Best Of 2022

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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Oh, Cincinnati, you are full of beautiful weirdos. During the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl, local fans developed a new way to wish the team luck: chugging a can of Skyline Chili. It began as the Bengals went on a winning tear at the start of the playoffs, with fans posting video after video of themselves popping can lids and shotgunning the messy, cinnamony delicacy as if they were attacking free rounds on their 21st birthday at a dive bar. The stunt became a bona fide social media trend that had even Barstool Sports intrigued. Alas, the good luck wore off during the final minutes of the Big Game, but for Bengals fans, those 1,830 milligrams of sodium in each 15-ounce can of Skyline were worth it.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine war and Britney Spears’ long-won freedom from her tyrannical conservatorship, it’s safe to say that nobody can predict anything in this damn world. But that seems to be doubly true for the upcoming Major League Baseball season. Team owners forced a lockout in December after the old five-year collective bargaining agreement expired. With no movement of any kind — including facility visits, trades or practices — since then, MLB had canceled the first two series of the 2022 season in early March. This was the first work stoppage since the 1994-1995 players’ strike, which doomed the 1994 World Series, the ninth stoppage ever and just the fifth that had canceled regular-season games. But miraculously, the two sides struck an agreement later and rescheduled the canceled games. Now that teams are allowed to trade again, Cincinnati Reds fans are wondering who’s actually going to be on the field at Great American Ball Park. The front office traded All-Star outfielder Jesse Winker, third baseman Eugenio Suárez and pitcher Sonny Gray, and the club is reportedly “not interested” in luring back top outfielder Nick Castellanos, who opted out of his remaining contract in November (update: Castellanos has since gone to the Philadelphia Phillies). As of press time, nervous fans still have no idea what’s to come for 2022, but at least Reds stalwart Joey Votto is calling for quality resources, too. “We haven’t done enough winning,” the lifetime Red recently said in an interview.
A rendering of the 2022 Hu-Dey beer cans
Photo: Provided by CinBev
A rendering of the 2022 Hu-Dey beer cans

There has always been a symbiotic relationship between Cincinnati’s Hudepohl Brewing Company, founded in 1885, and the Cincinnati Bengals, established in 1967. And, yes, part of that is built on the rumor that the team’s Who Dey slogan is a derivative of fans shouting for “Hudy” beer at games. The popular origin story even prompted the brewer to can a special commemorative Hu-Dey beer during the Bengals’ runs to the Super Bowl both in 1982 and 1989. And, during the Bengals’ Super Bowl berth this past year, those vintage orange-and-black cans popped up across social media as fans broke out the decades-old brew to unadvisedly drink. But Hudepohl (acquired by Cincinnati Beverage Company in 2020) wanted fans to keep those beers on the shelf and out of their stomachs, so they released a limited-run new commemorative Hu-Dey brew. Decked out in vintage font and the slogan “It.Is.Us.,” the cans contained a special, easy-drinking ale. Cincinnati Beverage Company did a one-time run of Hu-Dey, producing around 3,000 six-packs. The company said “once it’s gone, it’s gone,” and it was gone, fast. Fans lined up for blocks and blocks across Over-the-Rhine to snag the brew. It was sold-out within hours.
Joe Burrow — aka Joe Shiesty, aka Joey B., aka Joe Cool, aka Joe Brrr — has become a local hero of sorts. Since the Bengals drafted him in 2020, Burrow has thrown for more than 8,000 yards, bounced back after a season-ending knee injury in 2020 and had been instrumental to the Bengals reaching the Super Bowl. Cincinnati knew early on that Burrow would be good at football, but now he’s showing prowess in a completely different arena: fashion. The entire population of the Queen City was looking through rose-colored glasses after the Cincinnati Bengals won their first playoff game in 31 years, defeating the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium on Jan. 15. The win was obviously a big deal. But perhaps a bigger deal? Burrow’s postgame-press-conference glasses. The specs, which teammate and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said were Cartier, elicited comparisons to everyone from Robert Downey Jr. to Lizzie McGuire and Elton John. The colorful frames also made some people extremely horny, especially on Twitter. The social media platform lost its collective mind with tweets coming in declaring everything from “Joe Burrow wearing those y2k glasses is my kink” to “The real star of last night’s Bengal’s win: Joe Burrow’s frames.” When asked if the glasses had any significance, Burrow told reporters: “No significance. I just think they’re pretty cool.”
