Home Authors Posts by Sridhar Pappu
An ostensible victory for the Tea Party, John Boehner’s sudden exit left congressional Republicans to inherit the wind—and the rest of us wondering if the former Speaker was smarter than everyone thought.
And then it was simply over. With one batted pass that became an interception and a touchdown, the 2011 Bengals season had ended. Of course there was some time left in the first half—with another to play—but the end of the Bengals’ playoff run was swatted away even before it could truly begin. The second half for me, even four days later, remains a cacophony of hopeless cries and missed chances, itself a failed season within a failed season.
Before the final game of the 1988 regular season, Sam Wyche stood on the Astroturf of Riverfront Stadium watching his players warm up. It had been a terrific year for Wyche after the train wreck the season prior. The Bengals had begun 1988 with a 6-0 start and now a division championship and home field advantage through the playoffs was at stake. The only thing that stood before them was the World Champion Washington Redskins.
For two weeks now I’ve held off writing this post—letting Bill and our young, punkish Brit do the heavy lifting on this blog—waiting for the Bengals to prove me wrong. At the onset of the season, I predicted six wins for this team, a reasonable mark considering a rookie quarterback and wide receiver and an easy schedule that seemed eerily similar to the one in 2007 when a very talented Bengals team put up all kinds of offensive statistics only to end up with the same record.
At last we’ve reached the end. Or, perhaps more fitting, a new beginning. In a season that has promised—quite correctly—a new start, the one thing that still lingered from the first part of Marvin Lewis’ tenure was Carson Palmer. He’s been, in the parlance of Allison Krauss, a ghost in this house. Even as the team has continued to show flashes of being not only a competent team, but also a good one, questions about Palmer and his status remained. Even as Andy Dalton or the Red Rocket or whatever we’re going to call the new starting quarterback has proved himself to be remarkably capable, the question of what the Bengals were really going to do about Palmer hung around, poisoning the waters of a surprisingly good start.
It was the ultimate walk of shame. Emerging from the Bengals bar on the lower East Side of Manhattan, my friend Erik and I suddenly found ourselves wearing gaudy Bengals gear, t-shirts and hats we’d paid good money for to support a team that managed to score two field goals and a safety against one of the worst teams in football. Now, making our way home, we were in the aftermath—surrounded by fashionable looking men and women, happy children in strollers whose general contentment meant they did not spend the afternoon as we had.
Not even I was immune. Dusk had fallen on Manhattan on Sunday and I was standing on the street corner with Erik and Nisha—the two people I can count on to watch every Bengals game with me—when I said these actual words, “I just can’t be mad. I’m happier with this loss than last week’s win.”
Let’s get this out of the way: I was in the bathroom. For whatever reason—O.K., there was an urgent, pressing reason—I got up from the table I share with my Bengals gameday companions Erik and Nisha just before Bruce Gradkowski, once a Bengals killer, and now the Bengals’ backup quarterback, hit A.J. Green for a 41-yard touchdown with the team facing a third down with 12 yards to go. I didn’t see Green’s professional coming out party, just as I didn’t experience the sudden, heightened sense of belief in everything Marvin Lewis had spoken about during the preseason. I didn’t, or perhaps couldn’t, allow myself to believe that this play would jumpstart the season, if not the franchise. But, then again, I didn’t see it in live action.
Lil’ Marvin, as I referred to myself in those years, was born at a hopeful time in Bengals history—during the Thanksgiving Break of 2003 at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Oxford. Even when they went winless in the first three games of the Lewis era, something seemed different from the team the Bengals fielded even the year before. They had beaten the Seahawks at home and stopped Kansas City from taking their 9-0 record any further. That afternoon when Jon Kitna hit Matt Schobel for the game-winning touchdown with13 seconds left to play, the world suddenly seemed open in a way it hadn’t in more than a decade.
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