Nov 25, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) gives a football to a young fan after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE

Cautious Optimism for Bengals Fans

It’s that time of year again. The Bengals have somehow made us believe, going into play this week with a 6 and 5 record. Andy Dalton became just the third Quarterback in history to throw for 20+ touchdowns in each of their first two seasons and the defensive line, led by Geno (Geno Sacks) Adkins and Carlos Dunlap, is inspiring fear in opposing Quarterbacks. Oh, what a team!

Now, before you get too excited, remember that this is Cincinnati. Mike Brown still rules this team with an iron fist and treats the Bengal’s name as his own personal piggy bank. This is the same owner that prompted Rick Reilly to say that his football career peaked at his birth. He is an owner based on luck alone. If skills were a requirement he would be scrubbing car windshields outside the stadium instead of reigning over it. But I digress.

You see, this is what it is like to be a Bengals fan. Yes, we are currently in line for the sixth playoff spot, but… these are still the Bungals. While I consider myself to be a die-hard fan who enjoys going to games in full black and orange jersey and gets very upset when blackout rules keep me from watching those games I can’t afford to go to, I do not allow my die-hard label to blind me to the facts of life. Football is half physical and half mental. While a major part of the game is the hard-hitting chess match we see on the field, a very influential part is what takes place off of it. This part starts in the owners box and trickles down to the players. It is for this reason that, despite their best wishes, the players currently on the payroll of the Miami Marlins (all three of them) will never win a championship with that team. Jeffery Loria just doesn’t want it that much.

Yes, Mike Brown is a step above Benedict Loria, but not much. He may put on a strong face and say (some) of the right things, but Brown just doesn’t want to win that bad. A championship would require more money. Players with rings demand higher salaries and coaches who win the big one get raises. Not only that, but fans who see a Super Bowl win expect more from a team. When they don’t do as well the next season it makes the fans angry and the owner usually has to do something to make them happy. If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Mike Brown doesn’t want to do the work.

So, like the rest of you, I am cautiously optimistic. Let me be heartfelt for a minute. Bengals, Mike Brown, Marvin Lewis, please make me eat my words! We thought we had it in 2006 (I will curse the name Kimo Van Oelhoffen to my grave). After all the years of darkness known as the 1990’s, we saw the light at the end of the 2006 tunnel. Then Carson went down and #15 died (RIP Slim) and we lost our way again. But we’re back baby! Dalton to Green is the most popular baby boy name in Cincinnati (I don’t know if that’s true but it should be). Pacman, Baby Hawk, Gresh and The Law Firm aren’t just nicknames, they’re buzzwords that inspire debate and discussion. We want to believe so badly it keeps us up at night and makes us dream during the day.

Mr. Brown, we love your team. Every year, when over halfway through the season we are still in contention, you make us believe. And every year you crush us again. And yet we come back! We come back because we bleed orange and black. We come back because we name our dogs Dalton and Kirkpatrick and because we wear the jerseys of fallen warriors like Blake and Spikes, OchoCinco and Houshmandzadeh. We tack pictures of Boomer and Kenny Anderson to our walls and leave offerings of beer and bratwursts. We are the die-hard fans and we die with your team!

So, if you are like me, you remain cautiously optimistic. You go into every year thinking, ‘this is it, this is our year’. You watch every game and shake your head at the ridiculous ways the Bengals lose and jump and high five your girlfriend when they win. You endure the scorn of those who don’t understand your love and say a prayer every Saturday night before you go to bed, thanking God for allowing Dalton to throw three touchdowns the next day. You are the die-hard fan of a perennial loser. And you wear that badge with pride.

Keep your head up Bengals fans. This just may be our year.

Tags: A.J. Green Andrew Hawkins Andy Dalton Bengals BenJarvus Green-Ellis Boomer Esiason Carlos Dunlap Carson Palmer Chad Ochocinco Chris Henry Cincinnati Cincinnati Bengals Dre Kirkpatrick Geno Atkins Jeff Blake Jeffery Loria Jermaine Gresham Ken Anderson Marvin Lewis Miami Marlins Mike Brown NFL Pacman Jones Paul Brown Stadium Takeo Spikes

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