OK here it comes. I’m a . . .

Bengals fan.

There. I said it. Feel free to pile on the derision.

Today, September 13, 2009, will forever on be known as “The Tip.” This moniker will distinguish the day from:

“The Drop” : Lewis Billups had the interception in his hands just moments before Montana finds Taylor for the winning touchdown in Super Bowl 23.

“The Call” Somehow Coach Sam Wyche manages to not run the clock out with only 6 seconds left, and on the final play Montana beat us again.

“The Twist” Former Bengal Kimo Van Ohlhofen (aka the prince of darkness) went after Carson Palmer’s knee on Palmer’s first pass of a 2005 playoff game, destroying the knee and wrecking the Bengals’ season.

“The Snap” After scoring a touchdown in the final seconds against Denver on Christmas Eve, the Bungles botch the extra point snap and lose 24-23, costing themselves a playoff spot.

And dozens of others, of course, too numerous to mention. What happened today (and I won’t go into it, the memory is still too green. If you want to know, go to worstfootballlossesofalltime.com or something) just adds to my conviction that in fact there is a god, and I’ve really pissed her off.

OK, football is a deeply meaningless thing. Perhaps the meaninglessness makes it worse, because I’m convinced, somewhere in my deep, dark recessed psyche, that by daring to spend precious time watching such a deeply meaningless spectacle, I encourage the universe to punish me. I should be writing, or earning money somehow, or how about playing with my daughters? There’s a thought. And so the guilt and angst I feel at watching the game is matched only by the pain that usually comes with the final outcome.

Why not just root for some other team, one not so cursed under a bad star? Only those not afflicted with my special version of sports cutting could possibly understand the futility of such a thought. A Bengal fan I am, and a Bengal fan I must remain.

We sometimes meet, we pitiful creatures. It usually happens accidentally. We’re unlikely to be spotted wearing our team insignia. It’s not that we don’t own the stuff. We just keep it hidden in a secret, shameful place, bringing it out only on days like this, the season opener, to don it for a few hopeful hours until reality once again strikes.

When we do discover one another, an instant bond is formed.

“Bengal fan?”

“Yeah, Bengal fan.”

“Oh. Me, too. Ouch.”

That’s all we need, and we’re connected, cutting across lines of race, creed, and political affiliation. We’re Bengal fans. Ouch.

I look for meaning in the meaningless losses. I try to grow. I’m growing an awful lot, being a fan of this team. I remember the pain much more than the joy. Essex Johnson losing his 1000 yard rushing season by losing 3 yards on the last carry of the year. The Bengals missing the playoffs again, and again, and again, by the tiniest of margins. The ridiculous losses. The horrendous personnel moves – Akili Smith, Ki-Jana Carter, David Klingler, and on and on and on.

What must it be like to be a fan of some other team, the Steelers, perhaps? Rooting for them would be like rooting for death and taxes, the only things surer than Pittsburgh finishing ahead of the Bengals. Where are the growth opportunities there? So I’ve got something that no Steeler fan will ever have. I’ve got pain. And pain makes you stronger.

Yeah.

I’ll just wait for the lesson of today’s pain to come through.

OK, still waiting.

Still . . .

How ’bout I let you know?

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