Almost every high-level sport seems to offer frustrating reasons to stop following it, whether on an institutional, league-wide level or on a team-by-team basis.
The Cincinnati Bengals have epitomized such fan frustration, building it up on and off the field practically since the beginning of the franchise and accelerating it over the past quarter century.
Recently, reasons to stop following the NFL in general have also become hard for some to ignore.
Taken together, the forthcoming 2018/2019 season might just be the best time ever for disheartened Bengals fans to tune out, take a breather and re-gather some semblance of peace of mind during football season.
The Bengals’ deal to have taxpayers fund their stadium began testing some fans’ loyalty in the mid-’90s. You may have heard about it — it’s often used as the lead example when journalists write about why sports team finances shouldn’t be so largely underwritten by taxes. The ongoing ordeal, especially during more loss-filled seasons, has offered some good chuckles every time rumors surface that ownership has hinted at moving to another city whenever renegotiations are proposed or stadium upgrade demands aren’t instantly met. Threats of relocation were a primary tactic used to get taxpayers to pay and care for Paul Brown Stadium in the first place.
The civic power struggle — in which the Bengals have Hulk-sized upper hands over the local government and citizenry — manifested itself most recently when the team reportedly threatened to veto a proposed riverfront concert venue because it infringed on one of the taxpayer-funded stadium’s numerous taxpayer-funded parking lots.
You’ve already supported the team plenty with your taxes; if you need a break from the Bengals, that should assuage any guilt for pulling your financial support this season.
NFL scandals aren’t new (google “CTE + NFL” to start your research), but during the 2017/2018 season and the recent offseason, some confounding NFL labor issues sealed some fans’ commitment to sit out the coming year. As more players began to show solidarity with the movements protesting the killing of unarmed black citizens at the hands of police officers (usually without consequences), as well as other forms of racial injustice, the President of the United States of America decided to weigh in. Calling the players “sons of bitches” for their small gesture — kneeling during the national anthem — Donald Trump used his echo chamber to lean in hard on the issue in order to gain political points and deflect attention from his many scandals.
Changing the narrative to “players are protesting the anthem/flag/military/etc.!” Trump all but commanded NFL owners to punish kneelers harshly, saying, “The $40,000,000 (NFL) Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!”
The league and the individual teams seemed to fall in line without hesitation. Reports initially suggested players would be reprimanded and fined if they knelt on the sidelines during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The NFL Players Association union (and perhaps some of the public outrage) has at least stalled the silencing efforts, but everyone now knows where the league and its owners stand.
Some are gleeful that a corporation would seek to silence employees who want to use their platform to express an opinion that shouldn’t be controversial — “racial injustice is bad.” If you’re in that camp, you might be thinking of pressing pause on the NFL as the negotiations continue, since some players will likely continue their silent, unobtrusive demonstration.
Conversely, Big Government meddling in private business matters and companies aspiring to muzzle employees might be tempting you to ride the bench this season. (As much as the whole "take a knee" controversy isn't about "protesting the National Anthem," it's also not a First Amendment issue, unless or until the government somehow is able to mandate that players can't protest.)
Weird politics aside, locking the NFL out of your consciousness can also be a form of self-care, helping to shake some of the malaise that comes with being a Cincinnati sports fan. If the Bengals were better corporate citizens, it might make it easier to just put up with the inevitable fall/winter seasonal depression. If you enjoy manic mood swings, feeling the highs can be worth the gut-punch of the lows.
It’s often easier to endure the freakishly derpy nature of other Cincinnati sports, which collectively have cornered the market on unpredictable heartbreak. (Some say it’s a curse.) But the Bengals have emerged as the leaders of painful predictability.
That predictability actually comes in handy when deciding whether or not to check out for the 2018/19 Bengals season. If you choose to no longer ride the roller coaster of emotion that always ends up flying off the tracks at some point, fans by now have seen how things will play out enough times that a reliable, moment-by-moment outline of a Bengals season is seared into our brains.
If you’re having trouble letting go due to morbid curiosity, we’ve crunched the numbers and run several simulations in order to craft a pre-season synopsis of how this year will go for the Bengals.
