This was originally published in The Athletic...
Cynicism and jadedness are acquired traits, the cumulative result of one letdown after another. You become a pessimist, but you’re not born that way.
I was thinking about this in the days leading up to last night’s Bengals game, as the 1988 AFC champions got their overdue due, culminating in recognition of that team and its accomplishments at Paul Brown Stadium. That football team was the first one I fell in love with, and for three decades has been a reference point whenever I’m asked why, despite all of the reasons not to, I still root for the Bengals.
I was 11 years old, blissfully unaware then of how hard and infrequent winning is, with no real reason to think that the franchise I’d chosen to root for wouldn’t always be good. It might have been the last time that I thought only good thoughts about the Bengals.
Thirty years later, I’m more or less like anyone who’s spent more than five minutes paying attention to the Bengals. I don’t just fear the worst, I expect it. Disaster is always looming. Failure is always imminent. I’ve grown jaded. I’ve become a cynic.
So when last night’s 21-0 second-quarter lead over the Ravens dwindled to a five-point fourth-quarter edge, I was right there with everyone else, wondering what new and inventive way the Bengals would come up with to let me down and add another reason to not believe.
Then Shawn Williams forced Joe Flacco to fumble.
To read the entire piece, go to The Athletic.
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