Supporting the Cincinnati Bengals (from the UK)

Other than a post about my sporting hobbies and writing, I haven’t really written much about my support of particular sports teams. As a break from my usual posts, I thought I would do some posts on this subject now – although, as you will discover (and as I mentioned in the post on writing before), there are links between these sporting interests and my writing.

Indeed, I’m going to start off with discussing my support of the Cincinnati Bengals since that came up in both my previous post on nostalgia and computer games, as well a post about symbols. Although that post pointed to the link between my interest in symbols and my music interests, I could have further extended that post to discuss symbols related to sports. For many sports fans, without any further input, they will know that the main image that accompanies this post means Cincinnati Bengals (at least since 2004 – there have been other logos before then). The ‘B’ alone is sufficient. But there is more to it than a mere symbol standing for a team’s name. There is an emotional attachment – one that varies from person to person, and one which can also vary for an individual depending on the performance of that team, for example.

So why did I support the Bengals?

I first started watching American Football on TV in 1984. Back in those days it used to be on Channel 4. It used “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood as the theme tune – a perfect combination (in fact, I recently discovered that the programme also used another favourite tune of mine – “Duel” by Propaganda). In the 80s, Dolphins, Cowboys, 49ers & Redskins were big in the UK – but I didn’t want to support one of those widely supported teams. The Bengals uniform, particularly the helmet, looked great and the name Cincinnati sounded interesting and different.

It was difficult following American Football and the Bengals in the 1980s. To help, I subscribed to a magazine. I got Sunday’s results by reading the list of results in a newspaper on the Monday or Tuesday, but got the full report in the magazine… and loads & loads of stats in the magazine too. And then hopefully some highlights on the C4 programme on the following Sunday. But following American Football was largely a lonely experience.

Remarkably, the Bengals made it to the Super Bowl in 1989. Some of this was on the back of the enigmatic Ickey Woods, my favourite player at the time, with his famous Ickey Shuffle celebration. But there were many other great players in that team – as there had been throughout much of the 1980s.

The 1989 Super Bowl was a match we could have won – and nearly did. But my main memory from that night is the horrific injury to Tim Krumrie. It was so traumatic, it took me until 2016 before I could watch a clip of it again. The following YouTube clip has photos – that’s more than enough.

My other memory of that Super Bowl was going to school the next day (well, a few hours later in reality), having not had much sleep… and then falling asleep in an Economics tutorial… where there were only 2 of us in the class… and the teacher was the school’s principal!

In 1990, the Bengals started a “lost decade”. I also found it hard to follow the team and NFL for a number of years (I can’t even remember being aware that Krumrie came back from his injury). Now, it’s so much easier and it’s become more social. These days there is Bengals UK account run by some fellow UK-based Bengals fans. Not only are they on Twitter, but YouTube, Facebook, WordPress, and Instagram. And, as I mentioned in my post about the new British Association for Japanese Studies podcast, there is also an excellent podcast – “CinciNatter“.

With the help of the internet and greater coverage of the NFL in the UK, it was possible to get to know much more about the Bengals that I had known in the past. This included becoming much more familiar with the Bengals Growl “fight song” and their catchphrase, “Who Dey”.

Anyway, in 2016, having been supporting the Bengals for about 32 years, I finally got to see them for the first time when they came over for one of the NFL International Games (against Washington). Before the game itself, there were a variety of events – including a meet-up of Bengals fans at the Admiralty pub in central London. I had never seen so many Bengals fans in one place… and it wasn’t only Bengals fans. There were mascot WhoDey, the Ben-gals and I got to meet and have a selfie with former Bengals QB Ken Anderson, who really should be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Meeting Ken Anderson

As for the match itself, other than it being great to finally see the Bengals live, there were a couple of main highlights – and both revolved around our star receiver, AJ Green. Luckily I got photographs of both moments. First – a short, bullet up the middle…

And then, at a critical moment later in the game, AJ brought in a deep ball close to where I was. I got a burst of photographs capturing this – which produces a fun animation when brought together.

Since 2016, I have managed to make it to a couple more UK Bengals socials and the Bengals were back over in London in 2019 for a match against the Rams.

Picture by Bengals UK of the get together outside Wembley

The match itself is largely best forgotten – though I did manage to capture the Bengals’ smart play that got Mixon a touchdown.

As I mentioned in my post on sporting hobbies and my writing, I’ve generally kept my sporting interests separate from my work on social media – having a separate Twitter account (wHOODeyCP – a combination of my standard Twitter ID, HOODCP, and the phrase WhoDey), but I have brought them together in my writing. The Bengals were the last of my three main teams to get included. The first time they crop up is in my novel Tokyo 20/20 Vision with the main character, Iwakura, supporting them. Iwakura is not based on me – but I couldn’t have him supporting a different NFL team. In my third novel, FOUR (the cover of which has a colour scheme as a nod to the Bengals) there is additional explanation as to why Iwakura supports the Bengals – different to my own reasons, but not unconnected with this post. I’m sure the Bengals will get a mention in some more of my novels – and possibly even one of my academic books one day. I also hope that one day I will get over to Cincinnati to watch some matches there, get to meet more Bengals fans, and possibly even some former players who still live and work in the area.

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