CLEVELAND — It's a question facing many Cleveland Browns fans right now: Should we root for the Cincinnati Bengals?
The AFC North champs pulled out a remarkable win during one of several amazing games this weekend. And as they prepare to face the Chiefs this Sunday, a lot of Browns fans find themselves torn and wondering; is it okay to cheer on this scrappy young team with the goony nice quarterback? After all, they’re from our home state, right?
But IS it right? And how many Browns fans will be doing it?
Mike Polk Jr. asked Browns fans on Facebook if they were rooting for or against Cincinnati this weekend and how they felt about it either way. And while there were indeed plenty of Browns fans who definitely stated, often with quite salty language, that they would never, ever root for the Bengals, it was surprising to see that the vast majority of respondents are actually pulling for Cincinnati.
That's leaving Mike very conflicted. On one hand, it’s kind of nice to think what it says about Cleveland's fanbase, that so many Browns fans seem to be good-natured and emotionally mature enough to find it in their hearts to cheer on their downstate division rival. But on the other hand, Mike says -- you can’t root for the Bengals! You’re Browns fans! What the Sam Rutigliano is wrong with you people?!
We don’t root for the Bengals. It’s just not right.
And there have been two primary arguments put forth to defend this unsavory practice.
1.“They’re from Ohio, just like us!”
-Who cares? Yes, they do reside within our state’s boundary but one must remember that they’re actually much closer to Kentucky than they are to Cleveland both geographically and culturally.
2.“Joe Burrow’s a great guy! How can you not root for him!”
-It’s easy. Hey Joe Burrow! You seem like a great guy! It’s super cool that you’re from Ohio! Also, I hope you lose this Sunday because you play for the Cincinnati Bengals!
See? That wasn’t hard.
The appeal is understandable. Joe Burrow is super nice and charitable, he remembers everyone's birthdays and he probably came over and helped you paint your garage or something. He’s a square jawed Eagle Scout who hung the moon -- but none of that changes that he is also on the Bengals!
This does perhaps seem to be a generational thing. Based on the entirely unscientific Facebook poll, it seems that Generation X and Baby Boomers are far less willing to cheer for the Bengals than the Millennials and Gen Z kids are.
Is that the difference? Were the younger generations not indoctrinated to hate their divisional enemies in the same way? And if so, is that a good or bad thing?
Older generations were mostly raised to wish misfortune upon every team in our division. Mike says, that included him having to hate the Houston Oilers because they were in our division at the time. Requiring a small child to detest a football team and their entire Texas fanbase is a lot to ask of a six-year-old, but he did it. Because he was told that, as a Browns fan, it was the right thing to do.
Now, as far as how MUCH we should root against the Bengals, there are two variations because there’s a lot of internet disagreement as to which team should have the top hate spot. And there’s really no wrong answer. Traditionalists tend to lean towards having Pittsburgh on top there, but Baltimore is equally supremely loathed. Neither is wrong, but as you can see in either variation, you’ll find Cincinnati locked in securely at the bottom for a variety of reasons. Essentially, because they’ve always been pretty bad like us and we’ve never had as much direct reason to despise them as the other two squads.
As a Browns fan, first and foremost, Mike wants his team to win. But if they can’t, and they so often can’t, the next best thing is for his enemies to lose.
So while he says he applauds the open mindedness of his fellow Browns fans who are backing the Bengals this weekend, he shan’t be joining you. So call him petty if you will, because he says he is -- and Go Chiefs.