Cincinnati radio talk show host Lance McAlister posed the question on his show, which side are you on as a Cincinnati fan? The Bengals or the Reds, take your pick.
Living in Cincinnati you have two professional sports teams to support. The Cincinnati Reds have forever been the more popular team in the city, the team that resonates more with the fans. The Bengals while popular have never reached the level of the Reds. Why is that? Why is baseball more popular in this town than football.
Cincinnati was built on baseball. The Reds have been around since 1881, you can trace the Reds history back to 1869. The Bengals didn’t come to town until 1968. Meaning the Reds essentially had a 100 year head start on the team Paul Brown brought to town.
There are obviously other legitimate reasons why the people of Cincinnati recognize themselves as a baseball town as opposed to a football town. Main reason, the Reds have been winning championships longer than the Bengals have been in existence. World Series titles in 1919, 1940, 1975, 1976 and 1990 gave the people of Cincinnati something to cheer for.
Now the Bengals have given the fans something to cheer for, Super Bowl appearances in 1981 and 1988 gave the people a new sport to cheer for. Then came the down years, the 1990’s and early 2000’s were not good for the Bengals popularity. Even today Paul Brown Stadium sells out nearly every game and football is vastly more popular than every other sport in the country. So why does Cincinnati still flock to baseball?
Easy, baseball is more relatable, the players are easier to interact with, the season is longer, tickets are much cheaper and stadiums are more friendly. Baseball is everything football isn’t.
When it comes to fan interaction there is nothing better than baseball. Teams give away a number of baseballs every game, batting practice and the end of each inning. That stands out to fans. When is the last time the Bengals gave away footballs? Sure they cost more but think about it. In baseball you feel like you are a part of the team, 162 games, a season that stretches from the end of March until October, you develop a relationship with the team.
Die hard football fans have a relationship with the Bengals but they are few and far between. If you were a betting individual you could almost bet the Bengals are not the most popular NFL team in this city. Certainly they wouldn’t garner over 50%. The down years, the paper bag over the head years pushed fans away to other teams. Combine that with a tenured mediocre head coach and an owner unwilling to do anything substantial and you have an unwelcoming team for fans.
Cincinnati always has and always will be a baseball town. Little boys go with their dads to games, sit in the stands and imagine themselves on the field. They take their imaginations with them to t-ball the next day. My dad did it with me, 1994 Riverfront Stadium (Cinergy Field) to see the Reds play, from that moment I was hooked. The tradition continues to this day.
Not to mention the weather is better during baseball season.
Most of Cincinnati would call themselves Reds fans before Bengals fans. It is nothing against the Bengals, the Reds have just always been a Cincinnati institution.