Note: this piece, in which the author interviews himself, was done before the previous NFL season
Matt Kelsen is a lifelong Cincinnati Bengals fan, often considered the worst franchise in professional sports. Though the Bengals were a one time Super Bowl contender, Matt is too young to know anything but stories. Thus, upon moving out of state, the 26 year old has declared himself a free agent.
First off, Matt, how long have you been a fan?
To be perfectly honest, too damn long. Neither of my parents was originally from Cincinnati, so I didn’t start rooting for them until I was old enough to think for myself. Obviously I wasn’t old enough. (chuckles)
So you don’t remember any of the good times?
It’s been mostly bad. A few years back it got so horrendous the fans were calling for a boycott unless Mike Brown gave up his power and hired a GM. (In 2002, the Bengals avoided a winless year by scraping together two end of seasons victories.) I almost quit, but the Bengals hired Marvin (head coach Marvin Lewis) and they started winning after that. After so many three and four win seasons, 8-8 was like the Super Bowl for us. They got a little better the year after that, and then BAM, all of a sudden we were in the playoffs. We’d never been in the playoffs and we felt unstoppable. Of course, then IT happened.
You’re talking about Carson’s knee?
You’re damn right I’m about talking about Carson. (On the Bengals’ first passing play in the 2005 playoffs, Bengals franchise quarterback Carson Palmer tore his ACL and MCL after a low tackle by former Bengal Kimo von Oelhoffen. Many people believed the hit to be dirty, and a change was subsequently made by the NFL banning similar knee-level tackles on the quarterback.) No doubt we would’ve won that game. But we’re the Bungles for a reason. You know the saying: “If we didn’t have bad luck…”
You wouldn’t have any luck at all.
Exactly. I mean, he completes a sixty something yard bomb to Henry (66 yards to receiver Chris Henry), and then they both get knocked out of the game. Palmer and the whole team haven’t been the same since.
Would you say God doesn’t want the Bengals to win?
Haha. I wouldn’t go that far, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.
So now you’re thinking of quitting?
Let’s be real. I’ve thought about quitting this team on more than one occasion. But the thought of missing an eventual resurgence keeps me in my place. After all these years of sadness, I deserve to celebrate the goodness, right? Well, we all know how pathetic that sounds, and like all bad relationships, I kind of know that this one is doing me no good.
Do you feel taken advantage of?
Absolutely, and that’s the worst part. It’s that all those years I still stayed positive. Always thinking it was gonna get better. Now, I just feel, you know, kind of pathetic.
I almost feel like Mike Brown—not that he’s laughing at us fans—but more like he just doesn’t care. Good or bad, as long as he makes his money, you know? It’s just like, if I owned a team, that would be the greatest thing ever. And that’s why as much as I hate them, you’ve gotta respect guys like (Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones and (Yankees owner George) Steinbrenner. You know that what they want more than anything is to win. Mike Brown doesn’t care about that. And that makes me feel pathetic.
For caring more about the team than the owner?
So what’s your goal in becoming a free agent?
Honestly? To get the hope back. There’s something magical about feeling like your team is one step away from winning it all. I would love for the Bengals to do that. I would love to say I was there all the way through the bad times. But I just don’t see it happening. I’ll still root for my Bengals. But I just can’t make them my priority.
What’s your biggest fear in all this?
That I’ll know I gave up on them if they win it all.
That’s a big IF.
I know. But I also know that when they finally do, it’ll feel a hundred times better than any Patriot or Steelers Super Bowl. It would be worth all those bad years.
Do you honestly believe that?
I don’t know.
Matt spent the last year rooting for his new local team, the New York Jets, but he still finds himself gravitating to his Bengals. He has, however, remained resolute in his decision to refrain from giving any amount of money or effort to Mike Brown—including buying jerseys, tickets, or even paying for NFL Direct Ticket. He insists he will return to his team and drop his “personal embargo” when Mike Brown finally hands the reins to an accomplished GM.
Mike Brown had no comment on this piece.