After having to physically remove myself from watching the Bengals-Ravens season opener two weeks ago, I've been thinking a lot about the troubled history of Cincinnati sports in general and the Bengals in particular. The short version of the history is something like this:
- The Reds - The Reds were terrible in the early 80's, but they got better in the late 80's. Pete Rose got kicked out of baseball, and then they won a World Series and were very competitive for about six seasons thereafter. They got royally screwed in the strike year when they had a 66-48 record, good enough for 1st place in the NL Central. They were good the year after, but no one seemed to care anymore. They've sucked ever since.
- The Bengals - Vacillated between terrible and decent in the 80's under Sam Wyche. Were really good for a couple of seasons. Lost a heart breaker to the Niners in Super Bowl XXIII; a game that is constantly replayed on ESPN and the NFL network in attempt to further demoralize and humiliate Bengal fans. The Bengals went on to make the playoffs the next season and then sucked for 14 straight years. I mean really sucked, like "not a single winning season" sucked. Then they had another good season on 2005, won the AFC North, and tricked people into thinking they could be good for an extended period of time. Now they suck again.
- The Xavier Musketeers - Really don't fit in to this equation at all. The most well run sports organization in Cincinnati for the last 25 years, hands down. The program has steadily improved through four different coaching regimes and two different conference affiliations. The team has made a postseason appearance in the NCAA tourney 17 times since 84-85, and appeared in two Elite Eight's in the last five years. They have had one losing season in the last 23 years. I just included them to make myself feel better, most Cincy sports fans don't really care about the Muskies, but clearly I do.
So I guess the question I'm really getting around to is this: can I bail on the Bengals for a little while? I had to do it in the 90's, and I didn't (and don't) regret a minute of it. I had a friend back in high school that kept trying to convince me, every fall, that this season was going to be different. Someone named Harold Green or Darnay Scott or Peter Warrick or Ki-Jana Carter was going to make a difference. I knew better back then. I went out of my way to pretty much ignore the entire NFL (this was before I did fantasy), and you know what? I was fine. Really, I was a pretty happy guy back then. I mean, I never stopped loving them or started rooting for anyone else, I just didn't watch them or read anything about them.
Then all this shit with Carson and Marvin Lewis happened. They actually took their time with Carson. They developed him. Made sure he didn't get Klingler-ed. Gave him an offensive line and a running game. Two great receivers. Sure the defense sucked, but who cared? The defense always sucks in Cincinnati, that's our identity in the AFC North. The team looked good. We won the AFC Central. There didn't seem to be any reason why they couldn't continue to be good for as long as Carson was taking the snaps.
Then Carson got his knee blown out. Then everyone got arrested. And the offense just kept looking a little less explosive each season. And now.....I kinda might need to bail for a while.
Under normal circumstances, I would definitely give someone shit for writing what I just wrote. But the thing to remember is this: Mike Brown still controls the Cincinnati football team. Which means, basically, that they can never be good. Ever. He's the most colossally inept owner in all of professional sports. From Wikipedia:
He is often cited as one of the worst owners in the history of professional sports.
The Bengals are like this girl that I was really into in high school. She was a tall blonde Catholic School girl who liked James (the band) and did theater. That was pretty much all I needed. We talked on the phone for a few weeks, and then I finally got her to come over to my house to "watch a movie" some weekend night. I was stoked. I had rented "Alive" (yeah I know, bad call) and convinced my parents to leave us alone in the living room to watch it. After I played her some tracks off the new Chapterhouse album I had just picked up, we were about to lay down to watch the movie. Some little argument broke out just then, and I went into flirty/teasing mode and made some comment about her being a little bitchy. In my teenage mind, getting a girl riled up with a little jokery was just a good solid replacement for foreplay. Right after I said it, the girl bolted up off the couch and walked right at me with a glint in her green eyes and a little smirk on her lips.
It worked! She was totally staring me down, walking over to me slowly and sexy-like. I stood there in the kitchen, unblinking, waiting for the magic to happen.
She punched me in the stomach. Really hard.
We didn't hook up that night. We, in fact, never hooked up (and not because I stopped trying). My friend Dave showed up later on with some hot-ass 16 year old from the other Girls' Catholic High School and made out with her on the couch while we sat silently watching Ethan Hawke eat frozen body parts.
So that's kinda like being a Bengals fan.
Soooo....can I bail now?