A Dayton Daily News commentary on Friday wrote that there's been "so little outcry from the masses" after ESPN The Magazine released their annual Ultimate Ranking, listing the Bengals as the worst franchise in North American sports. Did Bengals fans gather in the streets, overturn police vehicles to publicly display their displeasure for such a shady insult? No. Why? Because it was far more of an expectation than a surprise.
Yet during the Bengals response to ranking dead last, they write:
These types of fan rankings are common in the sports industry and are not like the professional public opinion polls that most companies and news organizations use. But we care about the opinion of our fans, business partners and the public,
If that were the case, the Bengals should consider using this poll as a launching point to recapture the trust of their fans, many of whom are sending themselves to self-imposed exile. The knowledge of this ranking didn't change the opinion of Bengals fans. Mostly viewed with a bobblehead-like nod, some questioned the rankings and how they were developed.
According to Peter Keating of ESPN The Magazine, they took four steps. A poll was developed consulting over 1,000 fans on what "they most want from their favorite teams." Consider that the growth of the categories they'd use. After that ESPN asked fans to rate their favorite clubs in 21 categories that were regrouped into "seven of the eight broad categories." Their third step:
...with the help of researchers at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, we determined how efficiently teams convert dollars from fans to on-field wins (regular and postseason). These calculations are the basis for the remaining category, Bang for the Buck.
Finally, they combined the scores. At no point did ESPN just stare at a dry erase board and subjectively rank teams based on their personal preference.
In all, 122 teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball were ranked in order, based on a weighted average of scores in eight different categories ranging from the quantitative to the emotionally subjective: “bang for the buck” (24.3%), players (16.6%), fan relations (16.5%), affordability (14.1%), stadium experience (9.1%), ownership (9.0%), title track (6.7%), and coaching (3.9%).
The rankings were largely driven by fans, voting from an ESPN poll. Fans. Voting. This is important to Bengals fans, not the team who admits to using professional polling data that never sees the light of day. And if that professional polling data confirms your own suspicions, or at the very least, can be interpreted differently than its original meaning, then what good are those polls? At least these polls, while truly just a point of interest and not something billion dollar companies would use to implement widespread change, are viewed by the public because it was actually the public that voted.
Reactions Really That Quiet
You have your obvious reactions from Paul Daugherty and Mo Egger, who takes a similar exception to the team's naive approach on how they relate with their own fans.
But where's BengalsFest? Where's a Bengals caravan? Where's a Bengals Hall of Fame? Where are interactive fundraisers designed to engage fans and help the team's charitable endeavors? Where's the organization continually trying to foster goodwill? Where do they consistently reach out? Why don't the Bengals push their brand to the point that it means something beyond who the team does on the field?
But in a sense the original Dayton Daily News article is correct; there was little initial reaction to the ESPN The Magazine's rankings. Who Dey Revolution, who incorrectly tabs Geoff Hobson as writing the Who Dey Perspective (he never authors those), thinks that ESPN's rankings, with unsurprising results, are ultimately meaningless because they are in "no way scientific or statistically significant". WDR continues to dispute the rankings:
And some of the rankings make you scratch your head. For example, from 2010 to 2011, the Bengals ranking in "Players" (effort on the court/field/ice and likeability off of it) dropped from 82nd to 122nd, and "Coaches" (Strength of on-field leadership) went from 60th to 114th. That's a pretty serious drop for a team that hasn't made that many changes, except for the firing of Brat and signing TO.
The players rankings, we agree, doesn't seem accurate. At the same time it's not hard to understand. Chad Ochocinco irritates a huge majority of Bengals fans anymore. Carson Palmer wants to leave. And no one cares about Terrell Owens; not even the Pope. These are the players first and foremost in the minds of most fans. We're not talking about the obsessive fans that can name the team's entire roster in under two minutes (you know, like you guys). We're not talking about obsessive fans that can detail the coaching turnover from last season beyond the change at offensive coordinator (you know, like you guys). No. We're mostly talking about fans that tune in on Sundays and maybe read an Enquirer article once a week. So while this team is largely made up with great personalities, those three are the highest profile players on the team and weigh more of an impression than say Domata Peko, Jordan Shipley or Bernard Scott.
Stripe Hype chimes in with their own head-scratches regarding the Bengals response to ESPN The Magazine's rankings. Especially the team's explanation of affordability.
WDP says : “we have not raised ticket prices during two of the last three years, and our tickets continually rank in the lower third of the NFL” . Well as a matter of fact the team only beats out 4 NFL franchises in ticket price ranking on ESPN. Those 4 being: the Cowboys, Jets, Giants and Redskins. Considering the markets, I sorta expect their prices being a little more pricey.
Even in our own response to the team's response, only eight comments were posted as of this posting.
More On Fan Relations
When rankings use variables such as categories on fan relations and title track, the Bengals are truly an embarrassment to themselves, their fans and the city they represent. I know that my harsh words won't gain favor with the organization; who routinely rejects our credentials for more exclusive coverage. At the same time, we're not going to sacrifice our point of view on a matter that's troubled the very soul of Bengals fans. After all, the core of this site remains. We are Bengals fans that run a website for the fans. Are we the voice of the fans? No. That's beyond arrogance. But the voice of the fans are heard on these pages, in the comments and inside the FanPosts most of all.
True. There is reason to be hopeful in 2011. A youth movement is about to wipe the slate again. But long ago, our anger transferred from the players on the field to the inaction (and overreaction) by the front office. Inaction in that they rarely sign their best free agents leaving for other teams and overreaction is signing their (or other) "key players" to ridiculous contracts after one good season. Examples of that include Robert Geathers and Robert Geathers, with mindful examples using Willie Anderson and Levi Jones, two offensive linemen, while great in their prime, released two and three years respectfully after signing expensive extensions in 2006. Additionally, the release of Anderson promoted Stacy Andrews to right tackle, who, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed ten quarterback sacks in 2008. Awesome.
But if you look at ESPN The Magazine's annual rankings, in the past five years the Bengals posted an overall score below 100 once, and that was after the team's 2009 AFC North title. Fan relations hasn't fallen below 118 in the past five years and their best score during that time frame? Bang for the Buck in 2007.
|BNG = Bang for the Buck; FRL = Fan Relations; OWN = Ownership; AFF = Affordability; STX = Stadium Experience; PLA = Players; CCH = Coaching; TTR = Title Track|
We love the Bengals, always will. Yet it wasn't a shock to the system to see the team in last place. Some of us might actually say it's where they belong. Is ESPN The Magazine's Ultimate Rankings gospel? No. You have to make your own conclusions of the Bengals on the information stored in that brilliant mind of yours.
Let's conclude with Boomer Esiason and Daugherty:
"It’s never going to change," Esiason said Thursday. "There is no expectation the team is going to win. There never has been. I can’t sugarcoat it."
Really? I hadn’t noticed. Go on.
"You can have all the money in the world. You can sock it away in a mattress. But the reason you’re in (the NFL) is because you’re competitive. You want to win. The family has never experienced that." Esiason called it "the collective soul of winning." It lacks within the executive walls of PBS.