For people growing up in Kentucky, it’s always been difficult choosing an NFL team to root for. With no professional franchises residing within our state, fans have had to pick their football favorites based on a number of arbitrary factors. Back in their heyday, the Dallas Cowboys were “America’s Team” and had a legion of followers throughout the Bluegrass. Everyone remembers at least one friend whose love for the Cowboys bordered on the obnoxious. Likewise, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their “Steel Curtain” following often rivaled Dallas fans in their arrogance and boisterousness. To this day, I still can’t stand the mention of Hollywood Henderson or Mean Joe Greene.
By default, due simply to geographic proximity, many fans in central and eastern Kentucky adopted the Cincinnati Bengals as their hometown favorite. That fateful decision has resulted in much heartache and despair over the course of several decades. From 1990 through the mid 2000’s, the team from up yonder went 14 years without posting a winning record nor making the playoffs. The Bungles, as they were not-so-affectionately known, still haven’t won a Super Bowl since their inception over 50 years earlier.
Despite their less-than-stellar history, I’m still super excited to be covering the team for the 2017-2018 season. Everyone, including B-grade journalists, aspire to write stories about players who have reached the pinnacle of their profession. Nothing in sports speaks louder than the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. If you’ve made it to the NFL, you’ve made the big time—even if it is just as an underappreciated regional media scribe.
It’s also interesting to note that nothing in sports speaks louder than dollar signs. Perhaps not coincidentally, the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE also makes more money than any single professional organization on the planet. You’ll see a list of NFL teams all clustered around the top 50 of Forbes’ latest monetary rankings of professional franchises. Of course, the aforementioned Dallas Cowboys top the list with a value of $4.2 billion. The Bengals are conspicuously missing, only one of three NFL teams (Buffalo and Detroit were the other two) that didn’t make the Forbes’ cut.
Over the course of this season, we’re going to try and find out why this is the case. Why aren’t the Bengals more financially successful than teams like Jacksonville, Tennessee, or Cleveland (yeah—Cleveland for Pete’s sake)? Why don’t the Bengals have a bigger national following? Is it their head coach, their front office personnel, or their stadium hotdogs?
Nothing will be off limits, no question will remain unasked, and no nook and cranny of Paul Brown Stadium will be left unexplored as you join me and Bluegrass Sports Nation as we examine the enigma hiding under those ghastly striped helmets. Don’t worry, in addition to marginally insightful commentary, there’ll also be plenty of cheering, laughter, and uplifting moments along the way. If you simply aren’t a NFL fan, I hope my columns will draw you in. If you aren’t yet a Bengals fan, I feel a direct responsibility to try and convert you. Whether I’m successful or not, I think you’ll enjoy my writing. I’m up for the challenge. Who Dey!
John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation and Nolan Group Media. You can reach him at www.Huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.