Cincinnati Bengals: Fans Deserve a Win on Saturday

robertsprague
Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals fans cheer in the stands against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals fans cheer in the stands against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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Bengals fans have suffered long enough. Here’s a firsthand account of a longtime Bengals fan, representative of Cincinnati’s fanbase, desperate for a win on Saturday.

It’s been 25 years since the Cincinnati Bengals have delivered a playoff victory for their home town faithful. During that time players and coaches have come and gone, the one constant is the fans. I’m not referring to the bandwagon jumpers who get pulled in by media hype and winning records, then renounce their allegiance at the first sign of trouble.

The fans that I am referring to are those of us who truly bleed orange and black. Those of us who endured the 15 year playoff drought that was riddled with five wins or less seasons. Those fans who thought their long suffering was over in 2005, only to endure yet another decade of disappointment. It is this group that is the heartbeat of Bengals Nation, and the fans who deserve some post season glory.

Personally, I have been a Bengals fan my entire life. I was born the morning after Cincinnati had their largest victory to date over the Steelers (41-6). From there, I went on to watch the AFC Championship and Super Bowl games from my high chair. In my 27 years I have attended over 125 regular season games as well as two playoff losses.

My love for the Bengals began at training camp in Wilmington, when Boomer Esiason was still the starting QB. I suffered through the disappointments of David Klingler, Ki-jana Carter, Akili Smith, Chris Perry and David Pollack. I also felt the elation as Corey Dillion shattered the single game rushing record, the hype that surrounded the Shake-n-Blake phenomenon, and pure optimism of both the Palmer and Dalton eras.

As a season ticket holder your experience grows ever deeper, and those around you go from being faces in the crowd to your Sunday family.

For those who have never experienced a game live the atmosphere is nearly indescribable. Few places feature a shared mindset amongst more than 50,000 people. As a season ticket holder your experience grows ever deeper, and those around you go from being faces in the crowd to your Sunday family. As a young child, I remember sitting at Riverfront Stadium admiring the fans around me.

There was Jay, he was the sections entertainment. He always heckled the officials and cheerleaders with a megaphone made from his beer cups. Aside from Jay, there was Shawn, she was a super fan. She was covered in Bengals gear from head to toe and featured all sorts of Bengals accessories. It was a magical place for a young fan, it was where learned the camaraderie that comes from the teams unofficial slogan “Who Dey” and it instilled in me an undying love and support for the Bengals.

When the team moved to Paul Brown Stadium (PBS), I was introduced to a fresh group that quickly grew into my new Sunday Family. The headliners of the group were clear from the get go, as “Tarzan” and the “Nati Kid” energized all of section 116. I can still hear the familiar call, “What is that… What is that… That’s a big… FIRST DOWN!”

It was amazing how they could get the entire section to dance the Jungle Boogie after every Bengals touchdown. Though we barely knew anyone’s actual names, every weekend was a family reunion and the connection shared amongst us was strong. My story is just one of thousands of similar experiences that any diehard fan could tell.

The bond of Bengals fans goes far beyond the walls of PBS. The entire Greater Cincinnati area is an enigma. Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Central Indiana all share more in common with one another than they do their respective states.

It’s a shared culture that is not mid-western, southern, nor east coast; but instead a unique civilization unlike any other. From the food to the festivals, Greater Cincinnati offers what nowhere else can. It is this shared culture that defines Bengals fan’s loyalty. Citizens of Greater Cincinnati are loyal to the tristate area and remain faithful to those organizations that represent the place they hold dear.

Saturday night will mark the seventh overall and fifth straight Bengals appearance on Wildcard Weekend during the Marvin Lewis era. Six times Bengals Nation has embraced this opportunity in hopes that perhaps this could be the year to break through and achieve post season glory. Their reward was the sting of pain and anguish from crushing losses. 26 years, that’s an entire generation of Bengals fans who have not once experienced the joy of a playoff victory. These fans still bleed orange and black, while continuing show up game after game and season after season. The draught must end and this Saturday has be the playoff renaissance for Cincinnati.

Win it for the father who taught his son passion for the game through the Bengals. Win it for the mother who wiped her children’s tears after the disappointing losses. Win it for the city that has endured years of ridicule and heart break. The 2016 playoff appearance is more important than just a game to most of us, it is the climax of a year long journey that has been building on top of the drama of the last three decades of disappointment. This is why the Bengals need to find a way to defeat the Steelers. Their archrival is the poster child for fair weather fans. People across the country are drawn to the team from the steel due to their consistency and history. It is a despicable behavior to align your allegiance with a team based purely off the winning ways. Steelers’ fans, like most bandwagon teams, have no shared culture forged through the crucibles of difficult times. This variance is what differentiates Bengals fans from many other fan bases and is the chief reason why the Bengals need to win. The loyalty of the fans cries out to be rewarded, so finally Bengals Nation can say, “I was there when…”

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