To help launch our football coverage, I thought it might be fun to test the mettle of Ben Bergin, the biggest Bengals fan in all of England and one of this blog’s primary writers. I sent him an email listing the many reasons he should quit on the team. He responded with some drivel about loyalty and hope. It was so much fun that we plan to do it again, probably in the next couple of days. Stay tuned.
Dear Bengal Ben,
The story you wrote for us last November explaining the process by which you, an ostensibly mentally competent guy from Sheffield, England, became a Bengals fan, of all things, was terrific. Your writing was funny, engaging, and sincere. But I have to say, I think it’s time to give up the charade. Look, I understand. You met a pretty girl and in your smitten stupor, she tricked you into doing something silly, like wearing orange in public. I’ve been there. When I first met my wife, she dragged me to a Dashboard Confessional concert. If you found it surprising to see how many people pack Paul Brown Stadium on a Sunday to watch the worst team in the NFL, image my shock while waiting in a never-ending line with thousands of pubescent emo girls swooning for Chris Carrabba. But surely by now, you and your girlfriend have been together long enough that backing out on the Bengals wouldn’t be a deal breaker. And if you’re going to jump ship, you won’t find a better (or bleaker) time.
I thought your story’s best defense of the Bengals was this line: “Even to my untrained eye, the Bengals appeared full of hope and promise; Carson’s fizzing arm, Chad’s balletic grace, athletic corners, and a coach steadfast amongst the madness.” A year later, Carson has sold his house, choosing to retire rather than spend one more day in Mike Brown’s insane asylum. Chad has forced a trade to the Patriots (who knows if he can still play, but getting out of the Midwest should do wonders for his self-promotion). One of those two athletic corners, Johnathan Joseph, bolted as a free agent and signed with the Houston Texans (It’s sad when a 9-year-old expansion team that’s never made the playoffs qualifies as greener pastures). And after the torturous season he just endured, the coach seems more sad and beaten-down than steadfast. A.J. Green looks like a great talent, but he is already reportedly dealing with a knee injury, and I have very little confidence in Andy Dalton’s ability to throw him the ball, no matter how open he is.
So with your best interests in mind, I implore you. Become a Packers fan before it’s too late, and you end up looking like Al Davis without ever seeing your team win a championship.
I appreciate your concern for my continued mental and emotional well-being. And I do understand where you’re coming from, believe me. Your arguments are funny, well-written, and strongly made. I understand…except….except…for me, being a sports fan—and, in particular, choosing between the Bengals and, say, the Packers—is like trying to decide what to eat whilst hung-over. You’re trying to convince me to get a salad and you’re right: It would be healthier, I would live longer, I would thank you later. But in the end, we both know I’m ordering something deep-fried with cheese on it.
My hope is impervious. I’ll concede that in an unusual off-season, the Bengals have perhaps been the most mysterious team of all. Is Andy Dalton, as some experts believe, the most NFL-ready quarterback of the 2011 draft? Or, thanks to Carson Palmer’s relative success, is Mike Brown simply treating red-haired QBs the way Al Pacino treats growling “whoo-ha” since he won the Oscar for Scent Of A Woman (“Hell, it worked once, it’ll work again!”)? On the one hand, our three most famous offensive weapons have gone, one to New England, the other two to the Twilight Zone (Has anyone actually seen Palmer or Owens in the past eight months? Should someone alert the authorities?). On the other hand A.J. Green is making sturdy 45-year-old fans feel the way pre-pubescent girls do about sparkly vampires with fake six-packs and inexplicable accents.
In 2009 everyone thought we were a joke, and we swept the division. 2010 spectacularly flipped that on its head. So I do understand. But I watch ESPN analysts predicting 0-16, nod my head wisely, and secretly think we’ll definitely win the Super Bowl. I’ll spend the next two weeks studying fantasy strategies, reading blogs on “sleeper tips,” playing out mock drafts, oscillating between Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers, Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles, before finally selecting Simpson, Shipley, Gresham, and Benson with my first four picks. Because it’s who I am. My girlfriend? She’s with you. Can’t believe the monster she’s created (though it has made Christmas shopping for me easier). Her Sunday afternoon ritual consists of continued threats to stop watching: “If they’re still losing after the first quarter/half time/with thirty seconds left…I’m leaving.” She never does though. Neither will I. And you can’t convince me that you would either.
So here’s my prediction: A top five defense. Andre Smith and Clint Boling fill out the O-line (literally). Cedric pounds away for 1,400 yards. Andy Dalton survives the AFC North bruised but fully-limbed. 10-6. Wild card to the playoffs. Care to take me on…