The Cincinnati Bengals’ Annual Taste of the NFL is not only one of the best fundraisers of the league-wide charity series, it’s the absolute best event for Bengals fans to mingle with their favorite players. Cincy Jungle’s own LB3PTMAN covered the event in detail, so I’ll add my own thoughts as an annual participant.
I believe this was the fourth time my wife and I attended, so we should be experts at this point. Nothing could be further from the truth! No matter how many times I ride the escalator up to the club level, gazing at all the amazing food, drinks, fans, and team personnel, I can’t control my excitement. I brought a backpack filled with a 50th Anniversary football, a jersey I had custom made for our trip to London last season, and a Bengals helmet Fathead. The idea was to take as many photos as I could and maybe even video a few conversations with players, all while getting as many autographs as possible. Instead, I spent most of the evening helping my wife take pictures while my hands were full of memorabilia, plates of food, and three or four cocktails.
Every player and coach we spoke with seemed genuinely happy to be there socializing with fans. I lost track of how many times I heard someone say, “Thank you so much for your support.” Andy Dalton stopped for a bit near the entrance (a dangerous spot for anyone to be as the crowd forms quickly and unmercifully) and signed my jersey. It was interesting to me watching him interact with everyone, calm and in control, despite years of unfair criticism. That type of interaction with fans drives many players away from public appearances, but Dalton relished the moment.
The rookies looked a bit overwhelmed at times and naturally seemed to stick together, but they were as busy as anyone else running around meeting fans and signing whatever was in front of them. Carlos Dunlap reminded us that we never miss an event—a small comment that always means so much to us, knowing that he remembers seeing us each time. My wife said hello to tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes, who she first met on the field at Football 101, and he remembered her. She saw Nancy Brown with a friend, and wanted to thank her friend for a tip about a lady who makes amazing necklaces for various teams. Nancy apologized and said, “I’m so sorry, but I don’t remember your name.” My wife laughed, “Oh Nancy, I don’t expect you to!”
I’m not sure I’ve spoken to a more genuine person or fan of the team than Nancy Brown. Elsewhere, I said hello to Alex Erickson, thanking him for his efforts on the field, and behind me I heard my wife shouting, “I have a framed picture of you in my living room!”
We bid on a few things in the silent auction (a few pairs of autographed cleats) and lost due to my short attention span. The live auction came around and again, we put in our best effort to grab dinner with the running backs. I went over the limit I had set for myself by one bid, but with a brand-new bidder jumping in at the very end, I knew I couldn’t keep up. The auctions all seemed to do very well, which means more meals for more people (the Freestore Foodbank is the recipient of the money raised) something I’m thrilled to be a part of.
I didn’t eat enough, I may have drunk a little too much, and once again I had an amazing time. With all the conversations happening around me, I have a few thoughts about the season:
- Joe Mixon is going to surprise everyone.
- The offensive line is going to be fine, because Mixon is going to make them better.
- The defense will be improved and the biggest boost will come from better execution from the veterans. The next biggest improvement will be from the rookies, and I’m watching Carl Lawson.
- John Ross will be lightning.
This is an annual event, so plan early and join us next year! Who Dey!