Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So Our Bengals Are 122nd Out Of 122 Professional Sports Franchises?

I thought long and hard about this. Not so much how to make the Bengals more fan friendly, get them out of that 122 spot. I thought long and hard about even blogging about it.

We all know, this is a bigger exercise in futility, talking about how to make the Bengals better, than what free agents they should pursue or why they should bring their personnel department into 20th century standards. Forget that it’s the 21st century.

There’s only one voice that matters in all of this. And he isn’t speaking. Unless of course you consider the carefully crafted response to the ESPN rankings that are now on the Bengals official, in house web site. Give Mike Brown credit for that. In the past, he wouldn’t have acknowledged any public condemnation of his team.

But I’m wondering today what you would do, if you were the target of something like the ESPN rankings and your team, your franchise was rated dead last among every professional sports organization.

The easy answer is win more ball games. Too easy. Of course the Bengals should have won more ballgames in the last 20 years. This topic, their bad ranking would’ve never been issue if we hadn’t had the lost generation.

I got a list of what I believe to be realistic ways (at limited cost) to drag the Bengals out of ESPN's basement.

Number one: embrace your past. No matter how much a team has underachieved, there is always something, some place in time, where you can conjure up nostalgia. Nostalgia sells. Look at the number of radio stations that play retro music. Nobody with any buying power listens to what’s passing for music now. Maybe in 20 years the people who listen to every song that now sounds like the next one will be able to buy things. They can’t now. Tap into your past. Have an alumni weekend. Bring back the 1981 team for a weekend, throw a dinner for them, open it up to the fans.

Guess what? You’ll have to spend some money. Guess what, your franchise has just been valued at 945 million dollars, or roughly $937 million more than Paul Brown and and his investors had to pay for the franchise back in 1967.

Number two: retire jerseys. There is no way any Bengals player should ever wear numbers 14 or 78. Plain, simple end of story. The worst thing, the absolute worst thing that team has done in years….and this is saying something….is to let Andy Dalton hold up number 14 at his introductory news conference. Shame on the Bengals for that. I don’t care what number Dalton wore in college. You don’t get that one here. It should have been retired long ago. And the number 78? That’s about as sacred as it gets. You whip out 14 for a kid to wear who hasn’t even played a down for your team, you better believe somewhere in the bowels of Paul Brown Stadium someone is sprucing up a 78 for another kid to wear.

138 player numbers have been retired by NFL teams. The Bengals have retired exactly, one. The Giants have retired eleven, the Chiefs ten. The Bengals? One. Number 54 Bob Johnson, the original Bengal, nice guy, worked some games with him years ago. Doesn’t deserve to be the only member in this club. Retire jersey numbers 14 and 78, have a big ceremony at the center of the field. Ken Anderson doesn’t coach anymore. He’s available. Anthony Munoz is simply Cincinnati sports royalty.

Guess what? You’ll have to spend some money.

Next thing I’d do. I’d turn that stadium, that has all the charm of a parking lot into something that screams Bengals. Is there anything in that stadium that screams Bengals? The stripes on the walls? The 1968 logo of a screaming Bengal at the 50 yard line. Really?

How about a Ring of Honor. Now that’s a novel concept. The Dallas Cowboys have only been doing that for the last 40 years. You don’t want to retire a bunch of jerseys. OK, how about on the wall that separates the middle and top tiers of that stadium, how about a ring of honor? Numbers and players names who’ve been standouts for this team, back when it won games and championships. Remember, nostalgia sells.

You could recite the names and numbers in your sleep. 14 Anderson, 80 Collinsworth 30 or 31 whatever Ickey wants, 22 Thomas, 13 Riley, 7 Boomer. You mean to tell me that you can’t come up with two or three numbers every year? You don’t think that would be a great halftime show? I’ll be even those marching bands you get to perform for free wouldn’t mind skipping a rendition of “Feelings” for that.

Guess what? You’ll have to spend some money

Here’s another idea that might drag you up to 85 on the list: how about embracing the art of tailgating? Rather than just selling parking spaces, how about turning those parking lots into pre game playgrounds. Games, things to do, with a little charcoal and lighter fluid along the way. Gotta work with the county on that? I think they have phones. Call ‘em.

Guess what? You’ll have to spend some money.

Autograph sessions. Now there’s a novel idea. How about, rather than having your players sign autographs in your team gift shop, where I’m sure the real idea is for fans to buy your team gear….how about a team autograph session at Fountain Square, high noon on a Tuesday. For free. It’s the players off day. You don’t think that’d spread a little good will? Sure you do that, for a few minutes after practices, at Georgetown. Why make your fans drive all the way to Georgetown to meet your players?

And speaking of Georgetown, no disrespect intended to that town or the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but isn’t your team based in Ohio? Aren’t the tax payers of Hamilton County funding that stadium for the next 30 years with a sales tax? So if you’re letting your players mingle with fans in Georgetown, en mass, why not Fountain Square, or the plaza level of your stadium or anywhere in Hamilton County? You pick the spot.

Guess what? You’ll have to spend some money.

When Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis had their painful to watch news conference in January, they created more bad than good. All they had to say was this: we know we’ve let you down a lot in the last 20 years. We know we’re not doing right by you, our fans, who’ve stuck with us through losing seasons, off field embarrassments and poor personnel decisions. But it’s our solemn vow that we will change and we will change starting now. Better players, bigger personnel department, more fan friendly. It wouldn’t have taken 20 seconds to say that and we would have lapped it up like lemmings.

Instead, we got their version of a root canal.

This week, after the ESPN rankings, the Bengals had another chance. And while we got some of what we should have gotten in January, it wasn’t enough.

Now, in this off season of our discontent, with labor war in the NFL, with a franchise quarterback who’d rather pick sand from in between his toes than stand in between his center’s legs, we get a rookie quarterback holding up a number 14 jersey.

You want to be something other than the lowest rated franchise in all of professional sports? Start thinking like your fans think. They give you their money, in ticket sales, at your team gift shop, parking, concessions, traveling to your games.

Guess what? They know it costs them money to be your fan. How about spending some of it on them?

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