Earlier this week, ESPN The Magazine released what they call the "Ultimate Rankings", combining eight major categories that rank the best professional teams in North America amongst the four major sports (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL). The eight categories includes bang for the buck, fan relations, ownership, affordability, stadium experience, players, coaches and title track (championships won or expected to win during the lifetime of current fans).
Here's how the Bengals ranked with each category, according to ESPN The Magazine.
|Bang for the Buck||95||Memphis Grizzlies|
|Fan Relations||122||San Antonio Spurs|
|Ownership||120||Detroit Red Wings|
|Affordability||114||Los Angeles Angels|
|Stadium Experience||110||Green Bay Packers|
|Players||122||San Antonio Spurs|
|Coaches||114||New England Patriots|
|Title Track||122||Detroit Red Wings|
Obviously this is embarrassing, considering that the team's highest ranking of an eight-category ranking is 95th for the best Bang for the Buck.
How do the Bengals react? They just want to make sure that you know ESPN's rankings are irrelevant, displaying the type of excuses that makes even Andrew Weiner shutter. In fact during Friday's Who Dey Perspective, they write: "This is largely a fan ranking, and of course fans are sour right now." Shocking that they're ranked dead last in fan relations.
Let's see what they have to say.
As for ownership’s loyalty to core players, the team through the years has extended the contracts of many of its key players.
True to an extent if you include aging players like Willie Anderson who received a five-year extension worth $32 million, then cutting him two years later because Anderson refused a pay cut. And they sure did give Levi Jones a six-year deal worth $30 million around the same time, only to release him three years later because of Jones' accumulated injuries. Robert Geathers' 10.5 sacks during the past four seasons after signing a $33.75 million deal surely explains the team signing key players. But where is Eric Steinbach? What's going to happen with Johnathan Joseph? What's going to happen with Brandon Johnson, Cedric Benson and even Jonathan Fanene or Dhani Jones? Will the team re-sign Leon Hall, or Bobbie Williams this time next year?
With fan relations, our training camp at Georgetown College is among the most accessible in the league and our players offer a great deal of time and energy signing autographs... We had a free public practice last year in Dayton, and hope to go back this year, where fans were treated to a fun practice and player autographs afterwards.
That's mighty nice of ya. We love driving two hours or more out of our way with gas prices reaching $4 a gallon, taking days off from work and using more of our money to grab a hotel if we intend to stick around more than a day. There's nothing cheap about going to Georgetown and watching practices in the searing heat.
The amount of negativity this team constantly faces, we continue to wonder why the team doesn't offer a caravan like the Reds caravan, mingling throughout communities, interacting with fans on their own time. Autographs are nice, but autographs are a meaningless substitute to a core of fans that actually just want to be noticed for years of loyalty.
Finally, regarding the title track: While the team has yet to win a Super Bowl, we are among 14 of the 32 NFL teams to have won two division titles in the last six seasons.
You're kidding me, right?
In the past six seasons, where the Bengals are "one of 14 teams" to win two division titles, the team is actually 44-51-1. That includes three losing seasons; two of which the team posted 11 losses or more. Oh, and let's completely forget the fact that they're 0-2 during both playoff runs.
And this isn't the first time we've talked about the team's lack of interest with their own fans when they're not forced to (declining ticket sales, franchise rankings). In late January we ran a post that reflected Marvin Lewis' extension that ended with an impressively arrogant press conference led by Bengals president Mike Brown. We wrote at the time that the Bengals didn't win any fans.
Yet, Tuesday's press conference announcing Lewis' two-year contract was a way for the Bengals to bring fans back into the fold, imploring patience by committing to the ideas of what fans believe will make this franchise successful in the future -- and that first step is becoming a team that's built like other NFL teams. There's no way that the Bengals could possibly think that fans would dive head first into a zombie state of fanatics. Yet, for fans to expect black and white solutions from an owner that keeps you at arm's length, you're not getting them.
Lance McAlister and Joe Reedy each ran a poll that resulted in a majority of fans not renewing their seasons tickets as a result.
You can believe what you want with the Bengals response to ESPN The Magazine's rankings. But at some point this team has to stop treating their fans like mindless zombies, a cash cow willingly handing over hard earned money that's becoming a rarer commodity as the struggling economy stretches while not getting anything in return. We realize you can't win every game and we realize there's going to be down seasons. That's just the nature of the NFL. And most of us have even accepted that 2011 will largely be a rebuilding year; the type of year that wins will be nice, but progress towards 2012 is better.
At the same time, rather than acknowledging that fan relations is down, the Bengals excuse themselves from the dire consequences of a fan base that grows increasingly agitated. The disconnect continues.