More than two decades have passed since then, and if that game was a heartbreak, then the following 20 years can only be described as the annihilation of my childhood. Year after year, the team I loved found new and more unpleasant ways to lose. Losing beget losing and a fanbase starved for a return to prominence was smashed over the head with ineptitude. The Bengals became the Bungles and a punchline in the football world. Bad draft picks, poor coaching choices, and a seemingly indifferent front office combined to drain the spirit from a once-proud franchise.
Now, moving ahead to the past few years, and while the Bengals have been better, making three trips to the playoffs, with no postseason wins. The team has improved to highly inconsistent rather than just plain bad. The good seasons have aroused a dormant optimism in the fans in Cincinnati. Those high hopes are then quickly dashed by the crushing blow of a terrible season to follow. This season is no different. In 2011, a rookie QB, a rookie WR, a new offensive coordinator, and a young defense surprised the league and breathed life into their fans by getting into the playoffs. This year looked like it might finally bring some semblance of sanity as the team came out of the gate strong. However, history found a way of repeating itself as four straight losses left fans with that old familiar feeling. Then we come full circle, following a big win over the defending champion New York Giants, and a big win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Bengals fans now break out renewed hopes, maybe the last hope of saving this season. At 5-5, we want to believe that we can make a run and cheer our team to back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since the early 1980’s. Some fans, however, like myself, have learned their lesson. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 30 times….
So I’ll sit and watch. I’ll root root root for the home team, and I’ll celebrate every great play and every win like it’ll be the last, partly because it just might be. I’ll yell at my TV. I’ll stand up and scream as a player breaks a big play. I’ll even lean my body on field goals as if I can affect the trajectory with my body language. Each loss will ruin my week, even if we’re out of contention and the losses only help get a higher draft pick. One thing I won’t do is let my expectations get the better of me. I’ll just keep repeating, I will not get too excited. I will not get too excited. After all, this is what we do. We lose. Unless… We do have another game against a weaker opponent, which could put us at 6-5. Then a few wins against some other inconsistent teams like Philadelphia and San Diego, and maybe, just maybe… Yeah, who am I kidding? The past has taught me nothing. I’m a sucker, and I’m still hoping for the miracle, wishing for the best, and praying for another shot in the playoffs where, who knows, maybe I’ll get that shot at revenge on the 49ers. I can’t help myself. It’s who I am, who I was born to be. I’m a Bengals fan. Who Dey!