In Seinfeld: Season 3- Episode 38 (“The Letter”), Jerry is dating an artist named Nina. For whatever reason, she wants to paint a portrait of Kramer, so Kramer willingly obliges. Once Nina is finished with the painting, she puts it up for sale in her apartment, and has a few potential buyers come in to look at it. An older, wealthy couple seem to be the most interested. The man and wife go back and forth for awhile, discussing what they see in the painting. The wife is quite fond of the artwork, while the husband is completely disgusted by it. Still, the older gentleman cannot bring himself to leave the painting. He sums up his feelings by simply stating: “He is a loathsome, offensive brute…yet I can’t look away.”
Those two lines are the best possible way I can describe my love for the Cincinnati Bengals.
I am a die-hard Bengals fan and have been for life. Through my 19+ years here on earth, the Bungals have caused me more pain and disappointment than Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock movies combined. They continue to raise my hopes every year, every Sunday even, only to crush them into pencil shavings again and again. But for some reason, no matter how many times they wallow and fail, I’m always watching, always right there with them. I can’t bring myself to give up on them. They are loathsome, offensive brutes…and yet I can’t look away.
It is impossible to explain my mindset. There is no rational way for me to describe why, year after year, week after week, I devote my attention and effort to a team that will inevitably let me down. When you think about it, my watching the Bengals is about as useful as Matthew McConaughey shopping for t-shirts; it’s a complete waste of our time. There are a million different and more productive things I could be doing, and yet I will never discover what they are. As long as the Bengals keep playing, I’ll keep watching.
Yes, it is stupid. I just laid out a crater-full of reasons not to watch Cincinnati play, while at the same time admitting that I always will. Why? One reason: That slight chance, that wistful possibility that one day, at some point in time, everything could change.
For 86 years, Boston Red Sox fans continued to follow their team religiously, even though they never won a World Series title. Boston fans suffered through a lifetime of failure and disappointment as they witnessed the Sox come up short year-in and year-out. And you know what their reward was? A World Series title in 2004, and then another in ’07. Ask any Red Sox fan in the universe if those 86 years were worth the wait, and they wouldn’t even have to think about it. Of course it was worth it.
It was worth it for the Phillies fans who hung around for 25 years to see a Championship. It was worth it for Kansas Jayhawks basketball fans who sat through 20 years of missing a title “by just that much.” It will be worth it for Chicago Cubs fans after more than a century of wait, for Detroit fans who have endured the defective Lions, and it will be worth it for me when it happens for the Bengals. Trust me.
After sitting through eight excruciating losses to begin this season, I couldn’t help but feel some amount of vindication from Cincinnati’s 21-19 win over Jacksonville this weekend. A half-season of shame seemed to somehow be lifted by a two-point victory against a 3-5 team. Even though our record is still 1-8, that one win felt like it made up for everything else - that one win will get me through any of the remaining losses this year. And that is why, as crazy as it may sound, I’m not going anywhere.
The hope for a Super Bowl will keep me and so many others invested in the Cincinnati Bengals. Forever. Sure, it seems foolish, but that faith is what makes us true fans. And when that day finally comes when everything changes, I’ll be there - and I can promise you it will be worth the wait.
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