Are snazzy new uniforms the key to sports success? The Cincinnati Bengals changed theirs up for the 2021-2022 NFL season and were rewarded with a Super Bowl berth. Now FC Cincinnati officials are hoping the same will happen for their own team. FCC debuted a new secondary kit for the 2022 season, and it’s a stunner. Created as an homage to Cincinnati, the Juncta Juvant kit (a nod to the city’s motto “strength in unity,” translated from Latin) is bright orange with embossed monotone, wavy stripes that recall the Ohio river as well as Cincinnati’s flag. FCC’s colorful secondary kit, already in rotation, could offer a morale boost to both players and fans after going 4-22-8 in 2021. Hey, if it worked for the Bengals, it could work for FCC, right?
As of press time, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding pro baseball: MLB had canceled — and then un-canceled — the first few weeks of the season, and we still don’t know where Reds right-fielder-turned-free-agent Nick Castellanos will end up (update: Castellanos has since gone to the Philadelphia Phillies). But damn if Castellanos' kid didn’t bring a smile to Cincinnati fans’ faces in 2021. Castellanos’ son Liam Castellanos became internet famous after designing a shirt that featured a drawing of his hard-hitting dad. In July 2021, the adorable 7-year-old drew a bearded Castellanos in his Reds uniform and slapped it onto a shirt for the outfielder’s 29th birthday. Fans fell in love with it — and with Liam — and the lad later teamed up with Cincy Shirts and the Major League Baseball Players Association to sell the design and donate proceeds to charity.
Pay attention to the droves of Cincinnatians cheering on (mostly) total strangers along the Flying Pig course. Nothing puts a little pep in your step quite like the support of the residents of the Panorama Apartments senior care facility in Covington. Their signs are the best, held with a sweet, smirky smile: “They Actually Got Me Out of Bed For This?” “Hurry Up, We’re Going to be Late for Bingo.” “Run Faster. It’s Almost Time for My Nap.” Special mention also goes to the crowd along the Gilbert Avenue/Eden Park hill, where you can always count on someone with a megaphone telling you to “move that ass.” And we can’t forget the Elvis impersonator, faithfully entertaining runners in front of the Krohn Conservatory. How would we finish without them?
Kyle Gasnik with a Cinati Bengo flag
Photo: Provided by Kyle Gasnik
Kyle Gasnik with a Cinati Bengo flag

Back in 2015, Cincinnatian Kyle Gasnik drew a crude but lovable cartoon of the Bengals mascot (well, sort of) and jokingly titled his creation the “Cinati Bengo.” As a lark, Gasnik — then working at a sign shop — made some stickers at his job and distributed them among friends. Someone posted a photo of the Bengo sticker on the back of a friend’s car to the Bengals subreddit and the post gained traction. The internet took it from there, and now Gasnik’s absurdly funny designs are available through his website. He makes shirts, flags, stickers, hats and more all bearing some iteration of the Bengo — a charming creation that looks sort of like an angry orange cat with three fangs — along with the phrase “Cinati Bengos” and his warped version of the Who Dey chant: “Who are they going to Bingo Bengo? Nooooo, Buddy!” The nonsense phrasing and alliteration bring almost as much joy as a Super Bowl win would have.
