“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”—Albert Einstein
The Bengals season came to an abrupt and disappointing end Saturday as they were outplayed and outsmarted by the Jets, 24-14. On one of the biggest nights in franchise history, the Bengals played flat, uninspired football for the majority of the game, letting themselves and the sellout crowd of orange-striped partisans down again. They unraveled. They failed.
As the dismayed fans staggered towards the exits, a city’s collective misery hung suspended in the icy air; and suspended in time. A misery that seemed unending, inexorable and tragically inescapable.
Nineteen years worth and counting.
There’s no need to recount this one. If you’re a Bengals fan, you’ve seen it before. You know generally what happened. The players didn’t execute and the coaches made mistakes. The strengths of the team inexplicably became weaknesses, and the weaknesses were predictably magnified. And as if that’s not enough, there were those mystifying and cruel twists of fate; those things that are beyond all comprehension and control. Those unlucky bounces and untimely injuries. Things that prove to us yet again that there are football gods and they hate us.
Make no mistake—they do hate us. At this point, I’d be willing to sacrifice a goat or throw a virgin into the mouth of a volcano if it would help.
Meanwhile, life will go on. Marvin Lewis will take the podium and talk about the future. Players will head into the offseason vowing to do better. Mike Brown will preach progress and being “competitive” once again.
Eventually, as time goes on, the misery will subside. We’ll remind ourselves of the turnaround from 4-11-1 to 10-6. We’ll remember we swept the AFC North. We’ll convince ourselves that we are, in fact, close to the Promised Land. We’ll begin to forget the bad juju and the Indian burial ground curses.
And with that perspective will come renewed excitement. We’ll spend the next 8 months talking about key free agents and draft steals. We’ll remind each other that we’ll get Antwan Odom and Rey Malauluga and Pat Sims back from injury. In short, we’ll begin sipping the Kool-Aid once more.
Right now, that is a comforting thought. After all, the truth is that as much as this hurts, I know I will remain a fan. I can’t quit the Bengals no matter how much I’d like to. The harsh reality is that I love them, even if they don’t love me back.
I’ll put my faith and my heart in their hands. I’ll believe, for better or for worse.
In the meantime, I have my misery. Again.