Best Of 2022

Pickleball, which has nothing to do with pickles, has been around since 1965, but it became a phenomenon in 2021 spreading as fast as the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Legend goes, the bored family of a Washington State congressman invented the game when they had access to a badminton court but no equipment, so instead they used ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. Sixty years later the low-impact sport has overtaken tennis courts everywhere, including in Cincinnati. Played as singles or doubles, games are brief, so it’s a perfect fit for socializing, especially as a moderately strenuous workout. Perhaps the busiest location is Sawyer Point’s tennis center on the Ohio River, which will soon offer a dozen permanent pickleball courts thanks to a $500,000 upgrade. But places to play are all over town, so no matter where you live, it’s likely you’ll soon be hearing the rat-a-tat-tat of competition.

Sports & Recreation

Sports & Recreation
Here are the 2022 Best Of Cincinnati® Reader and Staff Pick winners for Sports & Recreation.
On Feb. 13, the Bengals went to Super Bowl LVI, Cincinnati’s first shot at the Vince Lombardi trophy since 1989. Our beloved team was just two minutes away from the win but ultimately lost 20-23 to the Los Angeles Rams. But despite the last-minute defeat, this Bengals team let Cincinnati fans dare to dream again after years of constant loss. The Bengals delivered a 10-7 regular-season record — something no oddsmaker had predicted — and won the AFC North as well as the AFC Championship, pulling off magical win after magical win in the postseason and demonstrating why it was smart to draft rookie kicker Evan McPherson. Plus, days before walking onto the Super Bowl field, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was named the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year, while quarterback Joe Burrow earned Comeback Player of the Year. The playoffs and Super Bowl run ignited a long-dormant spirit within the city, with fans contributing to the Bengals having the most-watched Super Bowl in the last five years. Leading up to the game, businesses and organizations throughout Greater Cincinnati plastered their buildings with “WHO DEY” signs and created special items to celebrate the playoffs. Hell, even Hu-Dey beer made a limited comeback for the occasion. Governments got in on the act, too, with Cincinnati City Hall flying a Bengals flag, Dayton, Kentucky, renaming itself as “DEYton,” Cheviot changing its street signs to Bengals players’ names, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declaring that Super Bowl Sunday would be called Cincinnati Bengals Day. With Bengals head coach Zac Taylor’s contract now extended through 2026, Cincinnati has plenty more to roar about as the 2022-2023 season approaches.

1. Loveland Bike Trail

2. Wasson Way

3. Miami Whitewater Forest

1. Body Alive

2. Pure Barre (Oakley)

3. The Barre Code

1. Blue Ash Golf Course

2. Devou Park Golf Course

3. Elks Run Golf Club

1. University of Cincinnati Campus Recreation Center

2. RockQuest

3. Climb Time (Oakley)

1. Luke Fickell (University of Cincinnati Football)

2. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals)

3. Travis Steele (Xavier University Men’s Basketball)

1. YMCA of Greater Cincinnati

2. Mercy HealthPlex

3. Planet Fitness

A walker passing by the Duke Energy complex's "Electric Avenue" mural on Wasson Way
Photo: Provided by Wade Johnston
A walker passing by the Duke Energy complex's "Electric Avenue" mural on Wasson Way

In 2021, Wasson Way was continued through East Hyde Park and then into a mysterious, “secret” corner of Ault Park that once held the tracks of the Cincinnati Eastern Railway. What had previously been traversed on foot only by those who were hardy and in the know, this new section has since introduced a paved trail through a previously little-used corner of the park, as well as installed a new walking deck and appealing handrails to adapt an old trestle. At the end is a beautifully designed series of gradual switchbacks to take walkers and bikers down the hillside to a section of Old Red Bank Road. There, you can look up high and see another old trestle that once carried trains onward.

1. ProForce Sports Performance

2. Queen City CrossFit

3. Iron Sharpens Iron

1. Red River Gorge

2. Hocking Hills State Park

3. Winton Woods

The Cincinnati Reds’ second baseman Jonathan India secured a cabinet full of trophies recognizing his outstanding 2021 season, and we wouldn’t blame him if he needed to upgrade from Elfa shelving to something a little more sturdy to support all that weight. The Sporting News named India as its National League Rookie of the Year for 2021; he was named the National League’s Outstanding Rookie in the MLB Players Choice Awards; and Baseball America selected India as its Rookie of the Year. But the rookie also snagged the big, big award: India was named the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s 2021 Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year for Major League Baseball’s National League. Time for India to get handy and find those drywall studs, because we have a feeling he’ll be adding to that collection in 2022.

1. Sawyer Point Tennis Courts

2. The Club at Harper’s Point

3. Queen City Racquet & Fitness Club

For a long time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cincinnati had a big, puck-shaped hole. The Cincinnati Cyclones hadn’t played an official, regular-season game since March 11, 2020 — that is, until Oct. 23, 2021, when the Cyclones visited the Indy Fuel. Indy came to Cincy a week later for the home opener for not only the local return of our favorite ice sport, but also the return of our favorite promotion: dollar beer night. In addition to plenty of opportunities to make dollar-beer-can pyramids against the rink plexiglass, this season also gave fans a new head coach in Jason Payne (the only currently active head coach of color in professional hockey) and a 2022 ECHL Hall of Famer in Cyclones president Ray Harris. Drink up and drink often, because hockey is finally back, baby.
Ballpark fare can make anyone salivate. Honestly, who doesn’t love a thick frank or a sundae in a plastic baseball cap? But the Montgomery Inn’s Smokehouse Parfait at Great American Ball Park scratches our itch for something a little more interesting and a lot more meaty. Introduced during the Cincinnati Reds’ 2021 season, Montgomery Inn’s creation loads barbecue pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and coleslaw into a squishy bread cone. That’s right: This delicious Frankenstein-esque creation is literally a fist full of meat and drippy toppings that you can nibble from, just like you would some Graeter’s ice cream (or you could use a fork, if you’re a bit more refined).

1. Nick Hagglund

2. Beckham Sunderland

3. Haris Medunjanin

1. Loveland Bike Trail

2. Smale Riverfront Park

3. Wasson Way

1. Body Alive

2. Shellates Studio

3. Pendleton Pilates

1. Joey Votto

2. Jonathan India

3. Eugenio Suárez (now with Seattle Mariners)