Cincinnati Bengals: Could A Curse Be Real?

Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

After watching the Bengals suffer for the past 25 years to not only get into the playoffs but past the wildcard round. So is it the Bengals just failing or could there be an outside force?

A mere moment is all that separated the Bengals from postseason glory. 14 seconds was all that remained as Chris Boswell’s 35 yard field goal slammed the door on Cincinnati’s season. This game may be considered the most heartbreaking moment in Bengals’ history since Super Bowl XXIII. Two weeks later, the pain is still fresh for many of the Cincinnati faithful. The most painful aspect of the loss is that this is just the latest in a string of disappointments. Could there be unexplained forces working against the Bengals?

Superstitions and curses are nothing new in professional sports. The Chicago Cubs suffer from the Billy Goat Curse, the Detroit Lions are still attempting to overcome The Curse of Bobby Lane, and the most famous of all The Curse of the Bambino gripped Red Sox nation for decades. Cincinnati is no stranger to curses and for the past 26 years people have been trying to place blame for the Bengals bad play on something.

According to Merriam-Webster a curse is a cause of trouble or bad luck. The next logical question is, how do curses come about in sports? A sports team is considered cursed after many years of misfortune that prevents them from winning a championship, or in the Bengals case a playoff game. So who or what is to blame for Cincinnati’s curse?


When it comes to two sport athletes, none are put on the same pedestal as Vincent “Bo” Jackson. The multitalented Jackson was a freak of nature when he emerged from Auburn University. Jackson was drafted first overall by the putrid Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he refused to sign and spent sometime focusing on baseball. He emerged back in football with the Oakland Raiders and became the only player to be an all pro in both the NFL and MLB. Jackson’s Raiders hosted the Bengals during the 1991 playoffs.

The Raiders won the game but Jackson suffered a severe hip injury at the hands of Bengals LB Kevin Walker. It was the end of Jackson’s football career and the Bengals were the reason for his demise, right? It’s hard to draw a connection between a freak injury and Cincinnati football suffering for a quarter century. Since his playing days ended Jackson has made many television experiences, earned his degree, and maintained his celebrity for 20 years after his brief career ended. The Bengals misfortune is not due to the legendary Bo Jackson, this curse just isn’t real.


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Some self-proclaimed experts say the Bengals bad luck is linked with the demise of Ickey Woods. Ickey Woods was a star in the making after his rookie year, but a string of injuries ended his chances for long term success. Though he returned to the field, he was never the same and neither were the Bengals.

This curse is hard to buy into though, players get injured frequently and typically at no fault of the franchise. In addition, its hard to blame 25 years of suffering on a man who still resides in Cincinnati and is active in the community. It is safe to say this curse is busted.


After a strong decade in the 1980s that produced two AFC titles, the franchise fell on hard times. The last playoff victory for the Bengals came in January of 1991, and in August of that year the Bengals lost their founder Paul Brown. Since his death, Cincinnati has endured a 25 year play off drought. That is the longest active streak in the NFL, which is a dubious honor for a team that has now lost in the wildcard round for five consecutive years.

Perhaps a single factor is to blame for the Bengals whoas, could it be that their late owner left a lasting effect that still grips the team from beyond the grave? Though it sounds intriguing, there isn’t a logical reason for why Paul Brown would curse his own franchise. Brown poured his life into the Bengals and they honor him today by playing their home games in a stadium that bares his name. It’s hard for this curse to hold any legitimacy, Paul Brown loved the Bengals and this curse is just too much of a stretch.


It’s an answer that is almost so obvious that it defies explanation. For some reason many people get fixated around the year 1991 and use it as the focal point of the Bengals misfortune. This kind of thinking is a mistake, for the Cincinnati Bengals have been tormented from their conception. Take for example, the untimely demise of Greg Cook. Many football experts argue that Cook was the greatest player that never was, after suffering a career ending injury during his rookie season in 1969.

Even the Bengals two Super Bowl appearances were lost in a heart breaking fashion. In 1982, the Bengals practically handed away the game with four turnovers. They did all they could to overcome a 20-0 halftime deficit but their comeback fell short 26-21. The 1988 rematch with the 49ers was even more heartbreaking. Cincinnati held a 16-13 lead late in the game, only to watch it slip away with a 92 yard drive by Joe Montana. When you combine that with the misfortunes of post 1991 era its clear that someone has it out for the Bengals.

Though its impossible to pin point the culprit, perhaps the Bengals struggles stem from the messy way Paul Brown was cast out of Cleveland. The city of Cleveland blames Brown’s dismissal for the curse to their city, but perhaps that action caused an equal yet opposite reaction on Brown’s later endeavor. Regardless of who has brought bad luck against Cincinnati, the city has not given up on their team.

The Bengals may be cursed, but a curse only lasts until it’s over. Take for example The Curse of the Bambino, it hung over the Boston Red Sox like a dark shroud for 86 years. Yet, in 2004 the curse was broken as the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals to claim the World Series crown. It just takes one championship to erase a curse and like Bengals fans have said for 47 years, next year will be the year.