Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) runs up the middle for a touchdown during their game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Photo: Greg Lynch
Photo: Greg Lynch

Sports Today: Bengals schedule reaction, Reds slumping, LeBron James is amazing

Big day in Bengaldom as Cincinnati’s NFL franchise unveiled plans to celebrate its 50th season and the schedule it will play this fall. 

Mike Brown, Bob Johnson and Bob Trumpy regaled a group of season-ticket holders, club employees and media with stories about the early days of the franchise — an entertaining hour that hopefully is a preview of a fun year for football in the Queen City. 

RELATED: Five things to know about Bengals 50th season anniversary celebration 

As I wrote yesterday, this type of acknowledgement of the past is overdue. 

The history of the Bengals seems to be told this way: They lost two Super Bowls in the 80s, lost every game in the 90s and now just lose every playoff game in the 21st century. 

That leaves lots of blanks to be filled in, so let’s see how they do. 

WATCH: First Bengals draft pick compares his salary to Peyton Manning’s 

As for the schedule, it looks very manageable. 

The Bengals finished last season ahead of the Bills, Vikings, Colts, Bears, Jaguars, Lions, Texans and Browns in Football Outsiders efficiency ratings

They were one spot behind Denver, where John Elway still hasn’t found a quarterback, so if Marvin Lewis can’t get Cincinnati back to the playoffs this season, it shouldn’t be because of the schedule. 

If they sweep the Browns and split with the Ravens and Steelers, it’s not a far leap to a pretty good record… 

The Cleveland Cavaliers would have surely been fine in the long run if they hadn’t come back from a 25-point halftime deficit last night, but they went ahead and did it in Indiana anyway. 

So now instead of a faux-competitive first-round series with the Pacers, LeBron James and company can earn some rest by completing a sweep this weekend. 

James was amazing Thursday night, posting a triple-double with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists against an Indiana squad that seemed powerless to stop him. 

The comeback inspired Sporting News to pretend these Cavs are just LeBron and a bunch of misfits, so that’s interesting. 

Sort of amazing how super teams are put together around James every year but seem to be reduced to a band of role players at best by the spring. 

One of the problems with LeBron coming of age in this era is that finding an appreciation equilibrium for his game and career is proving to be just about impossible. 

On one side there are those who do hold him to an impossible standard, but the blowback for their critiques often goes too far in the other direction. 

I try to be content to watch the second-best player of all time do his thing, but the never-ending narrative battles get tiresome… 

The Reds have lost five of their last seven after that hot start, and the offense was at fault again Thursday night. 

They have four hits in the last two games, losing both despite the pitching staff giving up only four runs combined in 19 innings. 

Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza, Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler are all hitting below .250. 

The Reds are tied for fourth in the National League in runs and tied for third in home runs, but they’ve dropped to 12th in OPS. 

They’re still in first place, but here come the defending World Series champion Cubs for a three-game series at GABP… 

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods had another back surgery. 

That’s four if you haven’t been able to keep track. 

I have to admit I haven’t really been trying because it’s been pretty obvious for years he’s never going to be THE Tigers Woods again. 

Apparently he might not even be a Tiger Woods again… 

Lastly, hockey season is over in Ohio. 

The Blue Jackets weren’t able to turn that game four win over the Penguins into a streak, falling 5-2 in Pittsburgh last night. 

The defending Stanley Cup champions claimed the first-round series four games to one. 

The future seems to be bright for Columbus, although they have been in this position before and fell flat the following two seasons. 

Hopefully they are better able to capitalize on a great season this time and start to build a long-term winner. 

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