Here it is. Let m eknow what you think of it.
Dear Mrs. Blackburn,
Good afternoon. First of all, I want to thank you for your time you’ve taken to read my email. I realize that you are VERY busy and are in the midst of some MAJOR decisions this offseason, so your time is greatly appreciated. I felt compelled to email you today for a variety of reasons. I did not email your husband, Troy, as I’m not very familiar with what his exact role is in the organization is. I didn’t email your father, Mike, because I do not wish to attempt to contact him following his actions in the most recent press conference. I decided to email ONLY YOU, Mrs. Blackburn, because I feel that you are the future of this franchise and I’m assuming (through your very limited interaction with the media and fans) that you are a reasonable and intelligent woman—as evidenced by your recent interactions with fans’ inquiries about the state of your franchise. After many months, weeks and the subsequent days following the debacle that was the 2010 season, I have finally come to a breaking point where I feel I must put in writing some things that I have been mulling over about the team that I love: the Cincinnati Bengals. I am writing to you to provide suggestions to you to win back a dwindling and increasingly apathetic Bengals fan base, as well as pose some very simple questions to you that are on the minds of most every Bengal fan. Questions that need answers.
Bear with me please, as I give you my personal background and how I got to this point—I’ll try to be brief. I, like many other Bengals fans, trace my “fandom” back to the 1988 season and the 1989 Super Bowl appearance by the Bengals. I am a bit different than most Bengal fans, however. I am NOT a native Cincinnatian, nor have I ever been a season ticket holder. I understand that with this news, I may not be viewed with as much clout to management as other ticket holders, but I can assure you that I have spent literally tens of thousands of dollars on your franchise—in both merchandise and attending games. In fact, the only times (3) that I’ve been to the city of Cincinnati was for the sole reason of attending Bengal games. I’ve also traveled to Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona and, as I said, Cincinnati to spend my hard-earned money and see your team play (side note: the Bengals went 2-6 on the above-mentioned games). Furthermore, besides the money I’ve spent on Bengals merchandise and these trips, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars per year on my DirecTV football subscription, which I renew for the sole purpose of watching the Bengals. In order to watch the Bengals, I have to have this DirecTV subscription because of where I live regionally, but also because the Bengals are rarely ever on national television due to their past two decades of failure. Needless to say that though I may not be a season ticket holder and/or a Cincinnati resident, I feel that I have financially contributed as much as I possibly can. Anyway, I barely made it through the 1990s as a fan and was refreshed with the hiring of Marvin Lewis in 2003. But, even in the “competitive” Marvin Lewis era, there have only been three years that I can say that I truly enjoyed watching Bengals football in the last twenty. If you break that statistic down mathematically, that means, as a Cincinnati Bengal fan over the last two decades, I enjoy watching your team’s product approximately 15% of the time due to their (lack of) performance. And, now, it again seems that both the Bengals organization and its fans are at the crossroads that they were at in 2002-2003.
With all of that being said, I want to lay out some questions for you and the rest of the Brown family/Management.
1.) Perhaps the most important and simplest question is “Why”? Why is the franchise run this way? Public opinion on the Brown/Blackburn family is that they are “money hungry” and they don’t truly care about the franchise. I am in the minority and happen to PARTIALLY disagree with this notion. While I know that business owners, especially in the NFL, care about making money, I don’t think that this is the major deciding factor as an explanation for the Bengals day-to-day modus operandi. An example of why I’m going against the public opinion? The Antonio Bryant fiasco just this offseason. I just don’t buy into the notion that a family that supposedly cares SO much about money, yet they WASTE $7 million on a player that will never play a down of football for them. Furthermore, this same “money hungry” family wasted another $10+ million on two other Wide Receivers that were failed attempts to replace a beloved and productive player in T.J. Houshmandzadeh. So, in summation, roughly $20 million was spent by the Brown’s on 3 players that were brought in to replace ONE player that would have cost the organization roughly $10 million to keep—and that’s including roughly $1-$2 million or so that SHOULD HAVE been spent on beefing up both the team’s Scouting Department and Medical staff. By not only spending $8 million/year on T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and $2 million more on the other two facets of your business, your business would have saved millions of dollars AND avoided a major Public Relations gaffe. To me, this isn’t purely a case of this organization’s greed, but rather bad business practice. So, again I ask “why”? Why conduct business this way when it’s so easy to fix and become far more productive?
2.) Why does this organization treat its fans with such disdain? I, myself, found the recent press conference introducing the re-hiring of Marvin Lewis to be both uninspiring and insulting. Both Mr. Lewis and Mr. Brown treated the media and the fans who were watching and/or listening as if they were extremely unintelligent. The media wasn’t asking difficult or offensive questions to be answered. Something as simple as “How long is Marvin’s contract for?” wasn’t answered and was scoffed at. I can understand a franchise’s need to not make CERTAIN things public (i.e. specific names of those to be fired/released, game plans, etc), but an avoidance of a question like that was ridiculous. Furthermore, a day in which Bengal fans were supposed to proud and relieved about “major changes” that were going to occur, were completely glossed over in the press conference. Again, I ask “why treat the fans this way”? Ownership could have made this a proud moment, opening themselves up to the fans and endearing themselves to the masses. Instead, this attempt at a media session had the adverse affect. Your shareholders (the fans) are educated people. Most are college educated and have also extensively educated themselves in the game of football, due to the easy accessibility to the game with today’s technology. All in all, the fans pay good money for your product—they deserve to be treated with more respect than the way currently are by management.
