Welcome to the refreshed Cincy Jungle! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we're sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you'd like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We're collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
I have been a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals for as long as I can remember. My dad, born and raised in the Lexington, Kentucky area, developed a love for the team as a kid in the 70s, watched them win two AFC Championships in the 80s, and bought season tickets in the early 90s. I was born in 1992, so much of my childhood (during football season) revolved around going to Bengals games.
It couldn’t have been a less exciting time to be a Bengals fan. The year I was born, the team fired the legendary Sam Wyche and drafted the infamous David Klingler. Despite a 2-0 start to the season, the Bengals only managed to win five games that year, which turned out to be an average season for them during the course of the next decade. I didn’t start going to games with my dad until the 1997 season, but I still watched the team every Sunday.
Early on, I remember taking the example of my father and screaming at the television when something bad happened, or celebrating with the team when they did something right (which wasn’t all that often). While other children were watching and mimicking what they saw on television from heroes like Superman and Spiderman, I did the same thing with different heroes - Jeff Blake and Darnay Scott.
When I did start going to games, I had the time of my life. In 1997, our seats weren’t anything to brag about - section 308, row 17, seats 15 and 16, in both Riverfront/Cinergy and Paul Brown Stadium. But, they were at least near mid-field. They were also the seats I grew up in and the place I developed a lifelong passion for Bengals football, so I will always have a positive memory about them.
Growing up as a diehard Bengals fan in the ‘lost decade’ was rough, but it left no question about my loyalty. After watching the team put up mostly losing seasons (one 8-8 season in 1996), the Bengals finally started winning when Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer came to town in 2003. The pair helped the team to their first playoff berth in my lifetime in 2005, which my dad and I attended as season ticket holders.
We all remember what happened when the Bengals played that notorious playoff game against the Steelers. Former Bengals and then-Steelers defensive tackle Kimo Von Oelhoffen shredded Palmer’s ACL after a deep pass to Chris Henry, essentially ending any realistic chances of the Bengals coming away with a win.
That was the last game for which my dad and I had season tickets. Outside circumstances essentially made the tickets impossible for us to keep after that point. I was upset, but at least the Bengals were finally fun to watch on a consistent basis. Even through some more rough times, guys like Palmer, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Brian Simmons, Deltha O’Neal, and others kept things interesting, even when the team as a whole performed poorly.
A few years later, in 2009, the Bengals had an awesome season. Although it wasn’t quite as promising as 2005, the excitement of the ‘09 squad’s miracle comebacks and the Cardiac Cats coincided with a very exciting year for me in many other areas of my life.
Then, things came crashing down in 2010. The first half of the year was great as I graduated from Northwest High School and went on to start a fulfilling experience at Ohio University. In the offseason, the Bengals brought the indelible Terrell Owens to pair with the man briefly known as Ochocinco.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for the team and they finished 4-12 on the season. On my personal front, I was hospitalized for a very serious, life-threatening brain injury at the end of that season. Needless to say, it was a dark time, especially when (around the time I was released from the hospital), I learned of Palmer’s trade demands and retirement threats. To this day, I still don’t like the guy.
Luckily, 2011 was a much better year. I made a lot of progress in my personal recovery while the Bengals shocked a nation who thought they would surely finish as the worst team in the NFL. Instead, they made the playoffs, and began a very exciting run of annual playoff appearances, with a streak that ended last season.
So, now you know my story. Why am I a Bengals fan? Because I grew up with them. Because they have been there through the good times and the bad. Because watching Chad Johnson Riverdance was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I simply couldn’t see myself being a fan of any other team.
SB Nation Why Are You a Fan Reader Sweepstakes
Want to win a $500 gift card to Fanatics.com? Share your story of why you’re a Bengals fan in our FanPosts section!
SB Nation Why Are You a Fan Reader Sweepstakes instructions:
1. Go to the FanPosts section and write a post with the headline 'Why I'm a fan of the Bengals’.
2. The post should be less than 800 words.
3. We will collate these posts into a section and all entries will be automatically entered into a random drawing.
4. That's it!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. SB Nation Why Are You a Fan Reader Sweepstakes starts on 8:00 a.m. ET on May 25, 2017 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 8, 2017. Open only to eligible legal residents of the United States, 18 years or older. Click here for Official Rules and complete details, including entry instructions, odds of winning, alternative method of entry, prize details and restrictions, etc. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor: Vox Media, Inc.