The Cincinnati Bengals play the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium at 4:15. It's the feature game for CBS this weekend because of its significance: The Ravens need to win to secure the AFC North title and possibly home field advantage throughout the playoffs and the Bengals need to win to gain entrance into the playoffs. Other than that, it's not that big of a deal.
And yet there is a sizeable contingent of misguided individuals continuing to call for a boycott of Sunday's game. Listen, nobody feels the frustration of Mike Brown more than yours truly, a loyal fan and charter member of the Boobie Clark fan club and former Shula era season ticket holder. But there's something bigger at work here than expressing spite for Mike Brown's mismanagement of the franchise over the past two decades.
There's good football going to be played on Sunday. Meaningful football that will draw a national television audience between two teams who have slogged through 15 games to get to this point where everything is on the line. I don't care if you like Mike Brown or not. That's appealing if you're a football fan. As a current resident of Indianapolis, I can tell you the citizens here would be more than happy to be in this situation. Instead, they're debating as to whether their team should win or not on the season's final week so they can get better draft positions. As Bengals fans, we've been in that situation far too many times. This is a rare occasion where your team has earned a shot at something important. Enjoy it.
And then there's the team. How can you not like this team? Energetic rookies playing at Pro Bowl levels, veterans with a renewed sense of pride and professionalism. You can harp all you want about the history of this franchise, and you'd be right. But this product is exactly what any fan would want in a football team. They've busted their backsides all season long, overcoming doubt, inexperience and injuries to get to this point. They deserve the support of the city on Sunday when they go out with the season on the line.
And then there's the city. Yes, Mike Brown has done plenty over the years that has cast the city of Cincinnati in a negative light. Yet the current boycott movement is doing far worse than anything Brown has done. Each week, the cameras have panned the empty seats and each week, the announcers and countless others throughout the nation have asked, where are the fans? How can they not be selling out for this team?
The leaders of the boycott need to realize one thing that has always been true: Nothing you do is going to make Mike Brown do anything differently. He's been at this a long time and there's no indication he's going to hire a general manager or do anything to change the organizational structure of the team, even now. There is some indication that he's given Marvin Lewis a lot more control over personnel decisions and there's also the new collective bargaining mandate that will require Brown to spend at least 90 per cent of the cap ceiling beginning in 2013. But if you're hoping that some mass movement will make Mike Brown change his way, you're delusional.
If that's where you are, go cheer for another team or stop following the NFL. Do whatever you need to do to soothe your own conscience, but your tactics to attempt to injure Mike Brown are misguided at best, downright delusional and hurtful to your city at worst.
If you're a fan and have the means and ability, (I'd never presume to tell people how to spend their money) get down to PBS this Sunday and be loud for a team that has earned your support. If you don't want to give money to Mike Brown, that's fine. Buy your tickets in the secondary market. Those have already been sold once and Mike has his money regardless of what you do. Don't buy his concessions or his merchandise. Do whatever you need to do to funnel your cash to others not named Mike Brown.
But go downtown. Park in a non-stadium lot, go to a bar or restaurant before the game and share some of your revenue with local businesses. Heck, drop a dollar in the bucket of one of the homeless drummers on your way into PBS.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people who will benefit from your attendance Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium who are not named Mike Brown. Most important are the 53 men in striped helmets who have worked hard all season to get to this point. They deserve your support.
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