CINCINNATI — What follows is the obligatory “What We Have To Be Thankful For” column coinciding with Thanksgiving. In this case, it’s nine things that Cincinnati sports fans have to be thankful for:
1. Joey Votto: You’re seeing the greatest hitter in Reds history plying his craft on an everyday basis. Votto started all 162 games last season. For a player to do that on a team that is hopelessly out of it shows he loves the game.
The season Votto had was unbelievable. He got on base in all but 12 games. He defies the all-or-nothing approach that permeates today’s game. He cut down his strikeouts and increased his power.
And he seems to be embracing his team-leader, face-of-the-franchise status. What he did with Superbubz, the 6-year-old with cancer, was a beautiful moment in a dark season.
2. UC hoops: The Bearcats are deep, talented and entertaining. Jacob Evans III, Cane Broome, Jarron Cumberland, Justin Jenifer and Keith Williams are really good perimeter players.
Gary Clark and Kyle Washington provide inside presence and are all-round good guys.
3. XU hoops: Muskies fans should thank Trevon Bluiett for sticking around for his senior year. UC is pretty stacked, but Bluiett is the best player in town.
He seems to be able to make the big shot just when the Muskies need it.
The Big East season should be great fun to watch. So should the Shootout Dec. 2 at Cintas Center.
4. NKU hoops: The Norse are the other Division I program in town — and they made the NCAA Tournament last year.
5. A.J. Green: He’s the best wide receiver in Bengal history for my money. He also does things the right way - the outburst at Jacksonville notwithstanding.
It’s pretty amazing every week when the opponent’s defensive coordinator says, “We can’t let A.J. Green beat us’’ and he does it consistently.
6. FC Cincinnati: That folks are engaged in the stadium fight shows you the passion for pro soccer in this town. FC Cincinnati has done a wonderful job of making its matches fun fan experiences.
I’m not a soccer guy, but I enjoy Futbol Club Cincinnati games, er, matches.
7. High school football: I covered some of St. X’s run to the state championship last year. After one of the Bombers’ improbable comebacks, coach Steve Specht said: “Seven bucks for this? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
8. Great American Ball Park: It is a great place to watch a baseball game. It’s really hard for a baseball stadium to stand out these days because there are so many new ones. Heck, Dodger Stadium is the second oldest park in the National League.
I don’t know where I’d put Great American on my list. PNC is Pittsburgh is No. 1 for me, followed by a lot of first runners-up. But I do know that Great American is great place to take in a game.
I like to sit up high where you get the river views.
It is so much better than Riverfront/Cinergy, the stadium of my formative years.
9. The Thanksgiving Day Race: It’s one of the oldest races in the U.S. It went from a race of elite college runners to a community run/walk.
It’s kind of like a family reunion. Only in this case, it’s not family but friends. You bump into people you haven’t seen in years and everyone is in good mood after having burned all those calories pre-gorging.