In the classic movie “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks’ character uttered the iconic line, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
Luckily for me and countless other Bengals fans, Hanks mentions nothing about crying in football, which is exactly what happened to me on Sunday, Jan. 30. It was on that fateful day that my beloved Cincinnati Bengals rallied from 18 points down to beat the vaunted Chiefs to earn a trip to Super Bowl LVI.
For those who know me well or have read my columns in the past, I’ve been a Bengals fan since I first learned about the game of football. To say it’s been a bumpy ride over the years would be an understatement. Throughout my K-12 years, I was teased for my fandom for a team that many referred to as the “Bungles” because of their losing ways, which included losing more games in the 1990s than any other team in the NFL. Despite the countless losing seasons, I stuck by my team and wore my orange and black with pride. There weren’t many of us roaming the halls of any school in the Urbana City School District, despite being only 90 miles away from the Queen City.
Being a lifelong Bengals fan hasn’t always been a struggle. The franchise did make the playoffs seven times between 2005-2015, including a stretch of five-straight appearances. However, the seven trips resulted in zero playoff wins.
My fondest memory as a Bengals fan up until this season was gathering at my aunt and uncle’s house back on Jan. 22, 1989, to watch the Bengals take on the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII. Despite losing in the closing minute of the game, my 7-year-old self never dreamed it would take over three decades before I would get the chance to root for the Bengals in another Super Bowl.
Flashforward 33 years later and I found myself watching the 2022 AFC Championship Game with my 7-year-old son, which is a crazy coincidence that would only happen to a Bengals fan. Despite watching the Bengals fall behind 21-3 with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, I held out hope as I had the previous 30-plus seasons that my team would find a way to prove the doubters wrong and actually win the big game. So, when Evan McPherson’s 31-yard field goal went through the uprights to send the Bengals to the Super Bowl, I did what any lifelong Cincy fan would do — I cried. Yes, my emotions got the best of me, but do you blame me after years and years of heartache?
As with anything in life, all good things must come to an end at some point, and for us Bengals fans, capping off a fairy-tale season with the Lombardi Trophy was not to be as a veteran Rams team was just too talented in the end.
The good news is with a franchise quarterback at the helm in Joe Burrow, the future looks bright in Cincinnati. I just pray my son doesn’t have to wait 33 years to watch the Bengals play in another Super Bowl like I had to endure.
So, while there isn’t crying in baseball, there is crying in football. Then again, if the Reds ever make the World Series again – I was 9 years old the last time that happened – I’m sure I’ll be crying tears of joy.