Cincinnati Bengals fans have plenty of reasons to hate each AFC North rival, but the team's inner-state foe with historical ties trumps all others.
Yes, the Cleveland Browns are Cincinnati's biggest rival, and Bengals fans should hate them accordingly.
It's easy to hate the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially if you're a younger fan with the image of Kimo von Oelhoffen shredding Carson Palmer's knee or Hines Ward throwing an arguably dirty block and breaking Keith Rivers' jaw.
You also probably have a strong distaste for the Baltimore Ravens, despite your team stealing Marvin Lewis from that franchise. The kind of success that the Ravens have found since entering the NFL is easy to despise.
But above all, Bengals fans should hate the Browns the most.
Let's start small and work our way up.
Well, not really "small" because we're talking about a 340-pound defensive tackle, but you get the idea.
Back in 2008 the Bengals were set to be active in free agency. The coaching staff was also looking for a way to upgrade the defense and struck a deal with the Detroit Lions for game-changing defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.
Except the deal fell through. At the last second the Browns swept in, offered a better deal and ended up with Rogers. ESPN reported that the deal fell through because of bad language on Cincinnati's end and provided further details:
After a deal fell through that sent Rogers to the Cincinnati Bengals for a third-round and fifth-round pick, the Lions rebounded by sending Rogers to Cleveland in exchange for a third-round choice and cornerback Leigh Bodden. Late Friday night, the Lions informed Rogers' agent, Kennard McGuire, that the trade with the Browns has been complete.
Sure, the bad language that caused the league to nix the deal was apparently Cincinnati's fault, but that should not stop you from further disliking the Browns for swooping in for the steal.
Rogers went on to have a monster year in 2008 with 76 total tackles and five sacks. He would spend three years in Cleveland, never reaching the same level of success he had with Detroit and proceeded to bounce around the league.
So there's that.
Now we can dive into the history of the Bengals and Browns. Interestingly enough, one of the most important pieces of lore does not come from a direct matchup of the two teams.
In case you are a fan too young to remember, the Bengals were a pretty darn good franchise in the 80s.
So good, in fact, that the team went to two Super Bowls and at one point showcased one of the league's most explosive and creative offenses under head coach Sam Wyche and no-huddle attack.
Wyche is also responsible for upping the ante in the Browns-Bengals rivalry.
Back in December of 1989 the Bengals had a contest with the Seattle Seahawks when the Cincinnati faithful began to pelt officials with snowballs because of a perceived bad call. Wyche took the microphone, which was hooked up the stadium's audio system and belted:
Will the next person that sees ANYBODY throw anything onto this field, point 'em out...and get 'em out of here—you don't live in Cleveland! You live in Cincinnati!
Wyche is one of the most successful coaches in Cincinnati sports history despite a messy breakup with the team. He's also one of the most innovative figures in NFL history.
Now, Wyche did not directly tell you to hate the Browns and the city they inhabit, but he pretty much did.
So you better.
Of course, we'll save the best for last. The shred of history that forever links the Cincinnati and Cleveland franchises is the man responsible for the birth of your beloved Bengals.
Paul Brown created the Browns first, but was relieved of his duties by one Art Modell. He would then take his talents to Cincinnati and found the Bengals in the mid-1960s, thus creating one of the most personal rivalries in league history, until Modell packed up and moved to Baltimore.
The two teams met for the first time in 1970, which saw the Browns emerge victorious. However, Cincinnati currently has the lead after 79 contests, holding a 42-37 advantage.
The history and deep roots of the rivalry live on to this day. It may not have amounted to much in the past decade or two as both franchises dabbled in mediocrity, but the foundation for one of the NFL's best is in place.
The Bottom Line
Look, if you're a Bengals fan you can hate the Steelers and Ravens as much as you want, but both will never trump the animosity you should have for the Browns.
There's one thing you have to understand—a rivalry must be shared.
Let's be honest, the Steelers and Ravens are too worried about each other to consider Cincinnati rivals. Baltimore-Pittsburgh is one of the best rivalries in the history of the sport. Both also have serious issues with the New England Patriots.
Which AFC North team do you dislike the most?
The Steelers and Ravens don't view the Bengals as rivals like they would each other. You may view it that way, but the rivalry simply is not shared at this point, and won't be until Cincinnati can field a consistent contender like the Steelers and Ravens have made a habit of doing.
Meanwhile, you have all of the reasons above, including a hatred that spans lifetimes, to dislike Cleveland.
There's plenty of history to brush up on between the Bengals and Browns, so much so that you could write an entire book on the topic.
For now, this guide should be proof enough that the Browns are the team you should hate if you cheer for the team calling The Queen City home.
The "Battle for Ohio" may have lost its luster over the years, but these things happen in cycles. Hating the Cleveland Browns regardless is the duty of a fan from Cincinnati.
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