Sunday, August 29, 1999

Fans don't expect much from Bengals

Many predict another bad season

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Plenty of orange-and-black striped jerseys and caps were visible as Bengals fans walked toward Cinergy Field Saturday evening for the first home game of the season. But optimism and hope were almost as scarce as recent Bengals' playoff appearances.

        Many Bengals fans are like moviegoers who have seen too many horror films to expect a happy ending in the film now on the screen.

        Bob Ebeland, 31, of Zanesville, Ohio, believes this season will be a nightmarish rerun of last season.

        “Another 3-and-13 year,” he said grimly in the plaza outside the stadium. “I don't see where they've made any real big moves to help the team.”

        Not even the promise of a beautiful new stadium next season could ease some fans' pessimistic attitude about the Bengals' chances for improving this year.

        “I think they'll win three games,” said Doug Bingham, 41, of Grove City in the Columbus area. “Mike Brown is too cheap to spend the money to put a good team on the field.”

        John Bruewer has been a Bengals fan almost his entire life. Even when the Cincinnati native lived in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, he remained loyal to his home team. In recent years, he usually bought tickets to four games a season.

        But the 34-year-old Fairfield resident's romance with the team has soured under the weight of the long string of losing seasons. Last year's debacle was the final straw.

        “I'm not buying tickets this year,” Mr. Bruewer said firmly. “The players give it everything they've got. But something in the organization is wrong.”

        The only reason he attended Saturday's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, he said, was that someone gave him free tickets.

        “No matter where I lived, I always stuck by my Bengals,” Mr. Bruewer said. “But this is getting ridiculous.”

        Melvin Miles, a season-ticket holder for six years, said the offense and the pass defense

        are too lame to expect the Bengals to be significantly better than last year.

        “Besides that, there are a lot of other problems,” said the 50-year-old Mason resident.

        But fans who said before Saturday's game that the Bengals would be better pointed to players Corey Dillon, Jeff Blake, Darnay Scott and a healthy Ki-jana Carter.

        Margaret Sandfoss, of Richwood described herself as “always optimistic.”

        “It has to get better,” she said. “Blake will be better.”

        But as she talked, some cracks appeared in her sunny optimism.

        “I still love the games,” Ms. Sandfoss said. “But I find it's getting harder to stay interested each year.”

        Wearing a Bengals cap, Pam Mallory, 39, of Fairfield, said she believes Akili Smith eventually will pay dividends for the Bengals.

        “He won't be much help this year, but in the future years, he will,” she said. “I was kind of disappointed that he held out that long.”

        But Ron DeJarnett, 46, of Fort Thomas said Mr. Smith will need a better line to be successful.

        “Just spending $40 million for a quarterback won't make them any better,” he said.

        Fred Siegel, 46, of Symmes Township, was taking his 10-year-old daughter, Brooke, to her first NFL game.

        Mr. Siegel admitted he's a long time Cleveland Browns fan, but said he wishes the Bengals the best.

        “I'd like to see them have a very good season,” he said. “But I have to think it will be business as usual. Win three or four games and lose the rest.”

        John Mason, 32, of Amelia, began buying Bengals season tickets after their 1989 Super Bowl appearance. Despite all the bad football he's had to endure since then, he gamely showed up Saturday wearing a Bengals jersey.

        Mr. Mason found at least one reason to be hopeful at the dawn of a new season.

        “They have an easy schedule,” he said.


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