'Bout Dem Bengals

*In my effort to continue writing more, here's a post I wrote last fall but never published. For some closure, we are now FC Cincinnati season ticket holders.

I think I’m finally over the NFL. 

A four-decade Bengals fan, I have memories of watching Super Bowl XVI on television and crying when Joe Montana crushed our dreams in Super Bowl XXIII. I wasn’t just watching in the good times: I endured the Shula Era, a quarterback carousel, and our inability to select a first-round pick who wouldn’t get injured. 

I used to live and die with the Bengals, but I haven't watched an entire game this year; frankly, I didn’t even know the Bengals had a bye week until about 2pm on Sunday. And I’m not alone. Last week with friends that always talk football, we all said that we’re less engaged with the pro game. And since my Twitter feed is filled with NFL advertisements telling me how exciting the game is, I’m thinking it’s an epidemic. 

I know there’s a myriad of reasons that NFL viewership is down, from an overexposed product to traumatic head injuries. For me, however, I trace it all back to last year’s playoff game against Pittsburgh. It wasn’t just losing to the Steelers again, but it was HOW we lost. I could stomach Jeremy Hill’s fumble, but I found the penalty against Burfict, when earlier in the game Bernard was mauled without a flag, insulting. And when Joey Porter baited PacMan into a flag that clinched the game after a Steelers coach pulled Reggie’s hair, I surrendered. And I don’t think I’ve ever recovered. 

It wasn’t just losing but the feeling that the game just wasn't fair. It was the subjectivity. Referees make judgement calls nullifying the accomplishments of the athletes on the field. Football is a violent game and to hear the national media decree that the Bengals deserved to lose that playoff game because they couldn’t control themselves seemed disingenuous. In the end, if officials are merely going to make decisions instead of controlling the game, how can I trust the product?

With all the entertainment options at my disposal, and my home team seemingly so far away from success, why am I still watching this game?

Tomorrow I’m talking with the FC Cincinnati season ticket rep. I’m much more excited about that than anything the NFL is selling me now.