A Personal Football History

Marc and I not only love sports, we are also loyalists who relish in the joy of victory and hurt with the pains of disappointment. With one of my teams having unexpected success this year, Marc asked me to weave a story.

Growing up in southeastern Ohio in the 1960s, most people in my area were either Cleveland Browns fans or followers. The Browns were the closest team to us – a time long before cable – a time when an antenna delivered three television stations. The Browns were the weekly game that I watched, but I most enjoyed watching the upstart AFL games while rooting for Charlie Tollar, Billy Cannon, George Blanda, Charley Hennigan, and the rest of the Houston Oilers.

In 1968, the AFL expanded into Cincinnati. Many friends hooked up with the Bengals, others stayed loyal to the Browns. Me, the contrarian, latched onto the Miami Dolphins – a team with Flipper as a mascot – a team with my favorite Dolphin: Howard Twilley.

In the fall of 1971, I went cross-state to college where I would be around many Browns fans – but I stuck with the Dolphins. Before the 1972 season started, I told my friends that the Dolphins would not only win the Super Bowl, they would do so going undefeated (17-0). They laughed, then astonished when it happened.

After graduating in 1976, I went to a different corner of the state for my first job in the Cincinnati area. Already a Reds (baseball) fan – a lifer, I quickly gravitated to the local Bengals. Finally, an opportunity to root for nearby team.

At the end of the 1980 season, I suggested to a friend that we get Bengal season tickets for the following year because I felt something special on the horizon. We purchased them, and I still recall the ticket price per game – $9.75.

The 1981 season was unbelievable, finishing 12-4 and winning the division. Locals realized that most of the games were over by halftime. Those Bengals were more than good. They were very good! They ran their West Coast offense for many years before anyone knew that term. Plus, the defense was superb.

That season’s AFC Championship Game was a classic – and I was there. It’s known as the Freezer Bowl – the coldest NFL game on record with a raw temperature of -9F (-23C) and a wind chill of -59F (-50C). That was very cold, and I stayed the entire game to witness history.

The win gave the Bengals their first trip to the Super Bowl. My team lost that game, but I still say they were the better team.

I was still a season ticket holder in 1988 when the Bengals made their second trip to the Super Bowl. Two evenly matched teams hammering each other. The Bengals lost late in the game.

The Bengals would win a playoff game in 1990 before losing in the second round. Then came what Bengal fans call The Lost Decade – an era of ineffectiveness and a lot of losing. It took the Bengals 15 years to return to the playoffs. From there, they made it seven of the next 11 years – but losing every time – losing when favored. Finding a way to lose the game in 2015 that was ready for the taking – a win to break the streak. But no – a win didn’t happen. Losing marked the franchise and the city. Losing hung on the fans.

Losing continued – and many times ugly. 2020 delivered the bright light of a new young quarterback named Joe. One from an Ohio town 3 hours away. One from my home area of the state. The season had some bright spots but still many losses. One with Joe missing many games after a devasting knee injury.

Nonetheless, 2021 had a glimmer of hope. But they were still the Bengals, and we were Bengal fans. We’ve been there, done that. While hopeful, we waited for the other shoe to drop. That’s what Bengal fans do.

While some early games provided hope, some mid-season games delivered ugly reality checks. Facing a difficult closing schedule, the light of hope was a meager flicker. Suddenly, Cool Joe led a dismantling of the dreaded Ravens then beating the vaunted Chiefs. Suddenly, the Bengals were playoff-bound and hosting a first-round game. Then Cool Joe delivered! The team broke the 31-year streak and released the fans from bondage. The local radio call says it all!

The reward for winning round 1 was a trip to Nashville to face the top-seeded Titans. History shows that the Bengals have NEVER won a playoff game on the road. NEVER! Led by some guy known as Cool Joe, another streak was broken. The Bengals were suddenly the darlings of the NFL. (Video will say click to watch on YouTube – so it’s viewable).

Winning or losing this week in Kansas City doesn’t matter. With two streaks broken and Cool Joe leading the way like a seasoned veteran, the franchise, the city, and the fans are winners again. Bengals fans are hopeful again. Bengal fans are proud again. Bengal fans are believing again. The Bengals are relevant again. This is something young Bengal fans have never experienced. At least I’m a seasoned fan who has.

Can the Bengals win one more? Maybe or maybe not. Then again, why not! Why not us! After all, we have Cool Joe.

42 thoughts on “A Personal Football History

  1. Frank,
    I am always amazed at both you and Marc with your memory of stats and wins and years and whatnots. It just blows me away. It will be interesting to see what your Bengals do against the Chiefs…
    Fun post, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dale,
      Marc wanted a story about being a Bengals fan … and boy … doing that isn’t easy. It’s been a difficult journey – especially the past 30 years. Beating a team like the Chiefs TWICE in one season is a monumental task – but it can be done. After all, that’s why they play the game. However, I recognize odds are slim, but hey – Cool Joe is special. Meanwhile, being that you like cold, I hope you liked the part and video about the Freezer Bowl.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Did he now? Well, ya done good!
        And hey, it can happen, that’s for sure. The Chiefs won by the skin of their teefs this past weekend so…
        Oh yes. I am always amazed at the fans willing to freeze their butts off for a game!

