Best Of 2021

Banning living, breathing human fans from stadiums across the country (because of COVID-19) continued into football season, as did the cardboard avatar trend. For the Bengals’ home opener in September, Who Dey Cutouts were available for purchase, with net proceeds benefiting six of the team’s community partners: The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati, Freestore Foodbank, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Salvation Army Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, Good Samaritan Foundation and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati. There were strict guidelines on what to wear (or not to wear — no political/offensive/lewd statements, hashtags, social media handles, phone numbers or random branding) in your photo, how high you could hold your arms, how large the photo could be and more. The resulting figures were then placed in random seats in the North and South End Zones. The team also warned that buying a cutout didn’t mean your flat face was guaranteed to appear on TV, just that it could attend the game.

The Cincinnati Bengals are hoping for a touchdown when it comes to their new look, which was teased in a January Twitter post and will be unveiled this spring. The team will sport new stripes on its uniforms, according to a video posted on their social media channels. The short clip offers a timeline of the Bengals’ uniforms over the past decades, spanning from 1968’s stripe-less “The Originals,” shifting to “The First Stripes” in 1981, then to the “Leaping Tiger” in 1997, and next to the “Modern Stripes” in 2004 until 2020 (and the white alternative “Color Rush” between 2016-2020). The teaser provides no hint as to what the new uniforms will look like, but the Bengals website assures fans that the team’s tiger-striped helmet is here to stay. Some photos leaked in March, but the franchise refused to confirm or deny whether they were real. At the time of publication, official images of the new gear still hadn’t been released.

Cincinnati Reds fans have some experience drowning their sorrows. And a recent survey from NJ Online Gambling about the drinking habits of MLB fanbases seems to confirm it. The survey shows that Reds fans are No. 3 in the country for boozing it up, consuming 3.8 drinks per game and spending about $40 on alcohol. Cincinnati fans also are No. 4 in drinking before the game even starts, with 67% of survey respondents saying they’re big on pregame action. All this drinking has a price, though, as Reds fans are No. 2 for missing some or all of games because they’re too damn drunk.

In 2020, Milwaukee’s National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled a limited-edition bobblehead of one very special Cincinnati Bengal: Joe Burrow. The bobblehead design featured quarterback Burrow riding a Bengal tiger. (“Bobbleheads riding stuff” is apparently a thing and the museum also produced Al Kaline riding a Detroit Tiger, Carson Wentz riding a Philadelphia Eagle and Josh Allen riding a Buffalo Bill, among many others.) Burrow, a Heisman Trophy winner, was the first pick by the Bengals during the 2020 NFL Draft. The quarterback previously played for Louisiana State University and led the team to “a national championship as he threw for 5,671 yards and an NCAA FBS-record 60 touchdowns with only six interceptions,” says the museum. To commemorate his collegiate achievements, the museum also unveiled two LSU Burrow bobbleheads — one featured Burrow in a Heisman pose and the other featured Burrow riding an LSU tiger. Each Burrow bobble was limited to a production run of 2,020.

The Trust for Public Land announced that Cincinnati’s park system ranked fifth in the nation in the Annual ParkScore Index Report, climbing three spots above its ranking in 2019. (Minneapolis had the No. 1 ranking park system in the nation. Oklahoma City was ranked the worst.) ParkScore rankings are based on park access, acreage, investment and amenities, including the number of basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, “splash pads,” recreation and senior centers and restrooms. Cincinnati claimed the highest score in the U.S. for park amenities and also received strong marks for park access and park investment.

Best DORA District to Grab a Brew and Ride Your Bike

The flat, paved Loveland Bike Trail/ Little Miami Scenic Trail is a joy to pedal — even more so when you stop at a local bar for a drink to-go. Loveland is a DORA district, or a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, meaning you can grab a cocktail or beer from a participating establishment — in a branded cup — and sip while you stroll; just make sure you don’t go beyond the established boundaries.

Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher and Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Seaver died in August 2020 at the age of 75. Seaver — also known as “Tom Terrific” — played six seasons with the Cincinnati Reds (1977-’82), and also played for the Chicago White Sox (1984-’86), Boston Red Sox (1986) and spent 12 seasons with the New York Mets (1967-’77 and 1983). “Tom Seaver was one of the best and most inspirational pitchers to play the game,” said Reds Chief Executive Officer Bob Castellini in a statement. “We are grateful that Tom’s Hall of Fame career included time with the Reds. We are proud to count his name among the greats in the Reds Hall of Fame. He will be missed.” The Reds say Seaver won 75 games for the team between 1978 and 1982 and was a National League All-Star for them in 1978 and 1981. He threw his first and only career no-hitter in 1978 when the Reds played the St. Louis Cardinals on July 16. According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1981 he also became the fifth player in game history to record 3,000 strike-outs. Other accolades include three Cy Young Awards and three National League ERA titles. Seaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown in 1992, “when he was named on 98.8% of ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the highest voting percentage ever received at the time.” Upon news of his passing, celebrities and baseball fans from across the spectrum — including Adam Sandler, Hank Aaron and Dan Rather — took to social media to remember Seaver and his greatness.

