12.08.2008

Bengals Bashing

Let me say right up front, I’ve never been a Bengals fan. In the beginning, back in 1969, to me, they were the “new hotness, ” as in finally, Cincinnati has a professional football team to go along with the Redlegs and the Royals.

Cincinnatians my age learned football from the Cleveland Browns who fielded players with names like Marion Motley, Lou “the toe” Groza, Leon Kelly, and of course, the great, great Jim Brown. They played smash mouth football against the Giants, or the Baltimore Colts. Anyone remember Johnny Unitas or Sam Huff? I grew up with these guys. They taught me the game because it was the only thing on television, besides preachers trying to convert me and trick my parents into sending them money. There was no cable. We had to watch football, or go play quietly in our room with our broken toys, since it was too cold to play outside. The Bengals came along in 1968 or 69. I was already a half formed adult. My attitude was set. Bengals!? Please.

The Bengals were brought to town by the man who owned the Browns. He brought them with no creativity, nothing to imply that they were anything other than a shadowy reminder of the real team that he left on the banks of Lake Erie. I mean look at it....the Bengals have the same colors as the Browns, only with stripes. The Bengal name may have been historical because there was a Cincinnati Bengal team in the American Football League in the 30's, but the name still echoes back to the Browns. The names begin with a “B” for those of you who can spell. And from the start, there didn’t seem to be the same amount of love, respect and support from the Brown family that went into their original creation, the Cleveland Browns. There never seems to be enough money or trust to bring absolute quality football to the Queen City. Something was always lacking, even when they went to the Superbowl.

There were good guys, good talented guys who suited up for the Bengals. I know several of them, and they’re not going to like what I’m saying. But I think, based on what I’ve heard them utter over the years, they believe things could have been better, too.

I still carry a sweet spot for the Browns, but my allegiance changed with my city of residence. I lived in Chicago with the Bears, the Chicago Bears of 1985-86. The shufflin’ crew. The baddest defense in the whole wide world, period. Superbowl Champions. The only team that pulled me out of the house to go to a victory celebration downtown in subzero weather with 3 million other happy fools.

When the Bears weren’t playing, there was Michael, no last name needed. I’ll save basketball for another day because Cincinnati treated its pro basketball team like ugly step children, too.

But back to the Bengals, I’ve been home for several years now and I’m not watching as much football as I used to. When I do, it’s probably not the Bengals. I keep giving them a shot at my heart. I will turn them on, but I usually find something else to do or to look at midway through the first quarter.

I mean, I tried to watch when Carson was anointed quarterback god. He was okay. But after his injury he kept hanging his passes exposing his receivers to the possibility of dangerous hits from d-backs. I cringed and had to turn away when TJ and Ocho went up for the ball. I breathed a sigh of relief when they came down okay.

I’ve seen season ending hits, many times....Paul Warfield, for example. I don’t like guys to be hurt when a return to basic quarterback mechanics could solve the problem.

I was happy when Marvin Lewis was brought to town on a lot of levels. But I don’t know what’s going on there. Seems like his authority is being undermined by the front office. Seems like the same guys who are choosing pitchers for the Reds are selecting the Bengals new talent.

Or maybe it’s in the water. I don’t know. But play like I saw on Sunday means I’m going to be watching someone else for a long time to come.

My alma mater is kicking butt....Orange Bowl? Who’da thunk it? I may even watch on New Years day. And there is always women’s sports.

Cincinnati even has a female professional football team, founded by none other than Icky Woods, himself. The Cincinnati Sizzle plays some for real football. I was skeptical until I went to a game. They play at La Salle High School on Saturdays. I was impressed and finished the season out watching them play. And since I’m a people watcher, it was really cool to watch the young men in the crowd give the women player respect, not just woman respect.

The Sizzle is good football. They don’t play for money, although they deserve it.

But what to do about the Bengals? I don’t know....fire the team and start over? I would keep Marvin, give TJ some real respect, keep Hall, Dahani Jones, Gathers and a few others....and find someone who can teach tackling. With few exceptions they don’t seem to know how. Up front blocking on offense is also a problem. Quarterbacks can’t connect if the pocket keeps collapsing
especially since our QB Carson is not a scrambler. Did I say dropped balls, too?

Maybe they can sit in on Bearcat practice...find out what Kelly is doing...then go try it out on Sundays. At this point, it can’t hurt.
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