All was quiet in the valley over the weekend. The jungle cats remained on their perch, looking down from the mountain. Surveying the lands and monitoring the battles. Perhaps it was a good weekend to remain on the mountain ledge. Steel men fell hard, brown dogs chased their tail, and well, the raven continues to fair poorly in the dale.
We don't say it often or rather we try not to. It's reserved. It's meant for history and legends, it's held in reverence. Oh, we can say the Bengals are perfect right now, with less than half the season played, we say they're perfect with tongue residing in cheek. We know they're not perfect. We know they're something else. The're improving, yes. They're fighting, yes. They're doing their jobs, yes. But they're far from perfect. The Bengals are at least 10 games from being one shade of perfect, but far and away a different color to be the other type of perfect.
During the preseason skirmishes, lapsed efforts against teams like Tampa Bay caused pundits to chant their thoughts about the chances of a team from Cincinnati making an impact. Did anyone ever think six wins before the bye week was possible? Did we even dream it? I certainly did not. I never wanted to utter perfect, that's mostly because I didn't think it was possible. But perfection comes with pressure. The more the Bengals win, the higher they climb up the mountain and while anyone with half a brain knows that a loss here and there doesn't mean a full stumble down the cliff-side, when the time comes many will think that. Did their recipe for success get figured out, weighed and measured until the spices were just right and now everyone knows it? This is how you stop the Cincinnati football team: a pinch of salt, open the passing lanes through the middle and a splash of oregano. This team is too talented for it to ever really be that easy, but the thought may linger when the day comes.
It's often said that we fear failure, but it seems more likely that we fear perfection. The Bengals have tasted failure... too many times, it's bitter, but we know it doesn't kill us. Failure has bonded us if anything, leaving the strong to survive. Hitting rock bottom is public embarrassment, but we always come back from it. We come back stronger because we have fully tested the depths of our souls, mined to the bottom of our resolve. I don't fear failure anymore; I haven't for a long time because I know it's inevitable.
But, perfection? That scares the hell out of me. Perfection comes with fear and it is far from certain. Yes, I think we all fear perfection, deep down. It's terrifying really. Perfection is Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, its vaccinations, it's the internet. It's racing science and matching the universe. That's what it means to be perfect. It's frightening because perfection saves lives and expands our own, it motivates and inspires. The collective hearts and minds lean on perfection and while some are up to that task, I'm afraid I'm not. I work in a business where failure is so common it's expected, as long as you learn from it, it's passable. We revel in the Bengals' start to the season because what they're chasing is alien to us. We aren't counting on a win every week to keep us safe or cure diseases, but it does aid the heart and the mind. It helps the soul. It's pride and honor. We can't expect to be flawless, it's never in our nature and human error is all too human.
I go back and forth with all of this in my head. If the Bengals scuffle a bit, drop a game here and there, but get the job done in the end, then they are tough, they are more human; they pick themselves up and dry themselves off. They're more like what I aspire to be. But if they remain undefeated, if they go the distance, what can I think of them then? It's the jaw dropping, mind blown, ‘one giant leap for mankind' moment for a Cincinnati Bengal fan. Will you stand slack-jawed, speechless and unable to formulate thought if it happens? Win it all with a few losses on the board and I'll be screaming my head off. Win it all unfazed by the attempts of any opponent, and I'm in a vacuum.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Because right now, what we have is ephemera, it's trivia. Six wins in six weeks isn't an accomplishment (as many Bengals have already said), it's a party trick. The Bengals are a long way from landing on the moon, but at least they have built the rocket.