The Cincinnati Bengals are Super Bowl bound—and Lord willing, SO AM I!
As someone who has faithfully covered the team for the past five years, the National Football League has graciously granted me an official media credential for the press box at SoFi Stadium. For a football junkie like me, that means a journey to the pinnacle of the NFL, a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the mountaintop summit of the entire sporting world.
Ever since Jim O’Brien kicked the Baltimore Colts to a 16 – 13 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V, I’ve dreamed of going to this iconic event. Year after year, for over half a century, I’ve longed to experience the world-renowned glamour and pageantry with my own eyes and ears.
The undefeated Dolphins, Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the ’85 Bears, America’s Team with Aikman and Smith, the Greatest Show on Turf, Brady and Belichick—all viewed through the lens of that distant and detached boob tube screen.
Regardless of who was playing or where I was, I’d always make it a point to somehow tune in. Whether at a large social gathering or alone in my man cave, I simply couldn’t miss. Those 1:00 am kickoffs while stationed in Germany were especially difficult. One year while traveling, I remember frantically searching for a television at a seaside bar off the coast of Thailand (early on a Monday morning) just to get my Super Bowl fix.
Each year, after the final credits rolled, I promised myself that next year would be the one that I would finally make the in-person plunge. And yet, the plunge never came. Like so many other well-intentioned plans, this one careened into the backburner of misplaced priorities and dashed hopes. As the Super Bowl itself ballooned in stature and as ticket prices subsequently soared, my dream coincidentally vaporized.
And just as suddenly—as improbable as it sounds after all these years—I’m riding triumphantly to Super Bowl LVI on the backs of the Bengals. It’s a serendipitous ride of sorts, the Super Bowl venue at SoFi Stadium beckoning to me like a fairytale fantasy of my pre-adolescent youth.
You see, the Bengals are playing the Los Angeles Rams in LA. I’ve always loved the City of Angels. When I was young, my dream was to move to Los Angeles and become a movie star. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the talent, the looks, or the teeth to be a Leonardo DiCaprio—so I became a dentist instead. I guess things worked out okay, but I always wondered how different my life would have been as an Asian Brad Pitt.
Having missed out on Hollywood, I did the next best thing. I became a fan of everything LA—including the Los Angeles Rams. Yep, those Rams—the early Rams—the Rams who played in the glorious LA Coliseum. Posters of the Fearsome Foursome, Roman Gabriel, and Jack Youngblood adorned my bedroom walls. Vince Ferragamo, “Hacksaw” Reynolds, and Eric Dickerson populated my card collection. My daily moods and outlook on life sadly fluctuated with the fortunes of Pat Haden and Jim Everett.
When the team moved east, however, the Rams lost a bit of their luster for me. Budweiser Clydesdales and Gateway Arches couldn’t hold a candle to the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood Bowl, Rodeo Drive, and Venice Beach. I discovered that my love for the team was as fleeting as my hopes for movie stardom.
Therefore, there’ll be no divided loyalties this coming Sunday. I’ll be cheering wildly for the Cinderella Bengals. What a heartwarming story it will be when the midwestern team of my midlife sports-writing career takes on the west coast team of my youthful Hollywood dreams. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
Here’s what else has worked out. My daughter, Katie, lives in LA. Unlike her dear old dad, she followed her heart and took the west coast plunge early on. Now I get an unexpected visit with her while working the game of my dreams–in the city of my dreams. It simply doesn’t get any better than that. I feel so blessed.
Super Bowl LVI, here I come. Please don’t wake me up.
Dr. John Huang covers professional sports for Sports View America. His latest book, KENTUCKY PASSION, is available in bookstores and online at https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669