By Julia Lankisch, Staff Writer
Ever worn a jersey and gotten laughed at? Well, that’s a pretty common experience for Bengals fans.
We’re a sad bunch, watching our team lose year after year and doing our best to fend off the doubters. The past 31 years, which is how long it’s been since Cincinnati football won a playoff game, have been tough to stick out. That’s about one-and-a-half times the entire lives of most Xavier undergraduate students.
To add insult to injury, there’s always just enough talent to lead us into thinking we can make something happen. Carson Palmer led the team for a few decent seasons and a couple AFC North titles in the 2000s, and young spitfire Andy Dalton looked promising for a bit as well, with 5 consecutive playoff appearances.
AJ Green, Geno Atkins, Andrew Whitworth, Chad Ochocinco Johnson and a host of other standout players during the years were probably the only reasons a lot of the franchise’s fans stuck around. The team’s record and the management style of the Brown family certainly were not why. It’s not clear whether they were aware of the free agency system up until about five years ago.
More than that, though, the fans were loyal to their Bungles no matter how much they Bungled because there is a certain pride that comes from living in and loving this city. It’s an easy write-off for many — a Midwestern flyover town with too many German Catholics hanging around. But it’s so much more than that.
Our teams don’t usually get the national notoriety or the respect that many other teams garner. In fact, the Bengals are fairly infamous for being pretty consistently bad. But I’ll tell you what, Cincinnatians all over the country were still in our Who Dey gear getting our hopes up every week watching them be bad because maybe this game they would shape up.
The recent success of the team under the leadership of golden boy Joe Burrow has been such a refreshing change. It makes being the butt of the joke for a long time seem worth it. It’s hard not to smile watching the magic made by Joey B as well as Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, Trey Hendrickson, Tee Higgins and notably this week, kicker Evan McPherson.
Even better is knowing that the young players leading the team have a vested interest in the franchise. Not only can we watch them do well together right now, but we also get to watch them improve together for years to come.
The recent playoff victories against the Raiders and the Titans mark the end of an era where no one under the age of 40 remembers the Bengals being good. We can wear our jerseys with pride. We can say Who Dey Think Gonna Beat Them Bengals and actually mean it. It’s a great feeling.