Every once in a while, we take a break from breaking news stories to bring articles with a little emotion. And, in those posts, we sometimes like to reflect on the personal attachments to the topic.
Indulge me for one of those instances, if you will.
As it usually goes with football, memories get attached to the games for many fans. Be it because of the game breeding get-togethers in front of a TV, or the camaraderie one builds amongst strangers when seeing their team live, fans associate many great memories with the greatness of sport.
Going on 30 years ago, the Cincinnati Bengals enjoyed arguably their finest season in team history. For the second time in eight years, the team made the Super Bowl and was once again pitted against Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers.
And, for a game that ended in just a 20-16 result, it was quite an entertaining affair as the 1980s were coming to a close. The date was January 22, 1989.
For nearly three quarters, Super Bowl XXIII was a snoozer. After the teams traded off kicking field goals in the third quarter to bring the game to a 6-6 score, an unlikely Bengals hero emerged.
As a backup running back, Stanford Jennings had just one rushing touchdown for the club in the 1988 season. But, he was a threat as a kick returner and had a 98-yard touchdown in the regular season.
Needing a spark of some kind, the Bengals and Jennings received the football from 49ers kicker Mike Cofer at the Cincinnati 7-yard line. He dashed 93 yards for a touchdown, exciting the crowd at Joe Robbie Stadium, as well as the late-and-great Dick Enberg, who was the lead broadcaster of the game.
It ended up being the only touchdown scored by the Bengals that evening and gave them a second-half lead. The score was a huge contribution to what seemed to be a sure win sewn up late in the game.
Unfortunately, the Cincinnati Bengals know how to break their fans’ hearts. Joe Montana pulled out one of his trademark miracle comebacks and the 49ers beat Cincinnati, 20-16.
Even though I watched this game, the memories are a little hazy. Three decades later and a then-six year-old mind will do that to you.
Our family was watching the game at my great aunt and uncle’s house. They had this awesome pad in Marina Del Rey, California, styled in a 1950s/Frank Sinatra style—complete with multiple levels and tiers to the home. It even had random peacocks that would cruise around the backyard.
It’s essentially my first memory of truly watching Bengals football—a tradition that my older brother and I have shared ever since. As Jennings fielded the kickoff, I remember watching the touchdown on a small TV in the kitchen, as I was grabbing a drink after leaving the cozy wood paneled den where we had been congregating.
My parents were there, as were a couple of other of our relatives, but the overall attendance wasn’t huge for a Super Bowl party. Still, the uniform colors, the fact that the team was successful that year and that my brother was so enamored with the Bengals reeled me in. Jennings’ play cemented the feeling.
And, just like that, I was hooked on Bengals football. There have been other great moments in the ensuing 29 seasons, but this first one is permanently seared into my mind’s eye.
What were you doing when Jennings returned the kickoff 93 yards for a score back in January of 1989? What are some of your fondest Bengals memories—both in terms of a play and what it personally meant to you?