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Catching Up With Diehard Bengals Fan Kevin Youkilis In The Age Of Burrow

QB Joe Burrow after training on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 at the Kettering Health Practice Field in Cincinnati, Ohio.
QB Joe Burrow after training on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 at the Kettering Health Practice Field in Cincinnati, Ohio.

From the first night he shared a NESN TV booth with diehard Bengals fan and never-say-die Red Sox great Kevin Youkilis, gifted play-by-play man Dave O'Brien knew "The Greek God of Walks," would have no problem delivering classic lines.

"We're at Fenway and he looks up and says you can't judge the wind looking at the flag," purrs O'Brien with his everyday ease. "He's looking at what's next to it."

In O'Brien's five decades of making pilgrimages to baseball's cathedral through all kinds of Nor'easter winds, that nugget had escaped a suburban Boston native. But it reinforces the notion that the passions of Kevin Youkilis never go with the wind.

And that includes his Bengals, a rooting interest that at age 45 has survived the severe buffeting of a move to the West Coast, becoming The GOAT's brother-in-law, sprawling business ventures, and fatherhood.

When he and O'Brien settled into the Great American Ball Park booth to call Friday night's first game of the Red Sox-Reds weekend series, Youkilis was working again in his hometown where it all started wearing what turned out to be a quite fortuitous No. 13 at Sycamore High School.

"I'm still a diehard Bengals fan, but life takes you in a different direction once your kids reach a certain age," says Youkilis, who married Tom Brady's sister a dozen years ago. "It got derailed a little bit, too, with the family watching the Patriots and Buccaneers. It was definitely hard balancing both. I went to the Super Bowl with my wife. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the victory I was dying to see. I'm hoping in my lifetime I'll get to see a Bengals Super Bowl."

Youkilis is a Bengals fan because his dad, Mike Youkilis, was. "He was Cincinnati through-and-through," says Kevin, still not quite believing it's been four years since the man they called "Bear," died at 71.

"My dad went to the '88 Super Bowl with his good friend, Dr. Robert Osher. I got to go to this one," Youkilis says of 2021's Super Bowl LVI. "Everybody tells me I look just like my dad. Maybe one of my kids who doesn't look exactly like me needs to go to a Super Bowl."

So maybe that's the key. A Youkilis that looks like a cross between Bear and Brady cheering a quarterback who plays like Brady. It will surprise no one that Kevin Youkilis, who set or tied a slew of ALCS records in 2007 after getting drilled in the hand and missing two weeks late in the season, loves Joe Burrow's intensity.

"I'm a big fan of Burrow. I think he's got the pedigree," Youkilis says. "He's got that competitive nature to him. You can't coach it. You can't teach it. It's not a learned behavior. It's something you have.

"His ability to throw the ball, his ability to run the offense is great. Going off history and analytics, I think this window is closing fast."

It will also surprise no one that the man who broke the decades-old record of consecutive errorless games and chances at first base believes that defense wins championships. Youkilis is looking for the current edition of "The Cincinnati Kid," left end Sam Hubbard, to get back healthy.

"Growing up in Montgomery myself, he went to Moeller and that's pretty cool. He's on the track of (Kevin) Huber," Youkilis says of the University of Cincinnati's Kevin Huber, the Bengals' all-time punter. "It's always fun to watch local products that do well and the guys that stay. They get to compete and play on that high level in Ohio."

Youkilis did it. He took a late 1990s gamble from the University of Cincinnati baseball coach and cashed it into becoming one of the top players in the majors in the next decade. O'Brien argues that in 2008, his fielding and hitting (you want analytics? he hit .353 after the sixth inning) very easily could have given him the MVP.

He'll tingle this week. But it won't mean as much as it would have been if it was at the old Riverfront Stadium of his youth. O'Brien can turn next to him and still see the grinder grinding out an edge.

"He puts you in the batter's box," O'Brien says.

Only now he's got two laptops flipped open with a notebook at his side.

"It's kind of odd that the opposition is the team you rooted for your whole life, but they didn't draft you," Youkilis says. "Their scouting department didn't think much of my junior or senior year to draft me. I became a Red Sox and added "OX," to my fandom."

Bear is the reason he's announcing, too. His son has plenty going on with his three children, as well as his brewery and coffee company. He's also the hitting coach for the Israeli national team that won a berth in the next World Baseball Classic.

But then NESN called two years ago.

"My dad is the only reason why I took it. I did it reflecting on the things he loved in life," Youkilis says. "He would have loved to have been a baseball broadcaster. He loved baseball so much. To have a front-row seat to call a game.

"Its been good. It's definitely different than the adrenaline playing the game. That's the hard part. I do miss the action on the field, the camaraderie. You can't replicate it in the booth. But when you're older and you need a little bit of a better schedule in life, broadcasting is the next best thing."

He's also not the same guy who would blow up watching the Bengals. Like that 2010 opener in New England, where his future brother-in-law beat Carson Palmer while Youkilis stormed about the visitors' locker room in Oakland. And he's got no time for all those fantasy leagues he used to be in.

"I have gotten a lot more calmer with the Bengals over the years. I think age has allowed me to calm down a little bit more," Youkilis says.

Kids will do that to you. His daughter just graduated from college. His sons, nine and 11, are being encouraged to play multiple sports. Youk says flag football is big in California. They're playing basketball and falling in love with baseball.

"It's fun to see them compete. They love it. Their DNA when they were born was 100 percent competitive with their mom and their dad. They had no choice," Youkilis says. "I tell the boys don't be like your dad. Be better than me."

Kevin Youkilis gives them more than advice. He gives them the Bengals. Just like Mike Youkilis gave them to him. It helps they are stacked with some of the most recognizable stars in the game.

"They definitely root for the Bengals. They see dad rooting for the Bengals," Youkilis says. "I think the cool part today for kids is that they're fans of the athletes as much as they are fans of a team. They have the access and the ability to watch a lot more. To see a lot more of the athletes. They've just become fans of the game and fans of the athletes that are kind of the hot trending guys in the league.

"It's different now because Tommy is retired, so they don't have to root for whatever team Tommy plays on. The Bengals have kind of taken on their new team. It's kind of fun."

Youkilis is well aware that as he roots for the Bengals to win the Super Bowl, he, at times, sounds like a Red Sox fan before he helped them win it all in 2004. He also reminds you he was a scout and consultant for the Cubs when they built the 2016 champions.

"Hopefully the mojo goes into the Bengals," says Youkilis, passing it on before signing off with a "Who-Dey."