Great traditions are built by great culture. Great culture is built through honoring, recognizing and embracing one’s history .
As a life-long Bengals fan and season ticket holder for more than half of my life, I have always been amazed/surprised/frustrated by the way the franchise seems to forget its history and discard its great players. Walk around the stadium and one thing you will notice is no "Ring of Honor," no "Bengals Hall of Fame," no retired numbers, etc. Next time you go to Paul Brown Stadium, do me a favor and try and find evidence of the Super Bowls the Bengals appeared in.
Good luck. There likely is evidence, but it shouldn’t be so hard to find. I can’t think of another professional sports team – hell, college or high school team for that matter – that does not honor their great players or their great history. Many football fans don’t realize what a great franchise the Bengals were and how many great players have played along the banks of the Ohio River – hell, many Bengals fans don’t realize it.
Back in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s the Bengals were a successful franchise that ended the ‘80’s with 2 Super Bowl appearances in a 7 year span (1981, 1988) – and one awesome song/video (you are welcome!). The Bengals were minutes from altering football history by taking Montana down twice in the Super Bowl and possibly changing the way Montana is viewed in football circles. Instead, the only thing most fans remember is the lost decade/decade and a half of 1990 through the mid 2000’s.
The players are no different. In fact, only 27 players on the Bengals roster were alive the last time the Bengals made the Super Bowl and only 1 (Terence Newman – 35) has a chance of remembering. That rings true across the NFL as a whole. Players don’t know the "Good Bengals" that went to two Super Bowls – and how could they? They weren’t alive yet and nothing around the franchise informs them of this history.
In my opinion, this is one of many things that hurt the Bengals’ ability to sign free agents and sell out games. To me, current management is to blame for not embracing their former players and the history of the team. Many former players have hinted at (some flat out stated) the fact that they do not feel welcomed by the organization.
Look at the great organizations (Steelers, Packers, Cowboys, Ravens, etc.), their former players are like an additional "arm" of the franchise, an additional recruiting arm. Former players are around the current players, talking to current players, providing advice, providing a link to the history they are a part of and making the current players aware of the responsibility they now carry as part of the "franchise family".
These teams embrace their history. They bring back their great players, make them part of the organization. They remind their fans of not just who the franchise is, but who the franchise has been. They wear throwback uniforms to honor that history and honor those past teams – have the Bengals ever worn throwback uniforms? The sad part is, many of the great players in Bengals history are still in the Tri-State area and would be easily accessible.
This offseason, I am taking it upon myself to do what the franchise has failed/refused to do over the past 46 years. I am going to educate Bengals fans on the great history of the franchise they root for and the great players that have donned the stripes over the years. With the help of you the fan, I will be creating the "Cincy Jungle Bengals Ring of Honor."
Throughout the summer I will be presenting "Classes" of 10 players/coaches to be voted on for inclusion to the Cincy Jungle Bengals Ring of Honor. Articles will be run one candidate at a time and will include a vote. The articles will highlight the candidates’ credentials for inclusion, as well as any possible reasons for exclusion. Voting will be open for 1 week and the 5 individuals receiving the most votes will be inducted.
Keep your eyes peeled as the first 5 candidates for our inaugural class will be posted next week.