The Cincinnati Bengals have overcome quite a bit of adversity to get to Super Bowl LVI. They had to claw their way to an AFC North championship after some bad regular-season losses, including the infamous 400-yard Mike White game against the New York Jets, followed by getting smoked by Cleveland Browns, 41-16, the next week. In the playoffs they had to overcome Joe Burrow getting sacked nine times against the Tennessee Titans and in the AFC Championship Game they had to overcome a 21-10 halftime deficit to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
Something else they had to fight through to get to the big game that might trump all of that, is their own lack of resources. The Bengals, a franchise in America’s most popular league that seven months ago signed new media deals worth over $100 billion, do not have an indoor practice facility. A city that once hosted an AFC Championship Game that is nicknamed “The Freezer Bowl,” in which the windchill reached 55 degrees below zero practices outdoors year round.
It isn’t a problem most of the time, because since that game in January of 1982 they’ve only advanced to the AFC Championship Game twice. However, with them practicing in February this year, they caught the rough weather that hit much of the country last week. Cincinnati saw a lot of precipitation that went from sleet, to freezing rain, to snow. The Bengals were fortunate to find somewhere to practice so they didn’t get soaking wet and cold while prepping for the biggest game of their lives. The help came from a local university.
“We went up to the [University of Cincinnati] bubble because we’ve had some pretty bad weather here,” rookie kicker Evan McPherson said. “So we got to kick indoors the last couple of days. That’s been pretty fun for me to not have to worry about any of the wind or snow we might have on the field.”
That’s right, the professional team needed a favor from the college team down the road. There are clips on social media of the Bengals taking buses to the Bearcats’ practice facility and a group of fans greeting them.
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For those who don’t know, the Bengals’ team owner did not make billions of dollars in an industry outside of professional sports. Mike Brown is the son of Paul Brown, one of the most influential minds in the history of professional football. The elder Brown was one of the founders of the Bengals franchise back in the AFL days, and after his death in 1991 Mike became the team’s owner.
Even though he does not have Stan Kroenke or David Tepper money, he has been rightfully accused of running his team on the cheap. The Bengals have six scouts, their highest paid player is cornerback Trae Wayens who made $15 million this season, T.J. Houshmandzadeh said in his early years that there was no bottled water or Gatorade. Remember in the movie Moneyball when David Justice can’t wrap his brain around paying for soda in the clubhouse? And of course, they don’t have an indoor practice facility but a college team that plays in the American Athletic Conference does.
The Bengals are a great “little guy who could” story. This is a team that gets their balls busted just like the other team they share Ohio with, the Cleveland Browns, but they’re much less popular. They’ve never won a championship, and their most successful period in franchise history was when they advanced to the playoffs five consecutive years and didn’t get a single win. Yet, here they are, on American sports’ biggest stage, running their franchise on regular fuel instead of premium.
This season has been impressive, but Brown, get an indoor practice facility. You own an NFL team that could have been practicing in slush on their way to a Super Bowl in Los Angeles. What’s next, is it going to be four players to a room in the hotels this week.
This is an NFL team. Do better.