I was digging through my archives recently and found something pretty interesting. Back in the first week of July 2000 I was at summer camp with with my Boy Scout troop at Camp Crooked Creek in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. One of the merit badge classes I took that year was Communications. As part of the requirements, I had to write a five-minute speech and give it in front of the class. I decided after not a whole lot of thought that it would be fun to give a speech on sports. Specifically, on how the Cincinnati Bengals were the worst team in sports.
Now, this was in the days before we had cell phones. There was no television, no radio, and I didn’t have access to my Bengals books at home. So, off the top of my head I had to recount Bengals history to provide evidence of why they were the worst team in sports. Here is my speech from July 2000 on why the Cincinnati Bengals were the worst team in sports, along with some notes added in the present day. I’ve left the spelling as it was originally written.
In the wide world of sports, you have teams that are known for their great accomplishments in the past, like the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys & the Brazil soccer team. On the other side of the coin, though, are teams that are known for sucking year in and year out, like the L.A. Clippers, the Chicago Cubs, and any team from Canada. (Note: The Cowboys reference over teams like the Steelers or Packers made more sense in 2000, trust me.) But, is there any team worse than the Cincinnati Bengals?
The Bengals came into existance in 1968, as part of the AFL, which became the AFC plus Cleveland, Pittsburgh & Baltimore in 1970. They’re won 2 of the last 15 Super Bowls. Anyway, the Bengals were founded by former Cleveland coach Paul Brown. He coached the team for the first few years until he got tired of it. The Bengals struggled the first couple of years until 1970, when they went 11-3 and made the playoffs. (Note: They went 8-6. Still made the playoffs though, where, and you’ll never believe this, they lost in the first round.)
The Bengals were mediocre until 1982, when they made their first Super Bowl. Against the San Francisco 49ers, they took a lead of 21-0 in the first half. (Note: Actually they were down 20-0 at the half.) The final score was 28-21, 49ers. (Note: 26-21, 49ers. Close enough.) The 49ers quarterback, someone named Joe Montana, took control of the game and doomed the Bengals to defeat.
Throughout the mid 70s & early 80s, the Bengals quarterback was their current quarterbacks coach, Ken Anderson. (Note: I had originally put “Lee” instead of Ken, as Lee was the Bengals longtime punter. I scratched it out though.) He led them to their first Superbowl, but another would lead them to their 2nd Super Bowl. Norman “Boomer” Esiason was the MVP of the NFL in 1988, and led the Bengals into their 2nd Super Bowl against the 49ers. The Bengals led 24-21 with a couple of minutes to go. (Note: 16-13) The final score was 28-24, 49ers. (Note: 20-16, 49ers. Close enough.) That quarterback for the 49ers, Joe Montana did it again to the Bengals, engineering a length of the field drive in the last couple of minutes.
Although the Bengals had lost both times in the Super Bowl, the fans still stayed behind the Bengals. Through the next couple of years, the Bengals had their moments. They beat the Houston Oilers 61-7. Ickey Woods did the Ickey Shuffle. Anthony Munoz went to many Pro Bowls. (Note: I scratched out “Super” there, obviously I had gotten used to writing “Super Bowl”.) Sam Wyche said “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!”
The good times would soon end for the Bengals. At the 1992 NFL Draft, the Bengals drafted the man who they thought would be the man in Cincinnati, a quarterback from the University of Houston, David Kingler. He sucked. He led the Bengals to a couple of 3-13 seasons. Also, coach Sam Wyche was fired and replaced by coaching legend Don Shula’s son Dave. Some said that Dave would follow in his dad’s footsteps and win a lot of games. He didn’t.
Kingler (Note: It’s Klingler. But I’m pretty sure I thought it was “Kingler” in 2000.) was the first of many sucky draft choices for the Bengals. In 1994, they drafted Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. While Big Daddy was a pretty good player (Note: I’m being generous here.), he was not worth the amount of money they paid him.
But perhaps one of the worst draft choices the Bengals made was in 1995 when they picked Ki-Jana Carter. (Note: “perhaps”?) Carter had come out of Penn State as one of the best running backs ever in college. In his first exhibition game with the Bengals, Carter tore his ACL and missed his entire rookie year. He was never the same, and was eventually released.
You can sum up the decade of the 90’s for the Bengals with 2 numbers, 3 & 13. It was their record for most of the 90’s. Whether it was Sam Wyche, Dave Shula or Bruce Coslet coaching, Boomer Esiason, David Kingler, Jeff Blake, Neil O’Donnel, or Akili Smith in the quarterback position, or another player in the Bengal stripes, they could do no good.
However, it is a new decade, with new possibilities. With a new stadium, the Bengals can compete on a level playing field with most other teams. (Note: Can’t believe I bought into that “new stadiums make teams more competitive” horsecrap.) If the Bengals can trade in their bad luck for some really good luck, things will be different for the Bengals and their long suffering fans. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.
Things have been different, that’s for sure. We can definitely still classify Bengals fans as “long suffering”. Thanks for reading this blast from the past!