When it was announced last November that the Bengals would play a game in London, reactions were mixed. Some fans were excited to have an opportunity to follow their favorite team internationally, some were excited about the potential for international fans to get a taste of what the Bengals have to offer, and some were simply excited to see the Bengals taking part in a nearly decade-long NFL tradition. But, many local residents, business owners, and taxpayers were not happy about losing one of only eight economy-boosting home games for the Bengals in 2016. Either way, the game is happening, so fans might as well embrace it.
Those who are excited for the potential of the Bengals to grow their fanbase internationally should be ecstatic about this game, especially considering the somewhat surprising cult following the Bengals have developed in London over the years.
"I am over the moon that the Bengals get to play at Wembley,” Tony Bunney from Hartlepool, England told Cincy Jungle after the announcement was made last year. “I am 24-years-old with a young family so a London game is the only possible way I could watch a game live, I simply couldn't afford a trip to Cincy. I understand Cincinnatians will be angry about losing a home game and rightly so, but we will do you guys proud!"
While it’s true that Bengals fans in England aren’t nearly as numerous as fans in the U.S. the Bengals fans that do reside in London are just as dedicated and die hard as the Bengals fans in the states. Perhaps it’s because seeing the Bengals in London is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them. Either way, you can’t deny that these fans love their Bengals and want to show the world what international Bengals fans can do.
"I am stupidly excited to see the guys play here in England," said Matthew Catterall of the UK. "The whole UK Bengals fandom is going mental and plans are in place to show Cincinnatians who are making the trip across the pond that we are just as passionate about the team as you all are."
Some Bengals players seem just as excited for such a unique opportunity.
"This game is taking us places we'd never thought we'd be," cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick told T.J. Parker of WCPO.com. "It's an honor to go over there and represent the United States."
In addition to the opportunity to represent the United States, showing off a sport that the country both invented and mastered without much competition from other countries, this is an NFL football game that counts equally as much as any other game in the regular season. The Bengals want to put on a good show for their loyal English fans, and are ready to do it in a game that figures to be very competitive.
"It's definitely a good opportunity for us to go over there and play against a tough team," running back Jeremy Hill said.
Part of the excitement of this week is the Bengals having a chance to give back to the fans that have supported them so well from such a long distance over the years.
"I've had a few texts from friends, people I haven't talked to in a while, saying hopefully they can meet after the game," kicker Mike Nugent said.
That said, as this is still an important regular season game, head coach Marvin Lewis still has to play the role of the man in charge. As much as anyone, he wants his players to treat this like a business trip and make a good impression; ultimately, this trip is all about staying focused and grabbing a win before the bye week.
"We're going to go to sleep on the plane," Lewis told Katherine Terrell of ESPN. "When we wake up, it's Friday morning and we've got to be ready to go."
Giovani Bernard also joked on Beyond the Stripes that Lewis plans to force them all to sleep on the plane.
Then when asked on Wednesday in his press conference “Are you going to be walking up and down the aisle of the airplane making sure everybody’s eyes are closed? Lewis responded by saying, “We’re taking care of that.”
Hopefully Lewis plays his cards right and the Bengals are, in fact, ready to go on Sunday. Beating the Redskins in London will not only be a fantastic treat for the fans in England, but it will allow the Bengals to climb back to .500 on the season and set themselves up to be in good standings in the AFC North by the end of their Week 9 bye.