Oh, Rose Lavelle, look at you now. The Mount Notre Dame High School alumna keeps racking up the kudos and extended her contract with OL Reign in February. The year 2022 is just starting, but 2021 was fire for Lavelle, who continues to prove that Cincinnati breeds winners. In September, Lavelle and the U.S. Women’s National Team demolished Paraguay in the first-ever U.S. Soccer match at TQL Stadium in the West End, with Lavelle scoring in just the fourth minute of the match. Cincinnati’s homegrown midfielder also helped the USWNT to a bronze medal during the Olympics last summer, scoring the team’s first goal of its annihilation of New Zealand. And earlier in 2021, Lavelle was named MVP during the winning match of the SheBelieves Cup. There’s a reason Lavelle’s mural at The Banks remains a must-see for soccer fans.
In 2021, ESPN’s mega-popular pregame show College Gameday visited the Queen City for the first time ever for the University of Cincinnati’s homecoming football game. Bearcats fans were ecstatic to have the sports network broadcasting live from on campus in the lead-up to the match against Tulsa at Nippert Stadium. Fans also lined up in the wee hours of the morning to be part of the Gameday team’s live shots for Good Morning America on ABC. Homecoming already is pretty special, but having the Bearcats’ game-winning, last-minute field goal beamed live to the nation and around the globe? Absolutely priceless.
While the University of Cincinnati Bearcats football team didn’t come away with a victory, making the College Football Playoff in 2021 was still a historic feat. Ending the season with an undefeated record, this was UC’s first trip to the playoffs — and the first time a team from a non-Power Five conference had attended. The Bearcats ended the season with star quarterback Desmond Ridder having over 3,000 passing yards and a total of 30 touchdowns. They then took on the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on New Year’s Eve, which sadly ended in a 27-6 loss. While a win would have been great, in true Cincinnati fashion, we were just happy to be there.
TQL Stadium in Cincinnati's West End
Photo: Francisco Huerta Jr.
TQL Stadium in Cincinnati's West End

Cincinnati loves soccer — and so do the thousands of people who come here from elsewhere to see it. The Queen City scored big in November when it hosted the World Cup qualifying match between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Mexico. Not only did the match bring hot stars to town, but it also gave a significant boost to Cincinnati’s tourism. The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau said that the sold-out Nov. 12 game was responsible for the region’s biggest tourism weekend at that point since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 (the city later raked in additional cash from the Cincinnati Bengals’ wild-card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium). The local economy received boosts from the match itself as well as from money that flowed into hotels, bars, restaurants and shops all weekend long. The cherry on top? USA won the match in front of TQL Stadium’s full capacity of 26,000 attendees.
We’ll admit that Cincinnati-style chili isn’t for everyone, but show a little respect, huh? New York Mets announcer Gary Cohen went off on the dish during the broadcast of a Reds vs. Mets game in the summer of 2021, calling Skyline’s 5-Way “disgusting chili gravy.” Showing a video of someone expertly preparing the aforementioned dish, Cohen narrated its construction: “The 5-Way, with the spaghetti and the beans and the cheese — first the disgusting chili gravy. After the onions comes the cheese, and that’s what makes it the 5-Way. There’s the cheese. They put like 10 tons of shredded cheese on there. And this is supposed to be food that you actually eat.” Cohen then told co-broadcaster Ron Darling, “Try it once, and then you’ll never eat it again.” The Cincinnati Twitterverse immediately jumped into action defending the local delicacy, including the home team. “Two facts: Jonathan India is good. Skyline Chili is good,” the Reds said. We can’t argue with that logic.
We don’t live in a comic-book universe, but it sure appeared like the Cincinnati Bengals developed superpowers this season thanks to some new duds. After a months-long tease, the Bengals revealed “New Stripes” uniforms in April 2021 — the team’s first significant change in 17 years. The only thing untouched? The Bengals’ iconic tiger-striped helmet. The uniform change seemed to give the team some spark, as the Bengals upended predictions and crushed opponent after opponent on the way to the team’s first Super Bowl berth since 1989.