January 8, 2006 would have been Elvis Presley’s 71st birthday. But something bigger happened on that day, it was the NFL wildcard playoff game between the AFC division champion Cincinnati Bengals and those inbred morons from up the river, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals had been in dark times since the early 90’s. The word rivalry really didn’t exist between them and any other team, unless they were gunning for losing seasons. But something happened along the Ohio river in 2005, the Bengals had a fire under them that was burning bright. They tore through the season and ended up with an 11-5 record which landed them atop of the AFC north and into the playoffs. After 15 years of losing seasons landing on top of the division, for a fan, was like winning the SuperBowl.
I’ve been a fan of the Bengals for as long as I can remember. I stuck by them through thick and thin and my payoff had finally arrived. I honestly didn’t see how they wouldn’t make it to the SuperBowl. Carson Palmer, Chad “you can’t stop 85” Johnson, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Chris Henry (RIP #15), and Rudi Johnson were gonna take us all the way.
The AFC wildcard game was home field advantage for the Cincinnati Bengals. Their first offensive play was a short run by Rudi which didn’t really get them anywhere. Second down, the ball is snapped, Carson Palmer steps into position and fires a 65 yard bullet down the sideline to Chris Henry (RIP#15). Beautiful throw, perfect catch, no way were the Bengals sitting down today. Then, as quickly as the cheers were raging for the perfect throw and reception the entire stadium turned to stunned silence. As the cameras moved back up field I don’t think anyone in TV land was prepared for what they were about to see. #9 was on the ground holding his knee and it was painfully obvious that this wasn’t something he was just going to get up and shake off. The doctors on the field called for the cart, they loaded him up and off he went. I’ve been a football fan for as long as I care to remember. In all that time there have only been 2 times that I actually got tears in my eyes from it, the miracle drive by Joe Montana that robbed the Bengals of a SuperBowl victory with only 16 seconds left on the clock, and watching Carson Palmer being carted off the field. Even typing this out is making me a little teary eyed.
Anyway, after losing the wildcard game the way we did I swore that I would wear my Bengals colors every single day until the Bengals go to the SuperBowl. They don’t have to win, they just have to get there. It is now November 2010 and I haven’t missed a day. I wear them for work, play, sunshine or rain. I even went to a funeral wearing my jersey……I know, trailer trash tackiness on that one, but in my defense, I showed up for work that morning and got the news that a student’s father had died and we had to attend the wake that evening. I live an hour away from school, no way I was driving all the way home and then all the way back just to put on a suit.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering where Mark Twain and Col. Sanders fit into this story. Well, I heard a story one time that Mark Twain always wore the same outfit, that trademark white suit, every day and his reason for it was that he didn’t have to think about what he would wear that day. That story isn’t true though. Although you have an image of him always wearing white he didn’t actually start wearing white until he was in his 70’s. Still a good fable though. And I think we all know that Col. Sanders was always in his white suit. So then you have me in my Bengals jerseys. I’ll admit, it’s nice getting up in the morning and not having to choose what I’m going to wear, other than picking out which number and name is going to be splayed across my back. But I’ve also found one more advantage to it. I teach elementary 1st and 2nd graders. They are constantly climbing all over me and before this whole Bengals jersey thing started they ruined a few really good shirts of mine. Pulling off buttons, getting crayon stains etc… These jerseys are tough and I haven’t had a damaged shirt for the past 5 years.
So, there ya have it. If you’re ever out and about in Japan and you see a big American guy wearing a Bengals jersey give him a shout, it may just be me.
Y’all come back, I’ll leave a light on for ya.