Great traditions are built through 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 and frustrated by the way the Bengals franchise has never embraced its great history and great players. When wandering the concourses of Paul Brown Stadium, one thing you will notice is there’s no "Ring of Honor," no "Bengals Hall of Fame," and the team has only one retired number.
Next time you go to PBS, 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. Unfortunately, many Bengals fans (and players) don't realize it either.
Back in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s the Bengals were a successful franchise that ended the ‘80’s with two Super Bowl appearances in a seven 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, once cuts are made, there is likely to be only 21 players on the Bengals’ roster who were alive the last time the Bengals made the Super Bowl and only two (Andrew Whitworth and Mike Nugent) have a chance of remembering said Super Bowl. This sentiment rings true across the NFL as a whole. Players don’t know the "Good Bengals", the ones who went to two Super Bowls in seven years – and how could they? They weren’t alive when it happened and nothing around the franchise informs them of this history.
In my opinion, this is one of many things which hurt the Bengals’ ability to sign free agents or sell out games. I have always believed current management is to blame for not embracing their former players and the history of the team. I wrote the same last year when we started our Ring of Honor series, and I was recently proven to be a Bengals Nostradamus by Mike Brown himself. Many former players have hinted at (and some have flat out stated) the fact 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 arm that helps extensively when recruiting players, and coaches. Former players are around the current players, talking to current players, providing advice, providing a link to the history the current players hope to become 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 and a part of the city pride. 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 – side note: 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.
Mike Brown warming up to "Ring of Honor" idea
Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown hasn't been one for nostalgia. However, the idea of a Ring of Honor is starting to gain momentum.
The Bengals have brought in a bunch of players this offseason. Many have attended training camp and a group of former players attended the first preseason game at Paul Brown Stadium last week. But, it’s simply not enough.
As I did last year, I am taking it upon myself to do what the franchise has failed/refused to do over the past 46 years and compile a true Ring of Honor for Bengals fans. I am going to educate Bengals fans on the great history of the franchise for which they root, and the great players that have donned the stripes over the years.
With the help of you, the fans, I will be compiling the first class of the "Cincy Jungle Bengals Ring of Honor." During the next 11 days, I will be presenting the first class of 10 players and coaches eligible to be voted on for inclusion in the Cincy Jungle Bengals Ring of Honor. Articles will be run one candidate at a time and at following the nomination of the 10th candidate, we will run a survey allowing fans to elect five of the 10 players for the inaugural class. The articles will highlight the candidates’ credentials for inclusion, as well as any possible reasons for exclusion.
Get ready for our first candidate coming tomorrow and be sure to participate!