My family moved to Cincinnati from the west coast in 1985. We had only been in the San Francisco Bay area for a little over a year and a half, and that was still close enough to the 1981 Super Bowl loss to the 49ers to sway our alliances. My dad having grown up in Indiana, was a Bears fan, and from what I remember, his dad was a Packers fan, but my dad took to the Bengals quite well. His company had season tickets, and by the time I was an appropriate age to go to a game (I was 10 in 1992) The Bengals had fallen into an abysmal state.
The 1989 Bengals Super Bowl was a wonderful first memory for me… and no, it had nothing to do with football, as I don’t believe I watched a second of the game as a 7 year old. We had gone to one of my parents friend’s house, and they had a Nintendo Entertainment System, and it was the first time I had ever seen Super Mario Brothers. I played that little plumber till his overalls fell off. I was hooked. By Easter 4 months later I was the proud owner one myself after I swindled my sister out of her birthday money (I repented later… much later.)
Anyway, back t the season tickets… My dad’s company would give them away to sweeten a business deal, but by ’92, you were essentially insulting your business partners to hand them a wad of Bengals tickets. Being the hero that my dad is, and not wanting anything to ever go to waste, he would frequently put in requests for the tickets and take me to a game.
I remember seeing some pretty great games, my favorite though was a game against the Steelers. The Steelers would regularly sweep us without a problem, but one this fateful day, we were playing them pretty tough. It was getting late in the 4th quarter and we found ourselves down by 5. The offense had us just outside of the red zone and the down marker had a big 4 on it. The coach was wondering what to do. The gamble would be to go for the long TD and see if we could get the win, but winning wasn’t really the Bengals style, so Doug Pelfrey came out onto the field to kick the field goal. Nailed it! Unfortunately, that still put us down by 2 with under a minute left. As a young fan, not really sure of how football worked outside of touchdowns and field goals, I was pretty sure that the time game was over.
The kickoff team lined up, looking a bit heavy to one side, and that is when I witnessed my first onside kick! Pelfrey hit the ball just right and put it into the pocket where the Bengals could get it in good field position. The clock was winding down, not just about under 10 seconds. The Bengals were able to scramble there and get one play off across the 40 yard line of the opponent’s end of the field. Doug ran back onto the field for the 3rd time in the last 30 seconds and got the snap off just in time to kick what had to be a 50+ yard field goal to win the game on a buzzer beater to send the arch-rival Steelers back up the river with a big upset.
Those were the types of small things that would make a season, even if it was the only home win of the season, to be there made it feel like you had just won the Super Bowl. That is what it was like to grow up a Bengals fan.