Hi my name is Donovan Estridge and I am a Cincinnati Bengals fan.
Yep, admitting it is half of the battle. Just like a recovering addict or alcoholic has to do, a Bengals fan needs to come to terms with their path.
Being a Bengals fan does not come with many perks. We don't usually see our team running across the field in the Super Bowl or even play past December. Usually we are already talking about our draft picks in October weeks before the World Series is even played.
That is just the life of a Cincinnati Bengals fan. It is hard for many people to accept. And since I have moved away from the Ohio River city, it is harder for outsiders to accept. When I tell someone in the Chicago area where my affiliation lies, it is usually met with laughter and the obligatory phrase 'you are joking, right?'
But for me, this is no joke.
My decision to have my heart broken every fall stems from the first time my heart was ripped out of my chest way back in 1988. I was a naive first grader and the Bengals were in the Super Bowl. Sitting on the couch with my father, a lifelong Bengals fan who still hasn't come to terms with his decision, watched as Joe Montana marched down that field and threw the winning touchdown pass and take the Lombardi trophy away.
Rising from the ashes of my despair was a new team that I would forever swear allegiance to despite having to stake my credibility to anyone who catches me in an orange jersey.
And since that fateful decision one January night in southeastern Indiana it hasn't been easy.
I remember the Dave Shula years. Or what about the David Klingler experiment. I still cringe when I think about the time when Neil O'Donnell and Gus Ferortte called the signals.
Too often than not, the Bengals' season is already in the bag well before the final out is recorded with the Cincinnati Reds. That is just how it is. I accept it.
But year after year, I hope and pray that I will be due to watch my team get to the Super Bowl again.
Since the turn of the millennium I have had more hope. In 2005 my team could have gotten there. Going into the playoffs, it was so rewarding to hear hated former Steelers coach Bill Cowher talk about having to 'keep up with the Bengals.' Until that point even the University of Cincinnati football team didn't have to keep up with the Bengals.
However, during that magical year, the Steelers did not catch up. They did however get the last laugh. That was another time when my heart was ripped out of my chest as Carson was wheeled away into the dark abyss of the locker room and the beginning of a long ACL injury. And just as Carson was whisked into the shadows, the Steelers left Paul Brown Stadium victors on their way to another Super Bowl victory.
I guess that is the price I pay to be a Bengals fan.
But for my fellow Bengals fans who have come to terms with our masochistic ways, we have accepted that. Year after year we cram into bars and parties throughout the country wearing our number 9 jerseys. For those of us that live away from Cincinnati, we are usually in a corner of a bar watching a regular TV while the Bears play on the big screen. Yes, we draw many curious looks when we shuffle to our corner, but we continue our Sunday afternoon ritual.
Why do I do it?
A true Bengals fan knows only loyalty. Sure, someone could buy a Dallas Cowboy jersey and jump that loaded bandwagon, but who would want that? I might be a Bengals fan but I do have standards.
For me, it is more satisfying to believe that one day, maybe when I am old and gray, being a Bengals fan will carry more perks.
And when that day comes I can say: My name is Donovan Estridge and I have always been a Cincinnati Bengals fan!