The Passion Of The Bungles As Recounted By An Exiled Steelers Fan (Part 1 of 2) - By Pat Stevenson

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

As an adolescent growing up in Pittsburgh in the late 90's, I had three major constants in my life: the girl who sat in front of me in algebra always ignored my awkward attempts at flirting, I was always cut from the basketball team, and Cincinnati's NFL team always sucked. The Bungles were so awful that I didn't find out until 2003 that they were actually called the Bengals. Every time I listened to a Steelers-Bungles game on the radio during high school, all Myron Cope and Tunch Ilkin talked about was how there were more Steelers fans than Bungles fans at the game in Cincinnati and how great it was. So when I was accepted to Xavier University in Cincinnati in 2003, I never even considered that I would be spending the next four NFL seasons deep in enemy territory, because I was reasonably sure that there was actually no such thing as a Cincinnati Bungles fan. Then the unthinkable happened: the Bungles became the Bengals.

Jerome BettisI still don't know how it happened, but it did. I guess when you have enough top five draft picks, you will eventually end up with a Carson Palmer, regardless of how determined you appear to be to occupy every single slot on the list of the top ten biggest busts in NFL history. I think Mike Brown is upset to this day that he missed out on Ryan Leaf and Todd Marinovich. The Cincinnati Bengals franchise is the singular reason why the NFL does not employ a draft lottery similar to the NBA and NHL, because even if the Bungles tanked to get the first pick in the draft, they would still somehow manage to select a Ki-Jana Carter or a Dan Wilkinson, thusly negating any advantage the top pick presents.

If there is one thing that we know for certain about the NFL Draft it is that teams almost never get what they expected from the player they draft, for better or for worse. Even the premier franchises in the NFL, such as the Patriots and the Steelers, end up with a Daniel Graham or an Alonzo Jackson from time to time, just as from time to time the Bungles will draft a Carson Palmer. Just when I thought I could not ever be shocked by anything as much as I was by the Bungles selection of a competent quarterback, I found that I was wrong yet again, as they went 8-8 in 2003 (read: not a losing season). As if this was not shocking enough, all of the sudden there were fans. Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals! Granted there were not many of them, but when I attended the Steelers-Bengals game in Cincinnati in 2004, there were actually more Bengals fans than Steelers fans (though not by a tremendous margin). Granted, when we beat them, most orange and black clad fans marched out of the stadium cursing the home team vowing to go back to their apathetic attitude towards the Bungles.

But the Bengals managed to finish the 2004 season with an equally mediocre record of 8-8, an enormous feat for the much beleaguered franchise. In fact, going into the 2005 season I would classify the level of fan interest in the Cincinnati Bengals as "mild indifference" which is a big step-up from the pre-2003 level of "total apathy."

In fact, the Bengals were in a perfect position to take advantage of the desperate psyche of the Cincinnati sports fan, who after yet another soul-crushingly disappointing season by the Cincinnati Reds, wanted more than anything to believe that the Bengals were going to be good this year. All of the sudden, I could not walk from my dorm room to history class without hearing a cry of "who dey?" from a person who had absolutely no idea what it meant a month prior.

On an aside, in my efforts to figure out what "who dey" actually means, I did some research and discovered that according to Dictionary.com, "dey" was "the title of the governor of Algiers before the French conquest in 1830." I further researched the term "dey," and according to Wikipedia, the "dey" of Algiers in 1815 was a man named Mohammed Khaznadji. So the next time you hear a Bengals fan cry "who dey?" you can reply that in 1815 the dey was Mohammed Khaznadji. Seriously please do this because I cannot even begin to imagine what reaction this would draw.