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Why the Bengals Woke Up and You Should Too
July 30, 2012KentuckySports.co
If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, you’re probably excited. You should be excited. For a team whose management has been slammed in years past for some classically poor decisions, it looks like Mike Brown and the Bengals’ front office has adopted a new, forward-looking strategy to go with their new, young look. Training camp started on Friday and for the first time in a long time, it’s not in Georgetown, KY; this year it’s right next to Paul Brown Stadium on their normal practice field in downtown Cincinnati. Even better? It’s free and open to the fans.
The open practices are most afternoons or early evenings on the practice field and it doesn’t cost anything, but you do need ticket (which can be obtained at the North Ticket Office at Paul Brown Stadium at 10 AM on the morning of the practice you want to see). There are also a few practices at Paul Brown Stadium itself that don’t need tickets because there will be no capacity issues. As for any pre-season games (like the Jets coming to PBS on August 10 to bring a little Tebow-mania to Cincinnati), you’ll have to pay the normal outrageous NFL ticket price to see those.
What’s cool about this? In my opinion, everything. Cincinnati has an obvious problem with fan engagement. They have the lowest home attendance of any team in the League and in order to sell tickets, Mike Brown and the Bengals’ front office have finally woken up and realized (correctly) it’s time for a change. This process started last year when management began to clean house of what they saw as a toxic formula that wasn’t getting them anywhere. Between the showboating of Chad Johnson/Ochocinco (particularly the horrible year it merged with the showboating of Terrell Owens) and an ageing, underperforming Carson Palmer, it all became too much. The Bengals finally let Palmer go and traded him brilliantly to the Oakland Raiders for a slew of draft picks that will reap benefits for years to come, and got Ochocinco out to the New England Patriots (where he was outshined by pretty much everyone else on that team). Luckily, Ochocinco is now in Miami, where he’ll again have an opportunity to be the center of attention on and off the field.
Last year, the team was young and mostly brand new, but managed to make a surprise appearance in the Playoffs and is poised for even more success this year. This could be the year they finally win a playoff game for the first time since January 6, 1991! The fan involvement in training camp this year can only help bolster what the team has lacked in recent years, and I’m not just talking about the deficiency of Playoff wins; a fan base that not only loyally follows and celebrates their team, but a fan base who gets excited enough to actually buy that high-priced NFL ticket to watch the games live in Paul Brown Stadium.
That’s ultimately why the Bengals’ management is opening this up to fans; they want to get them out there with the team, get them pumped about the exciting present and bright future of this team, and get them ready to come out to the games and fill those seats. And if there’s ever a year to be excited to buy a ticket and see a game at PBS, this is the year. The home schedule is phenomenal. At Paul Brown Stadium this year, here are some highlights: Tebow-mania, Randall Cobb (if you’re a Kentucky fan, that’s pretty cool), the return of both Chad Ochocinco AND Carson Palmer to Cincinnati, a Sunday night NBC game against Big Ben, two different Mannings in two consecutive weeks, and a chance to mock Tony Romo in person. Here’s their complete home schedule with the dates:
08/10: New York Jets (Pre-season)
08/23: Green Bay Packers (Pre-season)
09/16: Cleveland Browns
10/07: Miami Dolphins
10/21: Pittsburgh Steelers
11/04: Denver Broncos
11/11: New York Giants
11/25: Oakland Raiders
12/09: Dallas Cowboys
12/30: Baltimore Ravens
I know the Bengals are historically very good at never being very good, but this year looks to be different. It feels different. Management wants the fans involved this time, and with open training camp and a home schedule loaded with potential dramatic headlines, fans may actually buy into the hype. If the team doesn’t come through, then we’ll see what happens. After all, this is Marvin Lewis’s last year on his contract.
As for me, I bought an Andy Dalton jersey last week and I’m ready to roll.
If you’re in Cincinnati or have some free time to make the trip up, here’s the open practice schedule (starting from today’s date) from the Bengals’ website. I’ll personally be there 08/02, 08/04, 08/08, and 08/10 (Tebow!).