Happy Sun-Dey. Please forgive me for taking grammatical license. It’s not every decade the Cincinnati Bengals make the Super Bowl. Buildings around the city are lighting up in black and orange, fans are planning Super Bowl weddings, school districts are canceling school for the day after the game, and by (in)formal decree, we have to change all -day spellings to -dey in honor of the Bengals “Who Dey” rallying cry. (At least one district that has already called off told parents it would be a “Snow Dey.”)
As a transplant to Southwest Ohio, I’m not a lifelong Bengals fan. But as an Ohio native, I’m definitely familiar with frustration and heartbreak. And so watching the Bengals improbable journey through the playoffs (including two overtime wins on the road, both coming on field goals from a rookie kicker) has been a treat. We watched the AFC Championship with friends, nervously huddled around the television as the Bengals lined up for the field goal that would send them to the big game. Watching that ball go through the uprights and screaming and hugging everyone was almost as special as watching the last moments of the Cavs 2016 NBA championship or Ohio State’s victory in the first-ever College Football Playoff. (But there is, of course, one game to go.)
What we’re seeing in Cincinnati right now is a good example of how sports can bring people together, and even instill civic pride. Coach Zac Taylor has been awarding “game balls” to local businesses that serve Bengals fans. When our superintendent announced the day off for Monday, February 14, he asked families to consider donating to our local food bank in honor of quarterback Joe Burrow, who used his Heisman Trophy speech a few years ago to call attention to poverty in his native southeastern Ohio (and raised a ton of money in the process).
It’s a nice, heartwarming, feel-good story. And yet … On Tuesday, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed an explosive lawsuit against the NFL that exposes how all is not well within the league. Flores was fired by the Dolphins despite posting a winning record in two of his three seasons with the team. He alleges that one reason he was fired was because he refused to “tank” back in 2019, when ownership wanted to finish with the worst record and thus get the top pick in the 2020 draft (to pick, coincidentally enough, Joe Burrow).