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COLUMN: Reds, Bengals in danger of losing entire generation of fans

COLUMN: Reds, Bengals in danger of losing entire generation of fans (MGN/WKRC)
COLUMN: Reds, Bengals in danger of losing entire generation of fans (MGN/WKRC)
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On the night of Jan. 9, 2016, I cried tears of joy in my father’s living room when A.J. McCarron connected with A.J. Green for a touchdown to take a 16-15 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game.

“It’s finally happening,” I thought.

As for what happened next in the game, it doesn’t need repeating.

That’s the closest I have ever been in my life to witnessing a playoff victory for one of my beloved Cincinnati major league teams.

I won’t even mention the 2012 Reds.

Having been born and raised in Cincinnati by parents who were also born and raised in Cincinnati, I grew to love and become a fan of the Reds and Bengals.

My dad has told me stories of the Big Red Machine, the legend of Pete Rose or the verbal on-field antics of Sam Wyche.

From what I’ve witnessed in my life, those were the glory years of Cincinnati professional sports.

I’m 25 years old. I was born on Cincinnati Reds Opening Day, which in 1993 was the managerial debut of Tony Perez. Perez lasted 44 games before Jim Bowden axed him.

Cincinnati sports fandom is in my blood. I learned the history of Cincinnati professional sports. Unfortunately, my generation is not witnessing history.

My generation was raised by sports fans who grew up with a winning culture. They raised us with hopes that these teams will return to winning ways and they will witness our faces light up when the Reds win their next World Series or the Bengals win a playoff game.

Instead, my generation was raised in a losing culture. And that concerns me for the future of the city and its sports teams.

As millennials are beginning to have children of their own, one begs the question: why will this generation feel the need to spend money on tickets for the losing culture in which we were subjected to as kids? Why would we subject the next generation to false hopes and dreams of winning, which we were raised to believe?

Many ‘early millennials’ may remember the 1994 or 1995 first-place Reds teams. Personally, I don’t. And many people in their mid-to-late 20’s don’t. So, for the sake of argument and debate, I’ll give you some stats since 2000.

Since 2000, the Reds have had a total of four winning seasons, two division championships, and three playoff appearances with no playoff series wins. In that same time frame, the Reds have lost at least 90 games seven times.

Since 2000, the Bengals have made an impressive seven playoff appearances with four division titles, but no playoff victories. In addition, the past few seasons under Marvin Lewis have felt stale. Same old, same old.

Combined, in the past 38 major league sports seasons in Cincinnati since 2000, the city claims only six division championships, 10 playoff appearances, zero playoff advancements, zero championships, and if the Bengals lose one more game, 24 losing seasons.

Every time I begin a season as fan with a glimmer of hope, those dreams of buying a championship pennant are dashed by midseason. Or even worse, in the first round of the playoffs.

That’s why millennials are drawn to FC Cincinnati. Not only is soccer one of the fastest growing sports in the world and in Cincinnati, but FC Cincinnati has been building a winning culture since day one. Whether it was the Cinderella run through the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2017 or the impressive double-digit unbeaten streak in 2018, the front office and the team at Nippert Stadium has shown a commitment to winning; a culture that has shown potential towards carrying over to the jump to Major League Soccer.

The two front offices on the riverfront can’t claim that right now.

With declining attendance at both Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium, this city has made a statement, loud and clear. We’re sick of losing and if things don’t turn around, the two oldest professional sports franchises in Cincinnati will miss an entire generation of fans.

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And what a shame that would be.

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