By Gabriel Huff
I keep thinking back to that moment. The moment my heart stopped. Yes, the vivid memory comes back to me clearly. Super Bowl aches do not disappear easily.
It was fourth-and-1 near midfield. The Cincinnati Bengals were playing the Los Angeles Rams, attempting to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Forty-three seconds were left in the game. The score was 23-20, with the Rams leading. The Bengals could end the game by scoring a touchdown or send the game to overtime by kicking a field goal. It was all coming down to this next play.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati’s fearless quarterback who was fighting through pain after having his knee twisted earlier in the game, took the snap, looking to throw a short pass for a quick first down. The Rams’ defensive line came bursting through the Bengals’ offensive line. A tackler wrapped Burrow in his arms, swinging the Bengals quarterback to the ground. But Burrow, determined as ever, made one last throw, sending the football spinning to one of his receivers, but the receiver could not turn around in time. The play was ruled incomplete and a turnover on downs.
I was at men’s social club Chi Sigma Alpha’s Super Bowl party, sitting on the living room floor in the home of a Chi Sigs sponsor, watching the play unfold before my very eyes. As the ball rolled on the turf, I thought surely the game could not be over. I searched for a yellow flag on the television screen, thinking some type of penalty would surely save the day for my team. Lo and behold, nothing happened. The game was truly over.
I suddenly felt numb. My heart seemed to stop pumping, and all the energy from the night was zapped from my body. I was ready to leave the party. Before I left though, one of my friends loudly declared to the whole room, “I just would like to say: The Bengals have still not won a Super Bowl.” That was salt in the wound.
My team had fought hard to get to the championship, exceeding all expectations. No one thought they would win the AFC North division, sweeping both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, but they did. No one thought they would make the playoffs and win their first playoff game in over 30 years, but they did. No one thought they would march into the stadium of the Tennessee Titans and win in the divisional round of the playoffs. They accomplished that feat in dramatic fashion. Maybe the thing that shocked most people was the AFC championship game. No one thought they would enter Arrowhead Stadium, the home of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, and leave as the victors. No one thought the Bengals could possibly win that game when the Chiefs — who had arguably been the best AFC team in the last few years — were leading 21-3. However, the Bengals proved doubters wrong once again. I just wish my team could have done it just one more time.
I hesitated before writing this piece. Up until now, I had done everything I could to distract myself from the pain and disappointment of the Super Bowl. I listened to my favorite band after the game. I kept myself busy with homework — I certainly had plenty. I avoided reading any headlines about the game. I spent time with friends and went to Spring Sing practice. Now, writing this piece, I have no choice but to face the full ache of that Super Bowl loss.
My next words are directed toward all fellow Bengals fans and all those who are aching from any type of disappointment: The ache is only temporary. It will go away. In the meantime, we need to put a smile on our face, keep moving forward and avoid dwelling on the past, knowing there is still a trophy waiting for us in the future.
I’ll see you at our next Super Bowl, Cincinnati Bengals. Who Dey.