Man, it feels good to be a winner, doesn't it?
All season long, the Bengals have defied expectations to earn a place among this year's elite — and now the team has a chance to win it all in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, Feb. 13.
So many good things have come out of this season, but noting quite so sweet as these recent weeks as the Bengals climbed closer and closer to Super Bowl stardom. Below, check out CityBeat's favorite stories from the Bengals' incredible run through the playoffs and to the Super Bowl. Use them to remember why so many Cincinnati fans have been patient for decades and why this city deserves football's biggest win.
Team pride erupts all over the region
There is nothing like a big win — or several! — to buoy a city. By the time the Bengals won the AFC North, even the skeptics were donning orange and black and yelling "WHO DEY." Businesses and organizations throughout Greater Cincinnati plastered their buildings with Bengals signs and created special items to celebrate the playoffs. Governments even got in on the act, with Cincinnati City Hall flying a Bengals flag, Dayton, Kentucky renaming itself as "Deyton," Cheviot changing its street signs to Bengals names, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declaring that Super Bowl Sunday would be called Cincinnati Bengals Day.
Kevin Huber makes us cry
Just days before the Bengals went to the AFC Divisional, punter Kevin Huber published a first-person piece in The Players' Tribune. Huber's extensive description of his love for Cincinnati and what it was like to experience his first playoff win (and the team's first playoff win in 31 years) was deeply personal and moving. A veteran Bengals player as well as a longtime fan who had suffered through so many losses, Huber gave the city a shot of real hope that this team was the one that could go all the way.
A favorite beer makes a comeback
Before now, the Bengals have only been to the Super Bowl two times — in 1982 and 1989. Though the team lost both times, committed fans held onto their unopened Hu-Dey beer cans, ever hopeful that one day, they would crack them open when the Bengals finally came out on top. More than three decades later, the Bengals are finally back at the Super Bowl and Hu-Dey is back in our hands. In addition to the old six-packs stashed away in our basements, we now have a new, limited-release Hu-Dey beer to wash down our fears and celebrate the team. Hudepohl, acquired by Cincinnati Beverage Company (CinBev) in 2020, only made 3,000 six-packs this time around, so they're definitely collector's items. But if the Bengals win on Sunday, we're guessing those cans won't see any basements this time around.
Cincinnati chili hits the national stage
Yeah, we know that our chili frequently gives visitors the willies — but it's ours, dammit, and we'll suck down that saucy stuff for every meal if we want to. Until recently, though, we hadn't thought about making a sort-of drinking game of it. Superstitious Bengals fans are now chugging Skyline chili straight from grocery-store cans to keep the team's winning streak going. Will it work during the Super Bowl? We'll find out on Feb. 13. In the meantime, we can feel vindicated that our chili is the best, now that it's gotten the seal of approval from the Washington Post.
Joe Burrow's smart fashion sense makes us swoon
Once they get to a certain level, many professional athletes display serious swagger, with a confident style all their own. Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow found his swagger earlier than many, showcasing impressive outfit after impressive outfit during press conferences and on travel days. How many other young players would have the fearlessness and poise to pull off '70s porn-star shades, a fur coat or multiple SpongeBob SquarePants items? Not many. Each of Burrow's fashion-forward looks this season left us wanting more.
Evan McPherson proves it's smart to draft a kicker
What else can you say, other than that Shooter has been clutch? The AFC Championship bout with the Kansas City Chiefs was full of drama. The Bengals were down by 21-10 at the half, then lept ahead, then endured a tie before moving into overtime. But Evan McPherson came along with a 31-yard field goal to clinch it for the Bengals and send Cincinnati to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989 — and this was just a week after McPherson did the same thing during the last four seconds of the AFC Divisional round against the Tennessee Titans.
We showed them all
Around this time last year, betting experts put the Cincinnati Bengals' odds of a Super Bowl berth at 75 to 1 for the 2021-2022 NFL season. And, honestly, who could blame them? After years of fielding subpar teams and going just 4-11-1 for the 2020-2021 season, things weren't looking so good. But, oh, what difference a year (and a new uniform!) makes. With a 10-7 regular-season record and some majorly impressive playoff action, the Bengals sidestepped all the haters to become the league's most surprising team. And now, after 33 years, Cincinnati has a true shot at finally winning a Super Bowl. Even Madden NFL 22, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Anitta and Cincinnati's favorite hippo Fiona are rooting for the orange and black. Whatever happens on Sunday, it's been a hell of a ride.