CINCINNATI -- The year 2016 will not go down as one of the great years in Cincinnati sports history.
When you look back at the year's big stories, there are a lot of departures and disappointments. Abrupt endings were the theme of the year.
With that in mind, here are my nine biggest sports stories of the year.
The Bengals were 96 seconds from the biggest win of the Marvin Lewis Era, 96 seconds from the first playoff win in 25 years. The monkey on the back of the franchise was hanging on by a whisker when it all went wrong.
Jeremy Hill fumbled. Vontaze Burfict took a shot at Antonio Brown. Pacman Jones went nuts. It all led to a Pittsburgh chip-shot field goal and an 18-16 loss -- and the franchise was again the butt of jokes in the national media.
Burfict ended up getting suspended for the first three games of this season, which doubtlessly contributed to the disappointing current season.
FC Cincinnati took the town by storm. This is a story that might have the most impact long term. The team's overwhelming success has made Cincinnati a contender to get a team when Major League Soccer expands.
FC Cincinnati plays in the third-tier United Soccer League, but that didn't matter. Fans loved the club from the get-go.
FC Cincinnati led the USL in attendance overall and set the single-game regular-season record (24,376) and playoff record (30,187).
The electric atmosphere at Nippert Stadium fueled the buzz, but the on-field success helped. The team finished third in the Eastern Division to make the playoffs.
The first-round playoff loss, however, fit in with the '16 Cincinnati theme.
REDS REBUILDING BLUES
The Reds season was over -- as far as contention hopes -- pretty much as soon as it started. The team went 9-15 in April and followed it with an 8-20 May. The bullpen was literally the worst in big league history through those months.
That assured that the ugly business of rebuilding would continue. Jay Bruce, one of the cornerstones of the strong run from 2010 to 2013, was traded at the trade deadline.
The only glimmer of hope was that the team played reasonably well -- a shade under .500 -- after the All-Star Break.
The Reds will try to sell its young corps to the fans for 2017. Some wins would help with that.
TOMMY OUT; LUKE IN
No one saw things ending so badly at the University of Cincinnati for Tommy Tuberville. He came in with a great coaching resume and a commitment to not use the job as a steppingstone. His first three years were reasonably good -- 9-4, 9-4, 7-6 -- with bowl appearances each year.
The expectation was that this year would be better. And it started well. The Bearcats went 2-0 and hung in with No. 6 Houston for three quarters.
But when it went bad, it went really bad.
The Bearcats lost their last five games. Tuberville told a fan to "Go to Hell" and then talked about how UC really didn't have a program when he arrived.
His "resignation" was no surprise.
His replacement, Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, could not have come off much better in his introductory press conference. Fickell seems to be passionate, sincere and aware of UC's needs.
GRIFFEY: A 99.32-PERCENTER
Cincinnati's own Ken Griffey Jr. was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame with a record 99.32 percent of the vote. Griffey's total was testimony to his great achievements on the field and the belief of the electorate that he was pure in the steroid-tainted era.
Griffey was surprisingly emotional in his induction speech. He broke down repeatedly when talking about his family. He ended the speech with a decidedly Griffey touch: Putting his hat on and turning it backward.
GREAT STARTS, SHOCKING ENDS
Both Xavier and UC got off to great starts in basketball. Both were rated in the Top 25 all year. Both won NCAA bids. Both expected to make it through the tourney's first weekend.
But in a little over 24 hours, both went home disappointed.
First, UC lost to St. Joseph's, 78-76, when Octavius Ellis' last-second dunk was ruled too late.
Then Xavier lost to Wisconsin, 66-63, on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
5-5 TO STATE CHAMPS
St. Xavier started the season 0-2, barely made the playoffs as a 5-5 team, and then won the school's third Division I state championship.
It that weren't remarkable enough, the Bombers took the toughest possible route to the title.
They came back from 16 points down to beat No. 1 Colerain in overtime one week and came back from 14 points down to beat Sycamore in overtime the next. Quarterback Sean Clifford came off the bench to lead both of those victories.
Clifford was equally brilliant in the final win over St. Ignatius -- which came, of course, in overtime.
La Salle, which like St. X has a North Bend Road address, did not need nearly as much drama to win its third consecutive Division II state title.
The Lancers, who had not played in the postseason before 2014, have won 15 straight in the playoffs.
BIG 12 DISAPPOINTMENT
UC put tremendous effort into getting into the Big 12 Conference, so it was a huge blow to the Bearcats when the conference announced it would not be expanding.
That means UC is on the outside looking in as far as joining a Power 5 conference in the foreseeable future. That makes it difficult to get into a big bowl game -- and to fill 40,000-seat Nippert Stadium in the regular season.