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For A.J.


About two months ago my young lad came up to me as I sat in misery from another Bengals failure.  I was writing for this space the details of how the Bengals had blown another game they could have easily won. He placed his hand on mine to stop my feverish typing.  His 11-year old eyes looked into mine with care and he said, “Dad, can I ask you something?” 

“Sure.” I smiled and put away my frustration and my laptop for a second. 

“Would your feelings be hurt if I wasn’t a Bengals fan anymore?” I could tell he thought I’d be crushed. 

“Of course not, bud.  Believe me, I don’t wish this kind of anguish on anybody. There are 31 other team in the NFL to choose from. Have at it.  No hard feelings.” His eyes lit up in surprise and he smiled.  “You still have a chance to get out,” I continued, “Do it while you can.” 

“Thanks, Dad!” he gleefully exclaimed.  I paused to reflect upon this development, and then in haste asked him if the target of his switching allegiances was those hated Steelers. “Heck no!” he replied in a recoil of disgust.  And that was good enough for me. 

So my son has officially left Bengaldom.  Good for him. I’m glad to see him row away from the Titanic on his lifeboat while I continue to play the violin. 

His new affiliation is the New York Jets. It appears he enjoys watching his team actually win games (who knew?) and has become enamored by their grit and brash bravado.  He watched them outmuscle the Colts in Indianapolis, and we both watched amazed as they outwitted Belichick and Brady in Foxborough.  He finds their machismo cool, and I can’t blame him. 

Now, at such a tender age, and with so little invested, he’s already on the doorstep of glory. He’s in a place the Bengals haven’t been since 1988. 

And there waiting,  as if on queue, are those $#%&@-ing Steelers.  Again. 

The Steelers. The Evil Empire itself: those one-logo-ed siths of the NFL, with their towel-waving, buck-toothed storm troopers marching in formation behind them.  Their black and YELLOW (NOT gold) uniforms scorching the earth behind them like Sherman marching on Atlanta. 

Man do I hate them. The whole of Steeler Nation. Now don’t get me wrong, I know many Steeler fans and some are very good friends of mine. It’s not really personal; it’s just part of the gig as a Bengal fan.  It’s my job to hate them. When I meet a Steeler fan for the first time (as I often do because they’re EVERYWHERE), I’m polite and pleasant, with barely a rolled eye when football is discussed.  They usually greet the news of my team allegiances with a smug chuckle or they feign a little pity.  If they’re old enough to remember the 80’s they’ll occasionally talk about how much they hate the Bengals back.  I love that. 

At any rate, it’s not about them.  It’s about Ben Roethlisberger, and how he’s simply the luckiest player I’ve ever seen.  It’s about Hines Ward and his irritatingly cheesy grin.  It’s James Harrison’s troll-like stature, Troy Polamalu’s girly mane, and Chris Komeatu’s thuggery.  It’s about history–6 Super Bowl wins in 7 appearances.  They’ve enjoyed unprecedented success while I’ve endured unprecedented misery.

I’ve seen quite enough of them and their obnoxious celebrating.  Enough for two lifetimes. 

So God, if you’re listening, please think of my poor son.  Don’t let him suffer the same fate as his dear-old dad.  He’s done the smart thing and got off the Bengals Bus before he discovered it was stuck in neutral and out of gas.  There’s still hope for the boy. 

I admit that the Jets aren’t exactly the poster child for a successful organization, and I warned him of that.  But right now at least, they certainly give one more to cheer for than the Bengals do. 

So here’s to A.J. and his Jets, my rooting interest today-the same Jets that knocked my Bengals from the postseason just 12 months ago. May they show Roethlisberger to be the hack that he is, may they contain Harrison and his chest-thumping, expose Komeatu and his pile jumping and cut Sampson’s hair for one afternoon.  Most of all, may they wipe that $%&#-eating grin off Ward’s chubby face.  

For New York, may Mark Sanchez’s knee survive the game (bitter much?), may Santonio Holmes stick it to his old team, and may Rex Ryan jiggle his extra chins in exultation. 

And as for both me and my son, may that death star called Heinz Field be destroyed by those brazen rebels in green. 

J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!

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4 Responses to “For A.J.”

  1. Bill Mcmackin says:

    At least his team is located close to his Grandfather’s team…. the Jet’s Landlord.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Bengals, Southwestconnection. Southwestconnection said: For A.J.:   About two months ago my young lad came up to me as I sat in misery from another Bengals failure.  I … […]

  3. Bill says:

    It’s a sign of growing up when a boy decides to stick with or move away from his Dads favorite team. I hope the Jets have many years of success for AJs sake. I am hope the Steelers lose big today and go into a ten year tailspin of sub-500 seasons.

  4. 49ersGab says:

    Hey Eric,

    Top notch article. Too bad the Jets didn’t hold up their end of the stick.


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