A couple of years ago, I had the misfortune of being in Pittsburgh for a couple of days. (It was the only time I’ve ever been there, and I hope to never go back.) I happened to be there during their equivalent to RedsFest. I saw hundreds of guys in line at the convention center, enduring the bitter cold to see something of one of the worst teams in baseball.
At first, I wanted to laugh. Did they honestly think that this might be the year that the Pirates turned it around? I wanted to ask the dads who had brought their sons to this event how they could teach their boys to love something so… so horrible. It had been 16 seasons since they’d had a winning year (now 18 seasons, a record among all sports). They define futility in MLB.
Then my mockery turned to pity. Maybe these guys still held to memories of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. It wasn’t their fault that the team was so badly mismanaged. They just wanted to find joy again in something they had good reason to enjoy in younger days. (With the Reds closing in on a decade of losing at the time, I could relate to that.)
The Bengals are the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NFL. Both teams peddle themselves on past wins and speak of hope, but all the while they turn the present into a punchline. Fans of other teams either point and laugh, or they shake their heads and wonder why. Ask them to choose a word to describe either team, and you will get either “joke” or “mess”. Mismanagement and futility are all they see now.
In those 18 straight losing seasons, the Pirates have won just under 43% of their games. In Mike Brown’s 20 years as Owner/GM, the Bengals have won less than 36% of their games. Ouch!