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Marla Ridenour on Sports

MLS tryout by Cincinnati Bengals' Chad Ochocinco intriguing

By Marla Published: March 25, 2011

While Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and at least one fellow NFL player think wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's tryout this week with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer is a mere publicity stunt, I find myself rooting for him to make it, at least as a practice player.

According to ESPN.com, the six-time Pro Bowler has been invited to play in Sporting Kansas City's reserve game on Monday against a local minor league team.

Ochocinco's tryout began Wednesday, when he was reportedly nervous, winded and rusty, not having played the sport since the 10th grade.

Earlier this week, Lewis said in reference to Ochocinco's return to the sport he first loved, "What has he ever done that he's completed? What circle has he ever connected in any way?" On Twitter, Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley called Ochocinco a ''clown.''

I don't see any difference in this than in Ochocinco's turn on ''Dancing With the Stars.'' I don't hear anyone criticizing Steelers receiver Hines Ward for participating on ''Dancing'' this season, making his debut Monday night.

It certainly seems that working out with Sporting Kansas City during the NFL lockout would be more productive than catching passes at some high school field, especially when the passes presumably won't be thrown by disgrunted Bengals QB Carson Palmer. If Ochocinco can hang on for a while in Kansas City and voters keep Ward dancing for a few weeks, the two might be among the fittest players when football returns.

A story on ESPN.com by its soccer writer Leander Schaerlaekens quoted former University of Akron soccer star Teal Bunbury on Ochocinco's experiment.

"We went to dinner when he first got here and he told me straight up that he's dead serious and really wants this," Bunbury told Schaerlaekens. "He doesn't want to waste anybody's time."

Of Ochocinco's improvement in Thursday's practice, Bunbury told ESPN.com, "I don't think the players were expecting anything big from him, but he's really showed himself. From yesterday to today he's really improved. Today his touch was a lot better, his movement was a lot better, he's understanding the game a bit more. He's really getting adjusted."

Other thoughts on this week's sports headlines:


  • Those who criticized Charles Barkley's involvement in the joint venture by CBS and TNT to cover the NCAA Tournament should be eating crow today. At halftime of Thursday night's Arizona-Duke game, Barkley bravely stuck to his guns, insisting that Arizona would win despite being surrounded by Duke supporters. He cited the fact that Arizona had a deeper bench than Duke and that standout point guard Kyrie Irving would tire playing in just his third game after getting no more than 20 minutes since his return from a December toe injury. Granted, Barkley lives in the Phoenix area, so he probably knows a little more about the Wildcats than most. But this is why Barkley's commentary is so valuable, his willingness to go against the grain.

  • Duke was the second No. 1 seed to go down, following Pitt last week. Will that provide a stern warning for No. 1 overall seed Ohio State going into tonight's game against Kentucky? Or will that give more hope to the Kentucky Wildcats, with March Madness this year turning into March Mayhem? (And I still hate those commercials, by the way.)

  • The Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel forwarded the warning emails he received from a Columbus attorney about NCAA violations by quarterback Terrelle Pryor and receiver DeVier Posey to Pennsylvania businessman Ted Sarniak, a mentor to Pryor. Now we understand Tressel's response when he was asked on March 8 if he forwarded the emails to anyone. He nodded and said, "Uh-hum,'' before director of athletics Gene Smith jumped in and stopped Tressel from commenting on the ongoing investigation. I'm  wondering if somone will uncover what OSU was looking into when it discovered Tressel's emails.

  • While the discovery of more  NCAA violations against Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl led to his firing on Monday, it does not bode well for Tressel that another coach who lied to NCAA investigators has been relieved of his duties.

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