Here’s the win/loss record our diligent and infallible scientific research and uncanny psychic abilities have revealed, with commentary that represents a composite of likely fan and media responses, plus future newspaper stories and headlines envisioned during a séance with the ghost of Jeff Blake’s Bengals career.
PREDICTED BENGALS 2018/2019 SEASON RESULTS
Game 1: Win
Counting pre-season, that’s a 4-1 record so far!
This is our year!
Game 2: Win
Cincinnati Enquirer rushes to get a Bengals “special edition” out by 1 a.m. with the front-page headline “2 and 0-My-God!”
Game 3: Loss
Still, Who dey though. It’s early; no need to panic.
Game 4: Win
Who dey! Showing resilience in the face of adversity better than any team in Bengals history!
Game 5: Close loss
One different play call (in retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have punted on second down) and they win that game.
Game 6: Blowout loss
Who dey? First “Fire Marvin!” change.org petition of the season launched.
After bending down to pick up a towel during the National Anthem, Geno Atkins is suspended for the remainder of the season.
Game 7: Comeback win
Who dey!!! If you’d told me at the start of the season they’d be 4-3 at nearly the halfway point I would have been ecstatic!
First “Re-Sign Marvin for 10 More Years!” change.org petition launched.
Game 8: Loss
The night before, AJ Green twists his ankle in a Chipotle parking lot. After examination, Bengals announce the foot and intestinal injuries suffered during his dinner outing will keep him out for three weeks.
Game 9: Bye week
Good timing — heal and regroup!
Hoping for a last-minute bump for Republicans in the mid-term elections, Trump tweets, “Gino Adkins and other players ritefully suspended for protesting America are WORSE than MS-13, MS Word, the fake news media and that fat pig Rosie O’Donnell combined. ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE.”
POTUS signs an executive order calling for kneeling players’ immediate arrest on charges of something called “obstruction of patriotistic justice”
Game 10: Close loss
Showed real signs of life! They will win every game on out — wildcard is basically clinched!
Game 11: Comeback loss
Bengals are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
A conservative movement on social media, #gitmoforkneelers, results in a swell of support for Trump and the NFL (which says it’s “carefully considering” the imminent arrest of several of its employees), as photos of superfans surrounded by dozens of official NFL giant foam “No. 1” fingers go viral.
Game 12: Blowout loss
AJ tweaks ankle in warm-ups, return is questionable.
Bengals shatter NFL record for most field goal attempts blocked and returned for touchdowns. They blame the 28 points given up on the holder’s index finger, which was strained by sarcastically pointing to the sky to praise God so often during the previous loss.
Game 13: Blowout loss
AJ out for the season.
Change.org petition launched to fire, rehire, then fire Marvin Lewis again.
Game 14: Shut-out loss
In response to a slight decrease in attendance, Bengals announce the National Anthem will now be performed by a different member of the U.S. military in full after every change of possession.
Game 15: 7-3 loss
Mike Brown insists Hamilton County pay for a giant new Mike’s Carwash complex next to stadium for ownership, coaches and players only.While never explicitly threatening to leave Cincinnati if the demand is not met, in an interview with the Enquirer about what he calls the “modest, critically-necessary four-story transportation maintenance facility,” Brown says the phrase “Portland, Oregon is really nice in the winter” eight times, completely unprompted.
Game 16: Loss
Cleveland erupts with the Browns’ first win since Dec. 24, 2016.
Bud Light refrigerators installed around Cleveland unlock and residents begin binging on the free beer, fueling six days of rioting.
Late on game night, between muffled giggles, outgoing governor John Kasich responds to the developing riots by declaring a statewide State of Emergency and the cancelation of Christmas, ensuring future high school Ohio history books will include a section on the 2018 “Bud Light Riots.”
Game 17: Comeback win
Whoooooooo deeeeeeeyyyyy! We beat the Steelers in style, nothing else matters! Lots of reasons to be excited for next year!
Marvin Lewis gets unprecedented “lifetime” contract extension during post-game news conference.
Earlier in the day, Portland city officials finally issue a statement containing two words — “Hard pass” — in response to rumors the Bengals would be moving there in 2020.
The first private-use four-story Mike’s Carwash opens on Cincinnati’s riverfront.