As of nearly the half-way point of the 2008-2009 NFL season, fans of the Cincinnati Bengals can authoritatively say there's one thing they do better than any other team in the league: Lose. Heading into week seven, the Bengals boasted a league worst 0-6 record, a winless start the Bengals are no stranger to. Actually, this is the eighth season Cincinnati has failed to defeat one of its opponents in its first six contests; an NFL all-time record, and by double the number of seasons any other team in the league has been so lucky as to replicate the feat.
Making matters worse, week seven saw the Bengals drop their seventh consecutive game in as many weeks to division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and now, with memories of the AFC North Champion Bengals from just a few years ago seemingly so far behind, few fans still head into each week's game with any expectations at all.
I look around Bengals Nation, both online and in my own back yard of Rochester, NY, (and granted, there is hardly a strong contingent of Bengals fans here in western New York) and for the first time all season, have something to be more disappointed in than my team. I am talking about my fellow Bengals fans.
Living in Rochester, I'm constantly surrounded by fans of the Buffalo Bills, which above anything has just been annoying. Up until this year though, I have always been able to get the last laugh. After constant pre-season talk of winning seasons, championships, and the great year to come, I relished in every fans misery with each single defeat and missed playoff. Bills fans stayed loyal however. The same fans who watched poor decision after poor decision at quarterback with starters in Rob Johnson and J.P. Lossman, and failure in routine play like the famous kick "wide right," and the "Music City Miracle." Fans who watched as their team lost four straight Super Bowls, continued to wake up every Sunday morning, don their beloved red, white, and blue, and chant "Let's Go Buff-a-lo!" until the game clock expired.
While I still love to see the Buffalo Bills lose, I can't help but admire their fan base. Despite everything, they're still fans, and never once questioned that fact. They stuck through it all: the losing seasons, poor coaching, terrible personnel decisions, failure, bad luck, and heart break.
And sure, myself included in Bengals Nation can say that we've dealt with it too. I am the first to agree that the Bengals have fallen victim to terrible ownership, poor coaching, misfortune, and a losing streak nobody's proud of. None of this however, and nothing else imaginable, excuses the actions and words of many of my fellow "fans." For me, it is a season such as this one that tests my fanhood, and tests the fanhood of all who bleed black, orange, and white.
It's our duty as fans to question the actions of our team's management, the play of our players, and apparently now our fellow fans as well. It's saddening to hear those who call themselves Bengals fans speak of abandoning our team, giving up, and even willing to jump on another team's band wagon, if for nothing else but a good reason or two to do so. If that's the case, then I guess these fans have failed this year's test.
As for me though, you can find me every game day at my favorite football bar in Rochester, surrounded by red, white, and blue, blurting obscenities in my own Bengal black, orange, and white world - maybe not expectant, but still hopeful, and still, above all, a Bengal fan.