        Liked by 1 person

          • Oh right… YOU are one of the nuts 😉 It must have been carazy! How did you manage to keep warm? It’s not like you have much room to move in those stands!


          • Plus fans don’t move much! … I had MANY layers, and quite the site sitting there. Even two layers on my head. I had a welder’s hat under the ski cap. I was worried about an exposed face. Couldn’t find anything in any store the day before. So I looked around in my basement. Taking a paper dust mask my have looked goofy, but it was brilliant! Once I got to my seat, I wrapped myself into a snuggie blanket. Like a sleeping blanket with arm openings. Then I slipped on a very large plastic bag. A leaf bag. It helped break the wind, plus I stuffed it when leaving like Santa Claus. I was protected, but what if I had to go to the bathroom? Ah ha … I had a plan. I had an empty juice concentrate can in my pocket. I could have peed into the can at my seat because nobody could see as I was wrapped up in the snuggie … then slip the can under the seat. But I didn’t have to use it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I know! Even many layers, when you don’t move, the cold creeps in.. good for you! That sounds like quite the getup! Bet there are no pictures of it, eh? 😉

            Liked by 1 person

    • Jim,
      As you know, franchise Qbs are hard to find. After all, we haven’t had one since Boomer. Lucky to have Ken Anderson before him. Burrow is the real deal – and as long as he stays relatively healthy, he can have a great career. But as we know, time will tell. No question that the Chiefs are good and they will be at home. Besides, beating a team twice in the same year at this level is a difficult task.


  2. I am a big Cool Joe fan, lemme start with that. Because when he first came out, I wasn’t so sure the kid wasn’t a one year college wunderkind who was going to have a tough time at the next level. But damn, he is the real deal and then some. He doesn’t have to have a big game- numbers wise- to have a positive impact on his team. He’s a leader. Now . . . get him an O-line! Pronto!

    Did you know it’s been forty years since that classic Super Bowl? I also think the Bengals were the better team. Interestingly, SB 16 was the first time Madden used his famous telestrator.

    The fact you were at the Ice Bowl game against San Diego is either commendable or nuts.

    Imma go with both.

    Go Bengals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marc,
      I’ll accept commendable and nuts. It was a crazy day to be at a football game. But wow – What a day! I made it through the entire game to live the moment. As seen in the video, the vapors coming from the river were extra errie. Dale asked me what I wore that day, so I hope you saw my response.

      Cool Joe – Joe Cool – damn – he’s so focused and with a high football IQ. He’s definitely a student of the game – and that’s so important. It will be interesting to see how the organization addresses the O-line this winter. Time will tell.

      Meanwhile, thanks for encouraging me to write something for the moment. Odds are stacked against the Bengals this weekend, but why not shock the world one more time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Columbus is America’s City for US Soccer. I was scheduled to fly into John Glenn International today but Covid got me. I have been three times to watch the US play Mexico and was very much looking forward to tomorrow’s game V El Salvador.
    My friends in that traveled to Columbus are flying to Buffalo on the weekend to watch the US play Canada in Hamilton on Sunday. From there it’s off the Minneapolis for the game v Costa Rica.
    To fans of any sport, road trips are the best. I’ll be rooting for your team as well as mine over the next week and a half.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First off HIGH-FIVE for being at that game! That must have been so great! Loyal fans appreciate the wins more, especially if they’ve been fans since back in the day … the Icky Shuffle Days 🙂 Going to be another round of good games this weekend. Hope none of them go into overtime though, because that rule is AWWWWWWFUL. That should be what happens in triple OT or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Guat,
      Thanks for the kind words. The Freezer Bowl was one of those unique events that happen – and at least I can say I was there. Icky Woods was a good player who had a short career. But he was on the 1988 championship team. The 1981 team’s main running back was Pete Johnson. As for this weekend, I personally think that beating a good team twice in one season is very difficult.


    • Yvette,
      It’s been a long wait getting back to this position. Yes, the Bengals can beat the Chiefs – but – beating a good team twice in the same season is a tough task – so the odds aren’t good. Win or lose, I’m happy with what they’ve accomplished. The Freezer Bowl was a unique event – and one not to be forgotten. Seeing that video of the river – errie … That’s a sight the speaks of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When the Bengals won – my first thought was “good for that area – they deserve this”
        and so now it is nice to know someone connected to the team.
        — and you and Marc are so kindred in sports and more 🙂


  5. Sorry for arriving late to the party (computer was in the sick bay until late Friday). $9.75 for a ticket??? I don’t even think you can buy a frosty brew for that now! 🏈 P.S. Should be a good Sunday game. Good luck!


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