If you have never read the Viewpoint before, the very first blog post I ever made for CBS Sports was about the Cincinnati Bengals, and how I was still a fan of the Bengals, despite their terribleness and futility. They may be losers, but they're *my* losers. Go Bengals. Who Dey. And, at the time, I thought to myself, "They may be really bad, but I can't ever see myself not being a fan of the team. Who else could I possibly root for?"
Yesterday, the Cincinnati Bengals kicked off their 2009 NFL season against a Denver Bronco team that many felt would be contending for the bottom spot in their division. For the first 59 minutes, the formerly vaunted Bengals offense could not score a single point against the Broncos. The Bengals D played admirably for that first 59 minutes, but the Bengals offense just couldn't get anything done. Then, finally, as if many prayers were answered at once, Cedric Benson scored a touchdown. Thankfully, Brad St. Louis did NOT botch this snap, and the extra point was converted. 7-6 Cincinnati. Still, keep in mind that this is the Cincinnati Bengals we are talking about here. You never, EVER feel safe with a lead, no matter how late in the game it is. I held my breath, and hoped that all would go well. Maybe the Bengals would actually start the season with a win. Maybe this is the start of a new era in Cincinnati. Ball is in the air...tipped pass! We're gonna wi--
Silence. Complete and utter silence.
Brandon Stokley's miracle touchdown gave Denver the 12-7 victory in a game that Denver just barely deserved more, but that's not important, that's not the point of this article. It's only the first game of the 2009 NFL season, but this is the type of loss that, usually, demoralizes a team to the point that they can barely function as a unit. There have been instances of teams rising up against such terrible karma, but when is the last time the Bengals have ever had good karma? Even after the Bengals actually made it to the playoffs as division winners in 2005, the football gods just couldn't let the Bengals have any shot of winning, so they took out Carson Palmer AND Chris Henry in one cruel play.
The Bengals are, as a whole, one cruel joke. They have had one winning season in 20 years, and that ended in a painful wild card playoff loss. Every other year has been filled with mediocrity, or, in most years, futility. It is a wonder that so many of us are still faithfully watching the Bengals, even though it is clear that this team doesn't really carry the aura of a team that wins. Let there be no doubt that the Bengals have the most dedicated fanbase in all of football. How could any team this bad actually still have fans? It's a question that still boggles many minds.
So, with that in mind, I have a confession to make. Even while I was making that aforementioned first blog post, I was reconsidering my fandom of the Bengals. For years, I have wondered what it would be like to not root for the Bengals, to have all of the stress that this team causes away from me, gone forever. I believe that this Denver game may be enough to make me wonder out loud, "Should I just give up now while I'm ahead?" I will be the first person to admit that I'm not a bandwagon fan. Even when this team started couldn't buy a win last season, and people brought up the possibility of a winless season (which did happen, but just not the Bengals, of course), I rooted for them like there was no other team to root for. But sometimes, you have to wonder just when enough is enough, what your threshold of pain and patience really is with a team that rarely wins.
The big problem is that there's no conceivable way I can move on and root for another team. The Bengals ARE my team. They are in my blood, they are a part of me. Rooting for another team would just be hollow. So, basically, it comes down to this: Do I love my Bengals so much that I would quit caring about football for them? And it's a question that I'm taking very seriously. I love football. Adore it. It's second to basketball (let's face it, in Kentucky, basketball is king), but it's a very close second. The Bengals are at the top of that love. If I stop caring about them, then wouldn't I stop caring about the entire sport, by proxy? I mean, I do have the Kentucky football team, but it doesn't compare to my love of the Bengals.
I'm at a crossroads, and I'm not sure which path to take. Do I take that familiar road and trudge on as a fan of the most joked about team in all of sports, or do I take the road less travelled and just walk away from the sport entirely? It may take me a while to answer that question and choose the correct road. For the first time, I'm actually considering the other path as a possibility. Surely, my life would be better off for it, lacking the stress and anxiety and sadness that the Bengals always hand down upon me, right? Surely, it can only be good for me to rid my mind of such distracting and stressful thoughts, right?