3.) How has management let it come to this? A fan base desperately pleading with you for NECESSARY changes, that same fan base threatening and now enacting a boycott of game attendance/buying of merchandise and an all-around feeling of animosity amongst “Bengal Nation” towards your family and the organization. The mere fact that the organization felt the need to put a clause in player’s contracts which fines them money if they publicly speak poorly of the organization is downright laughable. To me, it would make more sense if management said to themselves “You know, players are starting to speak out to the media casting the way we do business in a negative light. We had better change our Business model to make our employees AND our customers happy.”, instead of enforcing the ridiculous “Carl Pickens Clause”. It doesn’t have to be this way.
4.) What is the plan with the franchise? We as fans, deserve to receive some insight on this if we are to pay for your product. I can assure you that the evasive dodging of these questions by Mr. Brown and Mr. Lewis at their recent Press Conference dissuaded diehard fans to purchase season tickets for 2011 and beyond. In other words, the secretiveness, disconnect and appearance that business will be conducted as status quo between Bengals management and the fans has cost the franchise numerous renewing ticket holders and potential new customers. So, while it seems that your current business model is profitable (which I’m sure that it is to an extent, thanks to the NFL’s Shared Revenue system), it seems Bengals management fails to realize that this team could be FAR more profitable with major changes to the infrastructure to the team. The Bengals are quite possibly the most nepotistic operation that I’ve ever heard of. While trusted family members and friends are great to have in your business, there is a time when good business people know when to cut ties with these people if/when they become unproductive. Retaining Bob Bratkowski as a major figure on this coaching staff is appalling, given the fact that he hasn’t been a productive Offensive Coordinator for five years. It is especially appalling given the fact that he and his wife have a personal relationship with your family. Your own players are openly saying that they will not want to come back if Bratkowski is retained. This is an inexcusable business practice and would not be conducted in almost every successful franchise. Making these NECESSARY changes in turn (both in management practices and coaching staff), would undoubtedly lead to success on the field. Success on the field equals more Primetime games, more merchandise sales, ticket sales, etc. So, what is the plan for success?
5.) Lastly, what does this team define as “success”? Management has often used phrases like “the season we all want”, “a successful season”, “performing well on the field”. What does this mean, EXACTLY? Rarely ever, if at all, does Bengals management or its coaches mention “winning a championship”, or “bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Cincinnati”. Why is this? Does an 8-8 record and missing out on the playoffs by a game or two constitute a “successful season” for the Bengals? To me, that’s not success. Again, fans deserve to know what the expectations are from the organization and, as I mentioned in question #4, how management plans to get there.
I, along with all other Bengal fans, would LOVE to receive answers to these very important questions. I understand that either you or your secretary has been responding to other Bengals fans who have been writing you (which is commendable on your part). Most of your responses seem to be similar and I respectfully ask that if you cannot provide me with SPECIFIC answers to the SPECIFIC questions I posed above to you, don’t respond back to me. I do not wish to hear the tired rhetoric (weak excuses) that Bengals management has given its loyal fan base over the last twenty years. Furthermore, I am writing you to let you know that until management makes the NECESSARY changes to its infrastructure (hiring a football-savvy General Manager, hiring more scouts, bringing up the medical staff to first-rate, build an indoor practice facility), as well as joining the rest of the NFL in the way that all other successful (Super Bowl Champion) franchises conduct business, I sadly will not financially support the Cincinnati Bengals any longer. Frankly, ma’am, I cannot bring myself to spend such an exorbitant amount of money on a product you supply that satisfies me only 15% of the time, especially in such a tough economy. For me, it just doesn’t make personal business sense. Until I see real, tangible changes with the way that this organization conducts business (which, if you choose, could begin as early as THIS offseason), you will not see a dollar of mine spent on attending games, DirectTV subscriptions, or merchandise.
I want to thank you for the time you’ve taken to read this email, as I know it was long-winded. I will leave you with just two thoughts. You are the future of this franchise and will direct its course in the not-so-distant future. You currently have power to make necessary changes to this franchise and I implore you to use them to the benefit of the residents of Cincinnati and Bengal fans everywhere. And, lastly, I would also like you to visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFkxLgfePtk. You may recognize this, as it is a recent NFL commercial showing the emotion that fans invest in their NFL team. This is an example of what we Bengal fans want and deserve. Deliver this, please.
Thank you for your time, Mrs. Blackburn. I look forward to you and the rest of Bengals management doing the right thing.