Despite the freezing temperatures, fellow F2S editor Justin Williams and I were in attendance as the Bengals inevitably blew their lead against the Steelers and treated their fans to another heaping dose of disappointment. The predictability of the game was remarkable. The Steelers started slow on the road against a team with a losing record, something they’ve done with disturbing regularity over the last few seasons, and the Bengals, in large part due to stupid penalties, ended up losing a winnable game. Seeing that result play out in person was hardly surprising. What interested me, however, was the reaction by Bengals fans. The first-half joy seemed to stem from the area between willful naivety and relentless optimism, but any happiness quickly soured as the team faded in the second half. Andy Dalton threw an interception, and the entire crowd groaned in unison, the last bit of positivity yanked out of their hearts. As the Bengals anemic offense plodded along in the second half, fans started playing the role of offensive coordinator. “THROW IT DOWN THE FIELD,” one old man yelled from a seat two rows in front of us. I expected that he wanted Dalton to take advantage of the blazing speed of the BBC (you know, Brandon, Boyd, and Cody). Nope. “DRAW A PASS INTERFERENCE PENALTY ON THEM,” he said. He repeated this refrain at least 400 times throughout the game, just wishing on a prayer that the other team could biff their way into something positive for the Bengals. I suppose at this point in the season, with the Bengals officially eliminated from playoff contention and eyeing their spot in the 2017 NFL Draft, clinging to any sign of positivity, even if it’s as fleeting as that, is admirable. Mostly because all optimism and joy will be crushed when Tom Savage ruins everyone’s Christmas.
Also, you know what makes a great Christmas gift? A subscription to the Cincinnati Magazine podcast. It’s free and will almost certainly be delivered by Christmas.