That’s the view of Cincinnati as one approaches from the Kentucky side of the river on I-75. Paul Brown Stadium is on the left – home of the Cincinnati Bengals.
I didn’t plan this post, but events in recent days motivated this post. Some are curious on my take of the craziness that was the Bengals-Steelers game at the stadium this past weekend. After all, some readers told me they thought of me during and after the game. So, pardon me as I stray from my normal routine in order to get things off my chest. My audience isn’t sports-based, but they know I enjoy sports.
It’s been interesting to read and hear the trashing aimed at the team, it’s coaches and players, the city, and the fans. I try to go beyond the surface where most of the comments reside. Most of the national press doesn’t tell the reaction here … the reaction by the fans, players, coaches, and writers. Actually, the news here has been much deeper and profound than most of the commentaries from anywhere else … and certainly including the Pittsburgh paper that I’ve purposefully read.
To loyal fans, this loss not only hurt, it left us frustrated and embarrassed. After all, we’ve been waiting for the next playoff win since 1991. Bottom line – the Bengals lost, and the Steelers won. Since the game ended, the city, the fans, the coaches, the players, the organization, those attending the game, and anyone I’ve left out has been battered and bruised by many … as if losing wasn’t enough. So here’s a Cincinnati perspective – a reasonable one – an honest one – and one not filled with fan bias.
Two Bengal players lost their composure. They let their emotions overcome professionalism. No excuses because one must take responsibility for their own actions. Take the Bengal who fumbled late in the game. He’s feels the weight of all the subsequent events on his shoulders – yet accepts the blame.
A Bengal player who made the flagrant hit on a Steelers receiver near the end of the game. Unnecessary and horrific! The NFL suspended him for three games – but for this fan, that is not enough.
Referees are responsible for controlling the game, enforcing the rules, and protecting the players. The referees tried to control the game, but they let get away from them by the judgmental decisions they make. There were two clear instances of Bengals being targeted with helmet-to-helmet, but neither called. Helmet-to-helmet contact is in the rules, but like any rule, enforcement is left to the judgment of the enforcer. These misgivings by the referees increased tensions, not defusing them.
Are coaches responsible for the actions of their players? Absolutely, but not totally. Coaches don’t run, pass, catch, or tackle. They don’t interfere, jump off-sides, or fumble. They try to teach players the right way. It’s important they create the balance for a competitive environment. In the end, it’s on the players to execute their tasks and be responsible for their behavior. Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis is a respectful coach, and he certainly isn’t about disrespectful and irresponsible behavior. I wonder if those head coaches even exist.
A certain Steelers assistant coach frequently harasses opposing players … and on the crazy play in the final 30 seconds, he was on the field around Bengals players (yes, a clear violation of Rule 13, Section 1, Article 8). For whatever reason, no penalty was called (another referee judgment that would have offset the second Bengal penalty during the incident.). Keep in mind that when this coach was a player, referees threw him out of a game before it even started.
The NFL has created a macho-fan culture that leads to disrespect, harassment, and even violence. It’s not just in Cincinnati, it’s league wide. Finding fan-on-fan incidents is easy, let alone the throwing of batteries, beer bottles, snowballs, and whatever is available – and let’s not forget verbal abuse. The NFL, in their ever-pursuit of maximizing revenue, scheduled a playoff game between two bitter rivals on a Saturday night – thus creating an opportunity for an all-day tailgating experience. Not a good idea.
The majority of the players on both teams are good people, thus are not representative by the stupid. Anyone thinking that the Bengals organization is a house for thugs is extremely misinformed. Outside of the game, more players make the news because of bad off-the-field behavior than good – but those players are a small percentage of the whole – and this is true in all NFL cities – so is the fact that the good guys get involved in the community. After their playing careers are over, many stay in that city and remain good examples. Others return to their hometowns to build a successful life.
The majority of the fans in the stands are good people, not represented by the people jeering or throwing objects at an injured player. Sports fans can be terrible, and anyone thinking that bad fan behavior in the NFL is limited to Cincinnati is either naive or misinformed. As do the majority of fans across the nation, Cincinnatians condemn the behaviors of the few.
In the end, I think about these what-ifs. What if the Steelers assistant coach would have been penalized, and the Steelers lost the game?
- Would there be talk about the Steelers head coach who couldn’t control two assistants who received misconduct penalties?
- Would anyone be talking about the two Steelers players who danced on the field while a Bengal player lay motionless on the ground?
- Would anyone be talking about the Steelers hits to the head if they were called?
I think not … but as I said to others starting the day after the game, there is a lot of blame to go around on this one – and they all should not be pointed to Cincinnati. Interestingly, Cincinnati has owned up to their role – something that none of the other parties have done – not the NFL, not the referees, and not the Pittsburgh coaches, players, or organization.