Columnist discusses the history of the Cincinnati Bengals Football Team and how the team going to the Super Bowl is good for everyone.

BY GRETA MILLER, ‘23. GRAPHICS BY LUCY O’BRIEN ‘22.

The Cincinnati Bengals professional football team began playing in Cincinnati, in 1937.  Their inaugural season resulted in a combined record of two wins, four losses and two ties. Over the few decades, the team was a part of numerous unsuccessful football leagues, which made playing established football difficult from the 1930s to the 1960s. Professional football returned to Cincinnati in 1967, with the Bengals joining the American Football League.  Home games at that time were played at Nippert Stadium, the outdoor football venue for the University of Cincinnati.  

First seasons are often painful, and the Bengals’ was no different, having suffered through a 3-11-0 season. The next year was not much better, with the Bengals’ finishing record being 4-9-1. Over the course of the 1970s, the Bengals generally broke even, having both won and lost about seventy games. In 1970, 1973 and 1975, the Bengals participated in the playoffs, but lost in the first round each of those years.  The years 1981, 1982, 1988 and 1991 saw the Bengals make the playoffs as well, with the team reaching the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1988. In both of those Super Bowls, the Bengals faced and lost to the San Francisco 49ers. It would be another 34 years before the Bengals would reach the Super Bowl again.  On February 13, 2022, the Cincinnati Bengals were representing the AFC at the Super Bowl, making many die-hard fans, and even non-sports watchers, excited and quite possibly positively influencing the entire NFL and sports world. 

If there is one thing almost all sports fans have in common, it is that they love to support an underdog. There was no bigger longshot in this year’s playoffs than the Cincinnati Bengals. At the beginning of the season, according to CBS NFL, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas gave the team a nearly zero percent chance of winning the AFC North. The Bengals defied those odds all season and won their way to a chance to become the top dog of the NFL.

If you saw just one Bengals game last season, then you probably know that the team was incredibly fun to watch. Quarterback Joe Burrow brought a vibe to the Bengals offense that has not existed for decades. With Burrow coming off a torn ACL he suffered during the prior season, no one was expecting him to have much success, let alone spice up the league this year…but that’s exactly what he did. The addition of Ja’Marr Chase, the wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals with whom Burrow played in college at LSU, created one of the best offensive duos in the NFL. It was not just those two players, though—many others picked up on the vibe that was being created.  The kicker, Even McPherson, for example, was so good last season that not only did his accuracy earn him a handful of nicknames, including Money Mac and Shooter McPherson, but according to the Bengals Pro Shop, his jersey was sold out all over Cincinnati. In addition to Chase and McPherson, the team’s wide receivers and defensive line add a lot of excitement and personality to the group.  

While the Bengals did end up losing the Super Bowl to the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 20-23, the fact that the Bengals made it to the Super Bowl at all is still arguably good for NFL football, other sports teams, fans, and non-fans alike. This group of players was fun to watch because they appear to celebrate each other’s personalities and contributions. They are an underdog team with players who bring the best of who they are and the most of the skills they have together to benefit the greater group, making them something great to watch and follow. Their dynamic, drive, and success despite being a small-market team create hope and a belief for many other teams, fans and even non-sports fans that they are achieving greatness along with them. Many people identify with being underestimated and love following someone or something that proves naysayers wrong. The same teams regularly winning may be good for those franchises and their fans, but having a greater fanbase cheer for something more—an unexpected team that plays like a team while being confident and having fun along the way—is what great movies are made of.  The Cincinnati Bengals got those elements right this past season and will hopefully fine-tune it for future years, creating a larger fanbase and inspiring others along the way.