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Dear Bengals, don’t ever leave Cincinnati

With yet another team bolting for L.A., here’s how an international Bengals fan would react, should the franchise leave its city.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to last season, it had been nearly 20 years since an NFL relocation. Then, the Rams moved to Los Ángeles and two other franchises made it known that they wanted out of their cities, too. The other two teams who joined with the Rams in seeking relocation last year were the Chargers and the Raiders.

In 2016, those two teams stayed put, while the St. Louis Rams once again became the Los Angeles Rams and headed west. Now, the Chargers have announced they’ll be joining the Rams in L.A. and the Raiders are in the process of attempting to relocate to Las Vegas.

It’s always sad when a team moves. Inspired by this post from a British Chargers fan, I decided to write about how international Bengals supporters would handle a possible move out of Cincinnati.

I can’t imagine how I would feel if the Bengals ever left Cincinnati. I’ve only known them there. I didn’t pick them for any geographical reason, I have no connection with the city or the area whatsoever. I haven’t even been west of Charlottesville, yet. But it would be painful to see my team moving out of the city that has grown to love and support it through thick in thin, in bad times, and the occasional good times.

In Europe it’s hard to understand. Teams don’t move, they are social entities, not franchises. In spite of being owned by wealthy businessmen, Persian Gulf sheikhs, Russian tycoons or evil hedge funds, sport teams are social entities. You can say they belong to the people. When the fans think there’s a disconnect between the club and their supporting base, they sometimes go back to the roots and create a new team, as happened in Manchester with United. When the owner mis-manages its club and leaves it in really bad financial shape, the fans take back control and try to keep it alive, as was the case with Racing in Santander, in my country of Spain. Sometimes it’s another businessman, hailing from that same place, who becomes a hero and saves the team, we’ve seen it both in Florence with Fiorentina and Napoli.

It’s different in America. Teams can move from their current city simply because they don’t get a shiny new stadium and when that happens, they leave their fans with many questions and no team to turn to. You can’t just create a new club to join the NFL, it doesn’t work that way. There’s only so many teams in professional sports in the U.S.A. That is why relocation can be so painful. Even if you manage to get another franchise to move to your hometown, that leaves another fanbase hopeless.

Why would it matter to somebody who’s not from Cincinnati, much less from a different continent like me, if the Bengals were to leave Cincinnati? When you’ve been rooting for a team, no matter where it is, you consider yourself part of that fanbase and the community surrounding the team. You read the same newspapers looking for opinions on your team. You all follow the same guys on Twitter. Some even join the ranks of a blog community on the internet. You get to know many people that make the team what it is. So when a franchise moves, it not only leaves the city, but that community behind, and as such, it leaves you behind.

I could still root for, say, the Sacramento Bengals. They could change their logo, their uniforms, but the players would probably be the same and they probably wouldn’t win in the playoffs anyway. Still, it wouldn’t feel right.

One of the reasons why I became the biggest fan of Joey Votto in the entire world is because I picked the Cincinnati Reds as my baseball team. I could’ve picked another team, free from any local obligations as my American girlfriend doesn’t care about the sport and she lives in Delaware now, where there’s only single-A ball. But the Reds were my team, they were from Cincinnati. I couldn’t root against Cincinnati, come on. Watch the Reds suck against the Brewers while I could be watching a Blue Jays - Red Sox game? Of course, that’s my team, no matter how bad they are. And they’re my team because they’re from Cincinnati, see? Or why do I hate the Steelers so badly? I mean, I have no interaction whatsoever with any Pittsburgh fan other than the internet, but I still hate them more than I’ve ever hated any of my hometown soccer team’s rivals.

Even if I live more than 4,000 miles and need to take a 10 hour flight to get to the Queen City, I would share the pain of my fellow Bengals fans if the team ever moved. The connection is as strong as if I’d been born in the area: the bar I own in Madrid has become somewhat of a hub for American students from Cincinnati who spend time in Madrid, and that’s just because I have a Bengals flag there.

So never leave Cincinnati, Bengals. Never lose your community (home or abroad), that calls Cincinnati home and the home of their favorite NFL team.

To the former St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers fans who lost their NFL team as they became the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sorry.