By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times
I saw the Cincinnati Bengals play their first game in old Nippert Stadium in 1968 and I’ve been a devoted fan since that day, much like my undying affection for the Cincinnati Reds.
Yes, I have whined and complained for years that the Bengals and Reds seem to let me down each season but I never gave up on the “wait till next year” hope of better results.
For example, former Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis took squads to the NFL playoffs on eight occasions but could never get past the first round. That continuing disappointment finally led to his departure.
There is a strange tradition in the National Football League that dictates you have to get really bad before you can get really better. By having the worst record, you get the first pick in the player draft the following season.
That’s exactly what happened to the Bengals in 2019 and they wisely selected quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner who led LSU to the national college football championship, in the 2020 NFL draft.
Burrow, who grew up in Athens in southeastern Ohio, was injured his first year and missed half the season. But this year was a game changer for Burrow and his teammates, including Ja’Marr Chase, his favorite receiver at LSU, who joined him on the Bengals and has caught 13 touchdown passes so far this year.
The Bengals finished at the top of the AFC’s North Division and just broke the 31-year jinx of no playoff wins by defeating the Las Vegas Raiders, 26-19. I don’t know who they play next but I feel good about their chances.
Perhaps the best indicator of the unending loyalty of Bengals fans is the fact that the game drew the largest Paul Brown Stadium crowd since it opened in 2002. And I know that some tickets sold for as much as $600 each.
Sidelined by a troublesome knee, I couldn’t go to that playoff game but I was well represented by my four sons who played high school football. Their seats were three rows from the field but they stood and cheered for the entire game.
Hopefully, long gone are the days of frustration when radio personalities used to call for a public meeting downtown to talk about bringing professional football to Cincinnati.