning in, but give it a few minutes and you’ll appreciate the slightly surrealistic flow, especially if you have a mildly twisted sense of humor (or you’re a little high). Fox19, fox19.com.

With the new year — and the approaching swimsuit season — many people are making weight-loss resolutions. The practice of yoga claims to connect your health and happiness with some mind-body exercise, but going full yogi isn’t always cheap. Luckily, plenty of local yoga studios offer both free and low-cost community classes for you to get your ohm on. Body Alive’s $5 hot power yoga community class is geared toward everyone from beginners to advanced students looking for a flow class that teaches the foundations of yoga poses and progresses in difficulty. The room is heated to 102 degrees and is kept at 40 percent humidity, so get ready to sweat. Held Fridays and Sundays. Body Alive also opened a second location in Oakley, offering a handful of hot (but full-price) classes. Body Alive, 8110 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, bodyalivefitness.com.

Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, a fan favorite among Reds faithful, further entrenched his name in Queen City history this past season, surpassing former Red Jay Bruce as the all-time home-run leader at Great American Ball Park. An 11-year staple of Reds baseball, Votto crushed his 136th home run into the stands at GABP against the San Diego Padres on Aug. 7. He then added another three home runs at the ball park to finish the season and stretch even farther past Bruce with 139. Now, 139 of his 257 career home runs have been driven into home crowds. Votto will continue to flesh out his résumé in 2018 to hopefully hang his plaque in Cooperstown following his MLB career. But even if he doesn’t receive the honor from the Baseball Hall of Fame, he has more than done enough to be remembered forever here in Cincinnati. Reds, reds.com.

Already out of playoff contention, the Bengals seemed to have nothing but pride to play for in their regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens this past season, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Buffalo Bills’ first playoff berth in 17 years was dependent on a Cincinnati win over the Ravens, and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton delivered with a New Year’s Eve miracle. Trailing 27-24 with less than a minute left in regulation, Dalton connected with second-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown to secure the comeback win and punch the Bills’ ticket to the postseason. In return for Dalton’s game-winning toss, the Bills’ faithful translated their celebratory efforts into charitable donations of over $340,000 to the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation that supports seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families in Cincinnati and Fort Worth, Texas. Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation, andydalton.org.

Best Reason to Paint Yourself Orange and Blue
Hailey Bollinger
click to enlarge Best Reason to Paint Yourself Orange and Blue
Hailey Bollinger

The hottest sports ticket in town belongs to FC Cincinnati, which spread its orange-and-blue fandom across Cincy during its inaugural season in 2016. With uber-professional business and marketing efforts led by the deep pockets of Carl Lindner III and former Bengals executive Jeff Berding, the organization asked for — and received — the city’s utmost attention. Then it followed through on the pitch, making the United Soccer League playoffs and competing against top European teams in friendlies and taking down Major League Soccer clubs along the way. As fans became more and more devoted, it was not uncommon to see stripped-down dudes covered in orange and blue body paint and chanting, drum-beating, soccer-scarf-wearing fanatics at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, where the team played its 2017 season. European futbol fever plays out on the historic football field and in “The Bailey,” where FCC support clubs get real rowdy, lighting off colored smoke bombs, tossing up tifos and generally enacting flamboyant displays of futbol pride in a spirited section just behind the north goal. Bailey 2018 season tickets sold out almost immediately, so don’t expect to party with the big boys at the game — you’ll have to settle for painting your face and torso in the sideline seats. FC Cincinnati, fccincinnati.com.

Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, highly regarded for his strong defense and blazing speed, often won over the crowd not only for his highlight-level play but also his fun-loving, cheery presence in the dugout and clubhouse. Drawing in the limelight for his laconic voice and emphatic on-base celebrations, Hamilton often kept energy high through adverse situations, which Cincinnati actively endured during its 68-94 season. As trade rumors strengthen around his name, Hamilton’s future with the Reds may be in question, but his past should continue to bring a smile to Reds supporters, regardless of where he suits up next. Reds, reds.com.

Working within a pitching rotation that has undoubtedly seen better days, Cincinnati Reds rookie pitcher Luis Castillo outshined his teammates in his MLB debut in 2017, providing a light at the end of what was a dark, dark tunnel on the mound. Gifted to the Reds via trade, Castillo was sent away from the Miami Marlins to Cincinnati along with two other youngsters (Austin Brice and Isaiah White) in exchange for veteran RHP Dan Straily, a move Miami’s brass surely regrets as of late. Dubbed “La Piedra,” or “The Stone,” Castillo was rock solid in his 15 starts last season, as he recorded a 3.12 ERA, 98 strikeouts and a 1.07 WHIP. He is expected to take over as the Reds’ ace in 2018, a spot he has rightfully earned so early in his MLB career. Reds, reds.com.