Once upon a time, there lived a football team called the Cincinnati Bengals that was so hapless and downtrodden even their own fans referred to them as the Bungles. They were ruled by an ogre of an owner named Brown who seemed to care nothing for the success of his team and only for the green that filled his pockets. But as with all good fairy tales, the gloomy clouds began to part and the sun is shining through on the Cincinnati Bengals.
After finishing the 2010 season at 4-12, many Bengals fans gave up on their team. They had such high hopes for the golden haired prince, Carson Palmer, with his case of shiny trophies from his younger years. Yet it seemed his glory days were behind him as he turned, sword in hand, slicing their dreams to bits and riding away on his dark horse. The two lively jesters, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, provided entertainment for many in other mediums, but sadly fell short when it came to producing results on the football field. And fearless leader, Coach Marvin Lewis, seemed to have had enough, his heart manipulated and squeezed to the brink of failure by the ogre Brown.
Bengals fans were surprised when coach Marvin Lewis agreed to return - how could that be? Lewis had said things would have to change for him stick around. Was it possible that changes were indeed underway? Fans were not convinced. They stopped buying tickets to games and they continued to rail against Mike Brown.
But alas, the kingdom of the Bengals did begin to change. The offensive coordinator, befuddled Bob Bratkowski, was let go to run his pamphlet of plays elsewhere. And what was this on the horizon? White horses, side by side, one with a red rifle named Dalton and the other with a wide receiver called Green; both skillfully maneuvered by another new knight in the kingdom, Jon Gruden.
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton was young, and there were some missteps, but he showed his character and poise to all, learning from mistakes and rising to every challenge. AJ Green proved to be the perfect partner, making catches and not noise. Running back Cedric Benson, though challenged by ups and downs along the way, made it clear he was proud to wear the orange and black and was here to get the job done.
The Bengals defense stepped up throughout the season as well, with the strength of great men by the names of Peko, Atkins and Maualuga. When one warrior went down as did Leon Hall, others like Adam Jones, Nate Clements and Reggie Nelson rose to the challenge.
Every fairy tale needs a little magic, and this story was graced by the likes of a gravity defying stunt performed under the powers of Jerome Simpson that the NFL, nor any sport, has experienced before. The Bengals, so often jeered, became the reason for cheers by those watching highlights film everywhere.
As the weeks of the 2011 season rolled along, hope began to rise in the city of Cincinnati. Fans became inspired by these young men, from who so little was expected and yet so much was being accomplished. And then we come to the present day, the final week of this surprising season, with the Bengals at 9-6, needing only to win their final game against the Ravens of Baltimore to make it to - GASP - the playoffs!
Bengals players made public pleas on local radio, asking for fans to come to this final game, support their quest, make some noise and sell out the stadium. But times are tough and many pockets are filled with mere pennies after the holiday season. Yet here comes a pony, stumbling along, with owner Mike Brown holding on tight, his heart seeming to grow like that of the Grinch as he offer tickets to fans - buy one get one free! Oh what an offer, oh what a day; the fans responded and bought up the tickets, selling out the stadium and avoiding a blackout a full day before the NFL deadline.
Hear ye, hear ye, across the land, from the chill of New England to the mist of San Francisco, the Cincinnati Bengals are ready to compete like never before. Sometimes the glory does not come easily, and it may take a year or two before this fine group of men reaches their full potential. However this is one fairy tale that is far from over and may very well at long last, someday, provide Bengals fans with the ultimate happy ending.
Lisa lives in the suburbs of Cincinnati and is a die-hard Bengals fan. As her husband unfortunately supports the Dallas Cowboys , Lisa has taken it upon herself to buy tickets for her family to attend at least one game every season. She was beyond thrilled this year when she won tickets to the NFL's Stomp Out Hunger and was able to meet most of the players, with her nine year old daughter at her side. The number one item on Lisa's bucket list is to go to the Super Bowl and watch the Bengals finally win it all.