When I was young, I was a Brown's fan, which made sense, since I grew up thirty miles south of the city. I was at the 1964 NFL Championship game and watched the Browns paste the Colts, 27-0.
After that, it was mostly heartbreak--familiar to any Bengals fan. A loss in the 1965 Championship game, missed plays in 1980, 1986 and 1987 which stopped us from making the Superbowl.
Then in 1996 the team was stolen away. By then I had moved to Cincinnati; but it wasn't until my children started asking to go to Bengals games that I finally switched allegiance. Usually, we had six tickets for a couple of games, and I'd be cheering for the Browns, and everyone else for the boys in stripes.
Slowly but surely, I started changing. In 2005, we bought our first pair of season tickets and took turns going. Not a bad year to start. Then the play in the playoff with Pittsburgh. Down goes Carson Palmer. It was like watching "The Drive" or "The Fumble," or "Red Right 88." I knew the pain of close losses. It felt like I had simply transferred the curse. I let two of my kids use the tickets for that game; and my son said a woman sitting next to him cried for the rest of the first half.
Now my daughters have moved away and my son, Seth, and I attend every game. I love the bond we have; and we sit in a section with die-hard Bengals fans, people who don't carp about any of our mistakes, but die a little with every tough defeat. Home playoff losses probably hurt the most, none more than our last second defeat against Pittsburgh, 16-15. I have never experienced such a change in my life--from the exhilaration of the Burfict interception, to the Hill fumble, to the debacle of Joey Porter on the field, and then we get two penalties, and we lose.
I love the Bengals now. I think Green and Burfict and Atkins are among the best in the league. I think Dalton is underrated and I like his leadership. I'm an optimist, too. I think we're going to the playoffs again this year and I think we're going to win more than one game. I think Eifert is going to be healthy. I think John Ross is going to torch a few defenses. I think William Jackson III is going to be a great addition, a "second first round pick" this year.
I've seen a lot of sad finishes; but I keep dreaming.
I hope Joe Mixon stays out of trouble after making a terrible mistake. I'm an optimist and believe in redemption and think he can. I like Adam Jones, hot head and all. I think the Bengals have a lot of class individual on their squad; and like any Bengals fan, I get sick of hearing all the negative stories about what's wrong with our team.
They're "my team" now and, since I hate front-runners, I won't be changing my stripes until I die.
Super Bowl? I say we get there soon and win one.