This past summer, the Forest Hills Board of Education voted to officially retire the Anderson High School Redskins mascot. In what most humans would consider an overdue move, a release about the decision says it came after “community discussion, input and significant work to support inclusivity and diversity across the district.” On their Twitter, the National Congress of American Indians thanked the high school for standing on the “right side of history.” The school’s new mascot is an orange-red velociraptor bearing pointy white teeth and claws. Secondary logos include a close-up of a menacing dinosaur eye and a slashed Anderson “A.” In recent years, professional and local sports teams across the country have been changing or beginning to change team names and mascots that are racist, predominantly those with negative references to Indigenous Americans. In December, the Cleveland Indians announced that the team would take a new name and mascot before the 2022 baseball season; it had retired the controversial Chief Wahoo mascot beginning with the 2019 season and currently uses a stylized “C” on its uniforms. Anderson High School is still in the process of removing all references to its former mascot. After more than 80 years on the scene, the board says the Native American caricature will be “phased out in stages” during the 2020-21 school year.


Wasson Way is the area’s most recent railroad-turned-bike-trail. “Right now there’s about 1.5 miles between Madison Road and Montgomery Road,” Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston told CityBeat this past summer. “Tri-State Trails helped secure $6 million last year to extend the trail west to Avondale and east through Ault Park to the Murray Trail. Through our #CROWNcincinnati project, we are working to connect this to the Ohio River Trail and Mill Creek Greenway to create a 34-mile trail loop around the city.” The trail will begin construction on the Red Bank Road leg soon. And Great Parks just broke ground on the Beechmont Bridge Connector. The project will allow users to safely travel from the Little Miami Scenic Trail to the Ohio River Trail for the first time. The new connector will link the existing Little Miami Scenic Trail terminus near State Route 32 and Beechmont with the Otto Armleder Memorial Park to Lunken Trail and the future Elstun Road Connector.;

FC Cincinnati has announced that the team will play Inter Miami CF in a match that will serve as both the 2021 season’s home opener and West End Stadium’s very first Major League Soccer game. The match begins at 4 p.m. May 16 and will be nationally televised on FOX and FOX Deportes. Tickets are available only in season membership packages. Construction began on West End Stadium in 2018 and will be completed in time for the opener. The $250 million stadium will hold about 26,000 fans and is wrapped with illuminating “fins.” All seats are covered by a 360-degree roof canopy, under which guests can find beers like Rhinegeist, Sam Adams or Heineken at concession stands. The stadium’s First Financial Club, the largest club in the building, spans the entire east side of the structure and will be home to a beer hall — inspired by Over-the-Rhine’s renaissance — offering 40 taps and focusing on craft beers.

A new .6-mile bike and walking path on the southern edge of Lower Price Hill was unveiled in August. That swath of pavement, part of the planned Ohio River West Trail, could someday allow Price Hill residents to ride the roughly 2-and-a-half miles downtown in a matter of minutes — a key, non-automotive link between the West Side and the city’s core, says Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. The path between Evans Street and State Avenue is also part of more ambitious plans. Supporters hope that, over the next decade, the Ohio River West Trail will eventually stretch 26 miles all the way to Shawnee Lookout Park, which sits on Ohio’s border with Indiana. And more progress to the east could take riders to the Loveland Bike Trail someday. 

Cult-favorite dance/workout studio DANCEFIX by HBDC started offering live and pre-recorded virtual classes when the pandemic hit. But they also took things outdoors. Dance classes were held at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Blue Ash or on Schmidlapp Lawn at The Banks so fans could get their fix — even in winter.

The Cincinnati Reds Findlay Market Opening Day Parade, which was canceled in 2020, claims it will return for Opening Day 2021 — whenever that is. Per a letter from Parade Chairman Neil Luken, the festivities will be postponed until “the Cincinnati Reds are permitted to fill the stadium to full capacity and there are no restrictions on group events.”

