Cincinnati Bengals Success Linked To Shedding of Terrible Towel Curse

Todd FlemingAnalyst INovember 20, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 15:  Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks looks down in the closing minutes of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 31-20.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

There has been plenty of commentary on the Cincinnati Bengals' sudden success.

One strain of thought is that Carson Palmer is finally fully back from his knee injury. Another school of thought is that the Bengals have had a string of good drafts that have replenished the talent on the roster.

Others have argued that the Bengals, a roster that once looked like a who’s who list of criminals in the NFL, have created a much more team-focused and disciplined roster.

And it would be foolish to overlook the impact of defense coordinator Mike Zimmer, who has built an AFC North caliber defense.

But, perhaps the most important reason that the Bengals are succeeding is because the curse of the terrible towel was officially lifted.

The curse was tied directly to former Bengals’ wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh, who had the audacity to wipe his feet with the towel following the Bengals’ victory over the Steelers in 2005. It was the last game the Steelers would lose that season and the start of nothing but trouble for the Bengals.

Incidentally, the Towel abusing incident carried out by the Titans in 2008 also marked the last time the Steelers would lose that season.  So, the curse works in two directions.  It brings fortune to the Steelers and ruin to the offender's team.

The Bengals chose not to resign he of the long last name in the off season, perhaps recognizing that it was time to move beyond the curse.

So, TJ took the curse and moved to Seattle.

The Seahawks, who had high hopes for recapturing he NFC West title, were last seen being smacked around like pinatas by the Cardinals for the second time this season.

The once proud 'Hawks are now 3-6 and effectively out of playoff contention, although Houshmandzadeh apparently hasn’t gotten the memo.

He was so inspired by the teams' beatdown that he boasted the Seahawks will not lose again this year, making that boast the very week his team is preparing to play at red hot Minnesota.

Who knew that the Terrible Towel Curse also kills brain cells?

The best thing the Seahawks can do is follow the Bengals lead and give Housh a one way ticket out of town. Only then can the healing truly begin.

The Titans might want to also consider dropping the cursed deadweight of Lendale White before he derails another promising season.

Come to think of it, that might not be altogether bad advice even aside from the curse considering his general lack of NFL talent.

Letting go of partner in crime Keith Bullock, who is a very good player, might be harder, but sometimes you have to make those tough decisions, like the Bengals did in letting the talented Housh fly the coop and take his troubles to the other coast.

The answer for how a team can get rid of the Terrible Towel curse is to get rid of the player or players that brought it on.

But, how can a player struck down with the curse shed it? Alas, there is no evidence that it can be done. Moving to a new city is clearly not the answer.  Perhaps a pilgrimage to visit the grave of the late great Myron Cope to offer an apology would help.

There was some buzz this week about a group of Bengals’ fans burning the Terrible Towel and the potential return of the curse.

I’m not buying it. Fans drink beer and do nutty stuff. If you looked up NFL fan in Webster's, that is what it likely says.  It is what makes the season so fun for the perpetual adolescents who form the core of most NFL fan bases, the Steelers' fans being a notable exception of course.

Imagine how you would feel as a Raiders or Browns fan if you couldn't drink beer and do nutty stuff.  It just wouldn't be fair. 

I don’t think a team can be held accountable, even by a curse, for something stupid done by a handful of fans with below room temperature IQs.

But, when a player makes the deliberate decision to desecrate and disrespect the towel, bad things always follow.  It is one of the immutable laws of the universe. 

So, congratulations to the Bengals for making the one decision that had to be made before they could pull out of the nosedive that has been their recent history.

The rest, as they say, is history.  At least until they meet the Steelers in the playoffs.