No doubt people remember the endless chastising from Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty over the years against "The Family." And in truth they deserved every frustrating syllable, vowel and consonant. Yet as time tirelessly dragged through the Marvin Lewis era, those stinging words turned into a cheap dull sword because fans were absolutely buying into this improved team. More and more it became less about the organization as a whole and more about the ridiculousness that characterized some of those players. And at times Daugherty was summarized as being too negative, despite the eventual reflections of an improve organization from the "Lost Decade".
None of that exists in Daugherty's Saturday afternoon column, beginning with memories from Spinney Field and contrasting those with the team today.
Those were the Dark Ages.
These are not.
On Friday, we stand on the edge of the Bengals practice field downtown. The field consists of Bermuda grass, so tightly packed and perfectly clipped, you could shoot pool on it. I tug at a hunk, just to confirm it’s real. Across the way, a crowd estimated at 1,500 sits in bleachers and applauds players who are working out. No one utters the word "suck."
Yet the substance of Daugherty's story wasn't so much the memories of aluminum-scented mustaches, rather the humility of Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green.
To confirm that, I spend a few minutes with wideout A.J. Green, who I can tell you is not Chad Johnson-Ochocinco-Johnson. Green spent part of his offseason in Orlando, training with Calvin Johnson. "Megatron" last year caught 96 passes for a league-leading 1,681 yards. In five seasons, he has 366 receptions. They’re already busy in Canton, on his behalf.
Green says he likes Megatron because he is "humble, never complacent and always willing to teach me." What do you have to learn, I wonder. "Oh, man. Everything," says Green, a Pro Bowler as a rookie last fall.
But then we've already known this since the day he arrived, once hearing stories that he thanked the equipment people following a Georgetown practice last summer. Perhaps the story is more about Daugherty's bus ticket that firmly planted him on the wagon.