You turn on the TV and there are dramas all over, from soap operas to Lost, there are always people who have gotten buried up to their necks in do-do and we can't wait to find out how they get out of it or if they sink deeper. In a sick way, I think most people want them to sink. Then you turn to ESPN and you see other flailing, miserable stars. Much more is made of Jamarcus Russell and his failings, where he ranks on all time busts, and Cushing who there is judgement laid upon without convincing evidence either way. I'm not trying to stir debate about that, just laying background. And then there are the Bengals. Carsonorbust wrote a post that highlights some of the unfair treatment that the Bengals get. But I don't think the way that the team is portrayed is an accurate perception of what is happening within this organization at all. I will use the pointless jump in the fanpost section, but you can just scroll down for further reading.
First, I would like to say that I was a counsellor for kids with various problems for several years. I have worked in several programs ranging from good systems to absolute... ly, terrible ones. The worst seems to be the ones that discipline bad behavior and rarely recognize good behavior. This is how the NFL is run nowadays, and it's my biggest slight against Goodell. It fosters resentment towards the autority, and in a year when the Players and the League Office are at ends that could cause the entire NFL to shut down, I'm not sure this is the way to go about handling it. Another tangent I must divert from. But needless to say, another thing it does is bring attention to the "bad guys".
But when I look at the Bengals I see a roster full of people who have troubled pasts, but really aren't doing anything that tarnishes the reputation of the team or themselves any further. I actually think that's something pretty amazing. It would suggest there is a network in place to actually help troubled players, and after the headlines from a few years ago I would have to think that the Bengals set up something to deal with just this. Judging from the results, I would say they found a system that works too. But instead of giving the team credit, the media uses that as ammo to take shots at the Bengals with.
Some of the turn-arounds have been amazing. The most notable is Chris Henry. I am a WVU fan, so I know about him very well. It's a shame that it took his death to get him the same amount of coveravged focused on the way he turned his life around compared to all the negatives he had been through earlier. There are several others on the team who, since coming on board, have managed to keep thier noses clean. There was also at least one LB who didn't seem committed to the system and got cut just before being suspended. Had he been on the roster following his suspension it would have been a big deal. But he wasn't, and it was something that really just got ignored.
The point I am trying to make is that I think the Bengals, through recent struggles, have found a way to help both players and the team turn thier fortunes around. People make mistakes, and it's nice to see they can be forgiven if they are willing to try and become better people afterwards. I think that if this remains true, then the Bengals will be way ahead of the curve. Picking up players loaded with talent is usually an expensive aquisition. If they have baggage the price drops. Inordinately. If the Bengals can be a shot at redemption for those players, then it's a win-win situation.
I am an Eagles fan, and I will root for them. But I would love to see the Bengals make it to the Super Bowl and actually get some credit for what they are doing, rather than get snubbed like what happens time and time again. I get sick of the finger pointing and appreciate the open hand the Bengals extend to those who they think deserve it. I'm sure the players deserve thier shot at redemption. Everyone deserves a second chance if they are willing to work on thier problems, and these guys are no exception. You guys picked up at least one person who believes your doing the right thing. Keep fighting the good fight.