When Marvin Lewis first came to town, pro-Bengal bobble heads slathered on him responsibilities that had nothing to do with U-turning a losing football team.
According to them, Lewis' blackness came with it indebtedness for the happiness and justice of all us blacks. (White loyalty and fanaticism is the Happy Meal Toy; you get it with every order.)
Even stranger, the ones who assumed Black Marvin would guide us to superficial reconciliatory hugs based on winning football games are the same fools who intimated that all surly Negroes really need is to be distracted by a sports team led by a black man.
See? Aren't you proud? Now shut up about boycotts, collaboratives and profiling. Black Marvin, talk to your people.
What they neglected to say is that race-based coaching and black savior outreach aren't in a football coach's job description.
Further, we weren't similarly demanding of Dick LeBeau — that he be accountable for white behavior, white happiness and citywide unity. No, we just wanted that mofo to win a game, any game.
Two in a row? Sheeeit.
I started watching the Bengals again because they started to win again and I stopped turning from Bengals' games because they started winning again.
The stats are good for any outfit in the National Football League. But for the Bengals in a single season rising from the ashes of embarrassment, the numbers sing — four consecutive wins and seven victories out of the last nine games.
I stopped holding my breath whenever Jon Kitna missiled passes into traffic, stopped cringing when they mounted clutch plays. I no longer watch Bengals' games with one eye snapped close and the other in an anxious squint, as though peeking at an autopsy.
I'm not a fair-weather fan, and I don't ride bandwagons.
It's hard to justify support for extracurriculars when there's been for years no return on my emotional investment. Once upon a time, if I caught myself accidentally wearing any combination of orange and black, I'd hurriedly change lest I be mistaken for (gasp!) a fan.
But damn! The Bengals have actually won more games this year than they've lost.
And now that they're in first place with the Baltimore Ravens with identical 7-5 records in the AFC North, real fans cream orange and black, themselves Halloween-colored bombastic bomb pops bathed in bare-chested fanaticism.
The Bengals used to be so miserable — fumbling, intercepted, defenseless, mis-coached, booed and paper-bagged — they sold seats to misery. How dare we demand victories from them? Together, we were co-dependent losers.
Watching the Sunday night sports shows was like self-mutilation. Listening to the callers who loved to loathe the Bengals blather on about what they'd do if they were coaches and players was like waiting to vomit. Wretchedness in the waiting room of relief.
This year started similarly, and when Corey Dillon's temporary prima donna act threatened to flush a team scrapping to ascend the crapper of its past, we would've given Lewis a Growing Pains Transitional Pass.
Now that they're winning, however, they'll see that winning is the easy part. Continued victory is the hard part, and championship is a misplaced vocabulary word.
Cincinnati's the kind of town where resting on laurels is the unofficial pastime, where contentedness passes for good enough and where almost gets it done.
Our professional sports teams are not immune. They play starring roles in perpetrating the pall of status quo.
Former Bengals coaches Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet and LeBeau did it and did so in the name of Mike Brown's good-ol-boy-the-larger-good-be-damned manner that sacrificed morale for being inexplicably beholden to silly string cheese incidents of bad coaching.
If Lewis has done anything, he's coached the old-fashioned way. He's massaged morale back by looking out for the players' off-field interests so they'll return the favor on the field.
It's the little things. Lewis gives players an extra pre-game day for West Coast games. He's diversified the offensive talent to squelch star status and to deflate egos.
The simple brilliance of Lewis' coaching style is this: He's created healthy competition within, and now there's cohesion teaming from Kitna's huddle.
Lewis has stiff-armed the black man's gimmick that says we're not allowed to only excel at the job for which we're hired and that we must save everybody.
Lewis hasn't yet believed the hype of Black Marvin bullshit. He's coached a team of grown-ass, highly paid professional athletes into an instantly respectable season. Just so happens it's permeated the city and is pushing aside that pall.
But the Bengals must keep winning. It's what champions do.
Celebrating's cool. But don't get intoxicated from hearing your name checked in tinny homemade songs. Don't puff up your chests so big that you can't fit in VIP. Keep your noses to the playbooks and your asses in the three-point stance.
As for us, let Marvin Lewis coach. Leave Black Marvin out of it.
Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.