Fair-weather sports fans – I can’t stand them. I don’t even like them when they are pulling for one of my teams that is playing well in a particular year.(I realize using the word “my” is not really correct and just goes to show how sick sports fans can be – thinking a team is “theirs” in any capacity.) Take this year, for instance. There are Chicago Cubs shirts, hats, bumper stickers, eye patches and band-aids coming out of the woodwork. I’m going to guess that some poor suckers around here decided to get a Cubs tattoo in the past couple of months. When the Cubs fall flat in the post-season yet again, they can commiserate with the fools who got Cubs tattoos in 1984 or 2003 and are still waiting. Personally, I can’t stand the Cubs, but I am especially annoyed by those who are suddenly Cubs fans this year now that the team is (it kills me to say it) winning. I at least have an ounce of respect for real Cubs fans who are there year in and year out. (Not like, but respect.) Those people have provided some real humor to my life as they continue to believe “this is the year” every year until the Cubs blow it yet again (something that will likely occur again in the next month or so).
However, I can only laugh at them so heartily. Why? Because I’m just like them. I realized it yesterday afternoon somewhere in the 3rd quarter of the Cincinnati Bengals football game I sat through despite near hurricane force wins and another pitiful performance by the team. I have never been one of those fair-weather fans. I stick by my (there’s that sad word again) teams no matter what. I don’t throw away a hat or a shirt when they are losing. I don’t lie about who I like when I talk sports with someone, no matter how embarrassing it might be to say, “I like the Bengals.” I have been a loyal fan.
I’m not sure that can continue. For those of you who don’t know, the Bengals were good during most of the 80s and went to two Super Bowls. The 90s were, umm, a different story. They stunk. Yes, for a whole decade, they stunk. The early part of the 2000s were similar. Then, Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Marvin Lewis came along, and in 2005, they were very good. Looking back, I almost wish that year had not happened. It was sort of like 2003 for Chicago Cubs fans. It was one of those so close years that convince you the team is almost there. Things have gone down hill for the Bengals since that year. Yesterday, I saw a team in disarray. I saw a team that looks like it’s the worst-coached team in football. I saw a team whose players, for the most part, look defeated and lost. I saw a crowd that found the perfect opportunity to boo loudly when it was announced that this game was the (I think) thirty-somethingish straight sell-out. The fans were booing the team, the owner, and I think, themselves for the product they were witnessing despite their loyal support. They were collectively thinking, “Why are we selling this place out?” I think that streak will be in jeopardy (but not this season because the seats are already sold).
I actually find myself considering “dropping” one of my teams until they prove they are better. I know I have the full support of my wife, who puts professional sports right up there with laundry lint in importance. You can bash me all you want. However, if you do, keep in mind you are bashing someone who never, never even considered “dropping” a team in the thirty years or so that I’ve followed sports.
Steelers and Browns fans can leave comments about what a joke the Bengals are if they wish. I want you to know, though, that it won’t affect me one bit as I could not be any lower on this team.
We’ll call this a trial separation. You guys can keep your cool stadium and your “roar” sound effects. I’ll keep my Bengals hat and sweatshirt just in case I need them in the future. Show me some wins, and I’ll considere being a fair-weather fan for the first time in my life. For now, I won’t put myself back on the market. I’m not going to start liking the Cowboys or the Patriots. Not yet, anyway.
Mike Brown, Marvin Lewis and the rest of the Bengals organization: You will have to earn me back if you care. I have a feeling that you will care if many others like me adopt the same stance. I hope they will.
In the meantime, the only thing good about the Bengals? Probably this. I think the cheerleaders could beat the team in a football game right now. I’m not kidding.