A few weeks ago, Cincy Jungle was contacted by an Israeli soldier who claims to be the No. 1 Bengals fan in the world. And that just might be true. Here’s his remarkable story, detailing life as a Bengals fan in the Israeli army, as told to Cincy Jungle.
My name is Jacob Hammer and I am 21-years-old. I was born in Jerusalem, Israel. I grew up in a city just outside of Jerusalem, to English speaking parents and spoke English throughout my childhood at home as well as with friends and in my neighborhood.
Currently, I am a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) training to become a sergeant in the Nachal Brigade, which is an infantry unit (combat foot soldier). Ever since I was a little kid in Israel, I had been playing and following baseball. We had a league in our city where we played every week. In 2005, my parents decided to move to Columbus, Ohio for a few years, and that's where the story of my Bengals fandom began.
I started watching football on TV in Ohio and the team that was on every Sunday was the Bengals. It happened to be the year that the Bengals went 11-5, in 2005, and I was completely hooked! My father is a huge Jets fan; he grew up in New York and all of his life had been following the Jets. He would watch all of the Bengals games with me, and together, we started following the team very seriously. We went to a few games that year and had an absolute blast. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the team, literally. When I came back to Israel, I started playing football in the Israel Football League (IFL) as a tight end, which is a full contact league. And, in addition to that, played in the Israel Flag Football league. I watched all of the Bengals games, every single year and haven't missed one single game!
Here in Israel, we are seven hours ahead of Eastern time, so this means I need to wake up at 3 a.m. every time there is a primetime game on, which I do! My father gets NFL Game Pass every year, so that is how we watch the games in Israel.
Now that I'm in the IDF, it’s a little more interesting, and complicated to continue my Bengals fandom. Last year, I was in basic training so we aren't allowed phones, except for one hour per night. I would watch the games throughout the week over three days, one hour each day. I wouldn't turn on any news sites or Facebook just so that I wouldn’t find out the score.
There was actually a time, later on in basic training when we were allowed our phones and my commander was looking for me throughout the base. After three hours, I came out of the bathroom.... you can guess what I did in there... it was a great game. As you can see, I put a lot of dedication into watching the games in the army.
Another time, we were once doing an ambush for three days, which I can't give too many details about. But we were about 10 soldiers and five had to be awake and five were allowed to sleep at a time. When it came my turn to rest for three hours in the middle of the ambush, I chose to watch the Bengal game that was on instead of resting! It was last year's Broncos Monday night game. It was at 3 a.m. my time, and unfortunately the Bengals lost. But, it was worth staying up in the freezing cold to watch the game.
Today, I’ve far surpassed basic training and I have my phone on me at all times. That means I can almost always watch the games live. Sometimes, we get four hours of sleep at night, and I decide that three hours out of the four, I'm going to be watching the game. Or sometimes when we’re in the middle of training and we get a 10 minute break, I take out my phone to watch some of the game (like in the picture above). I've gone full weeks of training without a phone and there’s a lot of suspense in not knowing what happens in the game. Walking 15 miles a night, just thinking about what's happening in the game without actually knowing is not an easy thing to do; trust me. And on Fridays when I get home or back to the base, I watch the game as if it is live.
This season, I’m hoping things will get a little easier for me and that I'll be able to watch the games a little more comfortably, but the chances of that happening are very small. I'll be a sergeant, and as you go up the ranks in the army, you have less and less time to do personal things.
To share some Bengals favorites, my favorite player is hard to chose, because I can honestly say that I just love every single Bengal with all my heart. But, if I had to chose just one, I would go with A.J Green. I can watch highlights of him for days; I love his personality, his dedication and his attitude to people and to the game, it's a true inspiration.
My favorite all time Bengals game would have to be the first game I was at. It was the Packers game in Cincinnati in 2005; my dad got us box seats on the 50-yard line. It was a great game and the Bengals won 21-14. They picked off Brett Favre five times (most ever for a single season game) and a fan ran on the field and stole the ball from Favre with two minutes left. I will never forget that game. Another great game that I will always remember was the Bengals beating the Broncos, 37-28 in 2014 on a Monday night at home and shutting up all the critics!
I do have one Bengals superstition, and that is that every time I watch a game with my dad, the Bengals lose. So I try not to watch games with him even though we have a great time watching together. He just gives them bad luck. Last season, the Bengals started 8-0 and every single one of those eight games I was in the army. For the ninth game against the Texans, I was at home watching the game with my dad... the rest was just bad luck... true story.
This season, I can't be looking forward for anything besides winning our first playoff game since 1991. I believe in taking things step-by-step, slowly, and one day, our dreams will come true. That’s the one thing I'm looking forward to.
I hope people to see that an IDF soldier, who has the same ideals and goals as American soldiers, (and I train with them so I know them well) watches the Bengals games every week! Hopefully one day, the NFL will expand to Israel.
In October, I get one week off from the army right after I become a sergeant, before I start the job. I hope that I will be able to go to the Bengals vs Redskins game in London; it would be a dream come true!!
Just so you get an idea, this is what I want to do with my one week off from the army! The Bengals give me something to look forward to every hard week I go through, and something to enjoy during the more difficult times I experience in the army. And I thank them for that. I'll end with this, let’s win this year; just keep winning!