I have two very good friends, Randall Breaden and Dale Ary, I play a lot of golf with. As with most golfers, there is always plenty of conversation about our lives, jobs, home, work and mostly sports.
The sport with us always ends up at football, particularly Cincinnati Bengals football. You see, Randy and Dale are the biggest Bengal fans I know. I mean, they are obsessed!
One of the things I enjoy too much is ribbing them about how bad the Bengals are, have been, and will be.
In the Mike Brown era, it has been awful! It has been easy to make fun of the Bengals. I know, it sounds awful to do that to Dale and Randy, but it is just too much fun. I love to make up interviews with Mike Brown, and have him say stupid things, and doing even more stupid stuff.
Randy, who is the lesser obsessed of the two, usually just laughs and calls me a name I can’t use here, while Dale just chuckles a little and gives me that “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” look.
Now, here is the part that bugs them: I used to be a Bengal fan too, although I was more moderate about it. Here is what they don’t know; I still am, but didn’t want them to know! I have to admit that my favorite teams were the teams of my childhood, the “Helmet” teams. You know the ones with the neatest helmets, the Vikings, Rams, Cardinals and the Eagles. They were my first love, and have been ever since.
Once the Bengals came into being, they became one of my favorites too because they were close to home, and they finally got a pretty cool helmet! (let’s be honest, their first one was pretty…..uh…..blah!)
It was great to have 2 Ohio teams that makes for a natural rivalry, and Cleveland was……well, Cleveland. (No offense to Cleveland fans, but Cleveland was so far away as a child that I didn’t relate to them.) So, the Bengals joined the group of my favorites until two years ago.
I got tired of the Bengal’s inconsistence, the constant up and down of the franchise, playoffs one year, 7-9 the next. It was hard to follow that year after year, always expecting more. That is when I told Randy and Dale I was done.
I don’t think they believed me, so I really started trash talking the Bengals. Somehow, I enjoyed them defending the team that they loved, and the comebacks they had at me about my teams. It made me laugh! It was good-natured ribbing that made our games more fun.
This made me think, I really don’t “DESPISE” the Bengals at all, am I just frustrated with them? Am I a “fair weather” fan that both my friends said I was? Maybe I am just frustrated by a team that I rooted for?
I say I am not going to follow them, but I still check on them. What does that make me? I am not so sure that there is such a thing as a fair weather fan. I think “Frustrated Fan” is far more accurate.
Can you really ever leave one of your favorite teams after you have poured so much of your heart and soul into them? Is it that easy to just turn completely away? Can you stop watching what they do every week? I don’t think it’s possible.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t completely let go of the Bengals. It was the same as with my youthful teams no matter how bad they were, and at times they were really bad, I still was interested in them.
Sports touch people deep inside their souls; I can’t explain why, I just know it does. They are a release from everyday life I guess, plus they give you something to root for, they provide some hope. All I know, is I am a real football fan, and love my teams, no matter how much I hate them at times! Does that make sense?
I know Randy and Dale will forgive me, and I guarantee you I will continue to get on their case when I can. I love the back and forth, and always the laughter with good friends, good friends who put up with all my bull and don’t get offended.
I am sure that I will hear it big time next time we play golf. It will be some more interesting conversation on the golf course, and time spent with good friends is always special, including the jibes, abuse, and good-natured back and forth ribbing. I mean, if you can’t trash talk your friends, who can you trash talk?
That’s the way I see it from the sidelines.
P.S.- Don’t tell Larry Ullery, another golf buddy and great friend, that I am a closet Reds fan either. He is a die-hard, hard core, red-to-the-bone Reds fan that I love to rib also. Don’t tell him! You know, it’s a wonder these guys still speak to me!
Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner