It’s all set. Super Bowl LIII will be played on Sunday, Feb. 3, in Atlanta, Ga. with all is pomp, circumstances and majesty that is always part of the climax of any National Football League season. Will the Cincinnati Bengals be there? Yes, if they bought tickets early.
I have been a Bengals fan ever since their first Super Bowl appearance in 1981. Hope sprung anew in 1988 when my boys made a return trip to the big game, and a huge opportunity to exact our revenge on the team who had taken the Super Bowl Championship from our grasp seven years earlier, the San Francisco 49ers. Well, the 49ers were building a dynasty, and they used the hearts of Cincinnati fans once again as yet another step on their way to the pinnacle.
I know many former Bengals fans, fair-weather Bengals fans, closet Bengals fans, and party Bengals fans who only go to the games for the tailgating and beer drinking, but couldn’t tell you who won or what the AFC standings in any current year are. Then there are Bengals fans like me. People who have a sickness — an illness associated only with what seems to be misguided hope, and eternal faith in something that appears to be as elusive as capturing a handful of smoke.
Oh sure, I have heard it all. When I proudly wear my Bengals stripes into the grocery the eruption of laughter in aisle 13 near the kitty litter is just plain hurtful, and there are apologies from new acquaintances who discover I am a Bengals fan. There is the head slightly pitched to the side in sympathetic gesture when it is learned Bengal fandom is in my blood – and the head that pitches even further when I mention how long I’ve been a die-hard Bengals fan. I have even been handed business cards from mental health professionals following a Bengals discussion punctuated with a “call me soon!”
Oh yes, it hurts that turncoats are showing up in my family. A son-in-law, a granddaughter, and others showing up in Pittsburg Steelers garb. How shameful. But do I show myself by making a fool of myself by arguing with them? Sometimes. But, do I stoop as low as telling them they are not contributing to the goal of making America Great again? I have (that would make a great saying on a ball cap). Have I altered my will based on my family’s allegiance to the Bengals? Of course not, yet (my attorney won’t return my call).
As a Cincinnati Bengals fan I don’t think I am asking too much to have my team compete in a playoff game. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they win a playoff game, or two or three or participate in a Super Bowl, and maybe win one in my lifetime. After all, I have been patient for 31 years now, and counting and counting and counting.
Like many of you, I have loudly claimed that I am finished. No more Sunday afternoons from August through December wasted in front of the television for a lost cause. But just then, they do something to create just a little glimmer of hope onto the following season, and I am hooked for one more year.
How long has it been since the Super Bowl, any Super Bowl had any bearing whatsoever on my Bengals? 1988? No, this one. Super Bowl LIII. How so, you ask?
Cincinnati is greatly interested in bringing L.A. Rams Quarterback Coach Zac Taylor on as head coach in the upcoming season, filling the vacancy left by the departure of Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons. But they (the Bengals) have to wait until after — wait for it — the Super Bowl to talk with him, because the Rams are playing in it this year. I know that was a stretch, but it connects, kind of.
So a bit of sad news for my wife and family who have stuck with me as I have stuck with my Bengals through thin and thin all these years, as I have perhaps one more year of Bengal fandom remaining in these tired old bones. Sorry. Who-Dey!
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at www.HerbDayVoices.com.