What an amazing start to 2012 for Cincinnati on the sports front: first, Bengals playoff mania swept the city. There were orange and black jerseys everywhere. That excitement immediately gave way to former Reds great Barry Larkin's induction into the Hall of Fame and another big Reds trade.

The excitement had multitudes of casual and non-sports fans bantering back and forth on Twitter, Facebook and in offices everywhere. It was civic pride, writ large.

If there is anything to be learned from this phenomenon, it's that we should never take our pro sports teams for granted. Many do every day. But they should always think of the meta-picture. The civic pride and economic impact that both create, frankly make our little city walk and talk bigger than it is, which is a very good thing. Perhaps we can't compete with the big boys economically, but we surely can beat the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Miami Dolphins.

What It Brings

It's no coincidence that both team owners "” Mike Brown with the Bengals and Bob Castellini with the Reds "” are near the top of our annual Power 100 list of the area's most influential people.

Imagine life without one or both of the teams.

Does the Banks get created?

What about Newport and Covington's booming development "” does that occur to the degree that it has happened and is still happening?

Does the economic impact for ancillary companies, products and services remain the same?

Does the "next big thing" to the riverfront come to fruition?

The very likely answer to all four is "no."

Big City Stuff

And in the status department, little ol' Cincinnati would be a whole lot littler, literally and figuratively.

Among the cities with at least two pro teams competing in the big four leagues "” Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League "” Cincinnati is the 22nd smallest out of 30.

Greater Cincinnati is the 27th-ranked Metropolitan Statistical Area in the nation as designated by the 2010 U.S. Census with 2,130,151 people. (For the record, Cleveland is 28th and Columbus is 32nd. We're just sayin'.)

The Seattle and San Diego metro areas have a million more people than Greater Cincinnati, but the same number of Big Four pro teams. Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio and Orlando "” cities slightly bigger than Cincinnati "” have only one team.

Life with our sports teams is far from perfect and has its warts (see: stadium deals, extended periods of losing). And they're just games, of course, leisure pursuits.

But at the end of the day, we are far better off with our teams than without them.

Yes, we are pretty lucky here in the Queen City. We should never forget that.

And there are more big things on the horizon.

Next Up: Spring Training

After an offseason of blockbuster trades and signings, the "all-in" Reds are going for it big time, beginning their quest for the National League Central title with spring training in February. Reds Nation is veritably giddy with good reason heading into a season for the first time in more than a decade.

And the Bengals will steam into the NFL Draft in April in prime position to make a young, promising team even stronger with two first-round draft picks. Even the often-skeptical Bengals faithful are daring to dream.

Odds are you're already talking about both and we know that will just build.