CINCINNATI -- It's Friday, September 16, 2016. First the headlines:
DECEIVING: Houston rocked the Cincinnati Bearcats 40-16 Thursday night. It's hard to believe that UC had a 16-12 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, before everything fell apart. UC gave up two interceptions for touchdowns in the final quarter and Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr. ran for two touchdowns down the stretch.
NOT MANY GAMES LEFT: The Reds were off Thursday. They begin a weekend series with the Pirates Friday night.
FRIDAY FOOTBALL FRENZY: Some really good games. 3-0 Colerain is at 3-0 Princeton, while 3-0 Wyoming is at 3-0 Indian Hill.
TIMID TALK, TOUGH TALK: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was on an NFL show with ESPN Thursday afternoon, so I turned up the volume. Trey Wingo, who does a nice interview, tried to warm up Andy with some good-natured pokes at his hairstyle, then later some chit-chat about off-season incidents. I'm sure he was trying to loosen up Dalton, hoping to pry out some nuggets about the Bengals-Steelers game.
He would have needed a crowbar. Dalton wasn't biting on the various questions about the rivalry, Andy told us it was a "big game" and then a "division game" and that the Bengals "are playing a really good team." Gosh we didn't know any of that. "These matchups are really hard-fought" Andy told Trey. "They're always close" noting that the Bengals "have to be at our best."
First of all, I really like Andy Dalton as a player and a person. Wholesome, polite, intelligent and hard-working as they come. And in time, he might be regarded as the best Bengals quarterback of all time. But rarely does he say anything startling. Like I said, he's intelligent, and who needs to give the Steelers anything to chew on. In the media, we note that he's been "marvinized," saying exactly what Marvin Lewis would like him to say.
I relate this story because of how it contrasts with what DeAngelo Williams was saying in the Steelers locker room. He's very smart as well. He talked honestly about the rivalry without giving the Bengals any bulletin board material.
He only arrived in Pittsburgh last year, so he admitted he was new to a Cincinnati-Pittsburgh rivalry. He thought the Ravens held the top spot. "I got here and everybody's talking about Baltimore week and they were serious and I was like 'hold up now, the Cincinnati game was just played and it was like crazy. And then the second game happened and I was like whoa! This is serious.'"
I thought that was refreshing. He was actually saying something without making anybody mad.
Williams said "everyone knows the professional hatred that we have with the Cincinnati Bengals and that the Bengals have with us." That's a new one on me. "Professional hatred?" Much different than the "amateur hatred" we see between Ohio State and Michigan.
As he talked more, Williams made more and more sense. Like the people who regarded the Bengals and Steelers games as brutal and overly physical. What about those people? "They're not used to football" Williams told reporters. "If you talk to all the old guys who used to play, it was way worse than this right here. I mean that's why people came to love football. I mean, you don't watch hockey for the scores; you watch hockey for fights, right?"
Again, he's not taking jabs at the Bengals. Actually he's taking jabs at the state of the game which is one step away from flag football.
Does he want to see fighting? "That's not what I'm promoting," Williams said. "But you like when two people generally really don't like each other. You know you're going to get the very best from both teams. And that's what you're going to get Sunday."
I thought it was great for a player to be so forthcoming. Energized by the rivalry, realizing the motivation that drives football, and not afraid to admit why football has become America's game. It can be done. It's just honest talk and I think fans really appreciate that. I know reporters do.
And the NFL should like it as well. He said this is going to be a "two chinstrap" game. If I'm a fan, that's the game I want to watch.