Say what you want about the Bengals organization, but one thing is for sure; they put on a great event each year with the Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank to help feed the hungry. On Wednesday night, the Bengals celebrated their 13th annual Taste of the NFL and crossed the three million meal mark, raising enough money to feed 300 hungry people. And, for the first time ever, I had the opportunity to take part in the great event.
The first thing that stuck out to me is how well attended the event is by the players, coaches, management, alumni and local media. Nearly every current Bengals player attended and most were very good at mingling with the fans, signing autographs and posing for endless pictures. Even Bengals management (yes, even Mike and Katie) were talking it up with fans and taking pictures.
The other thing I loved was the representation by former players. We have talked a lot on Cincy Jungle (and the Inside the Jungle podcast) about how the Bengals don't have a "Ring of Honor" of former greats and how former players seem to be forgotten by the organization once they leave. At the Taste of the NFL, it was great to see some of the Bengals alumni come back and it was awesome to see how the fans embraced them. Alumni of note were TJ Houshmanzadeh, Jim Breech, Solomon Wilcots, Dave Lapham and David Fulcher, among others.
Most Social Player/Coach
Hue Jackson - Not a surprise here. Hue was chatting it up all night with people - players, former players and fans alike.
Most Shocking Moment
The size of Andre Smith - Smith is listed at 340 pounds...he looks nowhere near that.
Getting to talk Bengals football with Geoff Hobson. Geoff has always been generous with our site and our Inside the Jungle podcast in regards to his time and insight and I had the pleasure of introducing myself and meeting him in person for the first time. It was fun to pick his brain about the Bengals and he was as nice in person as he is on air.
Most Surprising Citing (1a)
Mike Brown mingling with fans. Maybe for those that know him, seeing him mingle with fans is no surprise. For someone like me, who has never met him or seen him interact with others, it was surprising - very different from the perception fans have of him.
Most Surprising Citing (1b)
Marvin Lewis mingling with fans. Marvin often comes off as a bit smug and standoffish, but he was walking around in the crowd, talking to everyone and posing for a lot of pictures. I was very surprised (and impressed) by how much he mingled with the crowd.
Jeff Ruby's bone in filet. Whether it is 12 ounces or bite size, Ruby's is still damn good.
David Fulcher - Fulcher was my favorite Bengals player growing up and my favorite sign of all-time was the "Fulcher's Nest" sign that used to hang in Riverfront stadium. Getting the chance to shake hands and take a picture with one of your childhood idols is cool.
- Jeremy Hill is one thick dude
- The heights at which some of these guys are listed are VERY generous:
- AJ Hawk is not 6'1"...nor is Geno Atkins
- Giovani Bernard is not 5'9"...even with cleats on
- Giovani Bernard told me he no longer drives the mini-van we saw in Hard Knocks - he drives a Camry now.
- Terrelle Pryor's hair was as bad in person as it is in this picture.
Interested in going next year?
From a fans perspective, if you want to get memorabilia signed, meet players or get once in a lifetime pictures, this is the event for you. While tickets are a little pricey ($150), the money goes to a phenomenal cause and you are never going to attend an event with so many current and former Bengals who are so willing to sign autographs, take pictures and just socialize with fans... Oh yeah, and when you figure the all you can eat food optoins (from the best-of-the-best Cincinnati restaurants) and all you can drink, the price really is pretty reasonable.