Because the namesake was a bigot. In 2020, the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees unanimously voted to remove late Cincinnati Reds owner, philanthropist and racist-comment-maker Marge Schott’s name from the school’s baseball stadium and a portion of the archives library. Former UC Baseball player Jordan Ramey launched a petition to change the name, stating: “Marge Schott was a former owner of the Reds before she was banned from the MLB for her support of Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler in 1996. She is also known to have said multiple racial slurs towards African-Americans, Jews, and people of Japanese ancestry… Marge Schott Stadium is represented by players of all races, religious backgrounds, and ethnicities, and plays host to middle and high school baseball teams as well. The field is getting national attention every year and to promote somebody so racist is not only irresponsible, but it is also directly contradictory to the University’s mission statement.” UC President Neville G. Pinto agreed and recommended to the board that they vote to erase her moniker from campus. “Marge Schott’s record of racism and bigotry stands at stark odds with our University’s core commitment to dignity, equity and inclusion,” he said. The board concurred and, in a resolution dated June 23, 2020, said that Schott’s name would be removed from both spaces effective immediately.

Cincinnati legend and Cooperstown inductee Barry Larkin will join the Cincinnati Reds’ television broadcast team on FOX Sports Ohio beginning with the 2021 season. The former Reds shortstop will serve as a color analyst. Larkin previously had been an analyst for ESPN’s pre-game shows and live color commentary. He also served as an analyst for the MLB Network’s MLB Tonight and Hot Stove. On FOX Sports Ohio, Larkin will rotate duties with the returning Chris Welsh and Jeff Brantley, the Reds said in a statement. Before joining the Reds, Larkin was selected to play for the 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team, performing alongside other future stars Mark McGwire and Will Clark. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

During a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals in August 2020, longtime Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman used a gay slur on air — he was caught on a hot mic saying the phrase “the fag capitals of the world” (not sure to what or where he was referring). In a statement, the Reds said they were “devastated by the horrific, homophobic remark.” After it was made clear his comment was captured — and the incident quickly went viral — Brennaman issued an on-air apology... which was interrupted as he called a home run. Brennaman said he wasn’t sure if he was “going to be putting on this headset again,” and won’t be. He was subsequently suspended from Reds’ broadcasts and resigned in September. He has since been hired by the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico as their play-by-play announcer.

Winning a World Cup just wasn’t enough for Rose Lavelle. And why should it be? Lavelle, a midfielder for the U.S. Women’s National Team and Cincinnati native, is clearly MVP material and literally won that honor in the 2021 SheBelieves Cup’s winning match. Lavelle helped her team to a tournament victory over all three days of play, scoring the winning goal against Canada and earning an assist against Argentina. With this victory, the USWNT — which also includes Lavelle’s 2019 World Cup colleague Megan Rapinoe — brings its SheBelieves titles to four. The team is the first back-to-back champion in the tournament’s six-year history and the first team to have three shutouts at the competition, according to U.S. Soccer. All the more reason to continue to celebrate her achievements with a selfie in front of the mural of Lavelle downtown at The Banks.

The recently rebranded Northern Kentucky Frontier League baseball team the Florence Y’alls introduced a new look to go with their new name. Previously known as the Florence Freedom, the team was purchased by a new ownership group in 2019, after which it was announced that a name and branding change was forthcoming. The team solicited fans for ideas and they whittled the possible choices down to a top five: the Florence Go-Goettas, Florence Fossil Jockeys, Florence No Sox, Florence Pop Flies and, the winner, the Florence Y’alls. The Y’alls name was voted on by fans and approved by Florence City Council. And to go with the new moniker, the team got some fresh vintage-inspired uniforms designed by Covington-based creative firm BLDG. The outfits are blue, red and white with red and white piping to pay homage to “the world capital of Y’all and our favorite Florence landmark: the water tower,” says the team (the water tower also dons red and white stripes). They also have a patch on their left sleeve that reads: “United we Ball, Forever with Y’all.”

Just because you couldn’t physically attend a Reds game this season didn’t mean you couldn’t be there in spirit — and in cutout form. The Cincinnati Reds kicked off gameplay in late July and sold limited-time Reds Fans Cutouts to help keep the seats at Great American Ball Park warm (metaphorically, of course — it was summer so the seats were already hot). For $75, you could submit a photograph of yourself (following very specific guidelines) and the team would print and place a 2-D version of your 3-D form in the stands to silently cheer the Reds to victory. All proceeds benefited the Reds Community Fund, “dedicated to improving the lives of youth by leveraging the tradition of the Cincinnati Reds and the game of baseball.” Fans were able to pick-up their cutouts at the end of the season.

A familiar skier has returned to the gold-medal podium: Lawrenceburg, Indiana’s own Nick Goepper placed first in men’s ski slopestyle at the 2021 X Games Aspen in January. The champ had fostered his love of the sport at Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, about 30 minutes west of Cincinnati. Goepper’s medal makes him the only skier to win the X Games slopestyle gold four times. He last was on the X Games podium in 2017.