Cincinnati Bengals in the Playoffs!

6 January 1991. I was still 19 years old, not even in my 20s, let alone in my 50s like now. This was a world where the first mobile phones existed, but there were no text messages yet. The internet was yet to go worldwide. John Major had only been PM for about 6 weeks after replacing the wicked witch. George Bush Sr was President of the USA, and was getting ready to launch the Gulf War. 1990-1 was the first full season that I’d supported Sheffield United – I’d go to around 20 games that season. It was their first season back in the old Division 1 (now Premier League), and they didn’t win their first league game of the season until the 16th match (22 December), were bottom on Christmas Day, but hardly lost after that, finishing 13th in the table with Brian Deane (of course) being the top scorer. But they were beaten at home and knocked out of the FA Cup on 5 January, the day before 6 January 1991.

So, what is special about 6 January 1991? It is the last time the Cincinnati Bengals, the American Football team I’ve been supporting since 1984, won a Play-Off game. On 15 January 2022, we will hopefully change that. We’ve been to the playoffs many times since 1991 – but the most recent was the 2015 season. Why is it so special this time? First, it’s the longest active streak (by one year) since an NFL team has won a playoff game. The 1990s were a particularly dark time – perhaps the lack of NFL coverage on TV in the UK that decade (or maybe I just deliberately avoided it) & internet was a blessing. Into the 2000s and beyond, there have been chances of a playoff win with Chad Johnson or AJ Green on the team, but it never happened. Second, the make-up of this team is just so different. The culture has changed. Keep in mind that 2 seasons ago, the Bengals were officially the worst team in the NFL and one of the worst again last season. Both years Bengals finished bottom of their division. This year, we won it. But it’s the players we have. In football terms, imagine your team had signed in the past 2 seasons David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, to add to Michael Owen and Alan Shearer (the analogy doesn’t totally work as the Bengals’ equivalents seem much nicer than some of those footballers). Imagine we’d got these players at the peak of their ability… but the Bengals’ equivalents aren’t even close to peaking yet. That’s where we are. That’s why, not only is it possible that the Bengals could win the playoff game on Saturday, but they could go the whole way to the Super Bowl. And it could be the first of many.

After everything Bengals fans have been through over the decades (let alone how the last visit to the playoffs ended), it’s hard to believe just how good this team is. And yet, there is that feeling that somehow the game on 15 January may still end up in defeat. Thanks to the additional interactions with other Bengals fans on the internet – even compared to 5 years ago – there is much higher intensity of belief, excitement, but also (in the background) concern. This team could be really great – it is already in many ways – but is it one season too soon? Who knows? We all will come Saturday.

I cannot possibly predict the outcome of this match – other than it’s going to be emotional one way or another.

Note: This post was originally included in the post “Wildcard Playoff predictions: Raiders at Bengals” on the Bengals UK site.

One Comment Add yours

  1. The Author says:

    Many years ago I would go Cincinnati twice or three times a year but only once did I see the Bengals play. Lovely stadium though.

    Liked by 1 person

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