I’ve never been so excited to eat a 33-year-old candy bar! My whole life I’ve been waiting for this Sunday. As a very young child, I fell in love with the game of football. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the Bengals at Riverfront Stadium with my dad. Much like many young boys in the Cincinnati area in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I dreamed one day I would be taking snaps from under center wearing a black and orange tiger-striped uniform sporting the number 7. Often playing football in my backyard or on the playground at school pretending to be the next coming of Boomer Esiason. My dad took me to my first NFL football game at Riverfront Stadium on October 23, 1988, when the Cincinnati Bengals took on the Huston Oilers blowing them out 44-20. Now I would be lying if I told you I actually remember that game or anything that took place as I was only 3 years old at the time. However, I do remember the crowd and excitement of the stadium being the first large sporting event I ever attended. I also remember my dad walking me through the city to the stadium and at one point putting me on his shoulders for the walk probably because I was having a hard time keeping up. I didn’t know it at the time obviously, but I think that day sparked a lifelong addiction to the sport that I have yet to find a cure for. The first game I actually remember going to came on January 6th, 1991, when the Bengals were again taking on the Huston Oilers, except this time it was in the playoffs. Riverfront Stadium was so loud that day, it always amazed me when I was young how that stadium seemed to transform from a baseball stadium to a football stadium being almost unrecognizable to a 6-year-old boy from one sport to the next. I watched that day as the Bengals defeated the Oilers in blowout fashion 41-14. I watched as the Bengals jumped out to a 34 to nothing lead before Huston could do anything. I remember the crowd rocking Riverfront that DEY, and up to that point in my life it was the most exciting thing I had ever witnessed. During the third quarter of that game, the great Boomer Esiason scrambled for about a nine- or ten-yard touchdown, and I will never forget my Dad who was a professional baseball player in the late ’60s and early 70’s with the Montreal Expo’s organization and rarely showed any emotion while watching or competing in any sporting event giving me a hug yelling “ALLRRIIGGHHTTT” as loud as I ever heard him yell signaling to me it was alright to relax the Bengals were going to win. Little did I know at the time I wouldn’t experience that feeling again for 31 years.
Following the Bengals win over the Oilers in 91 they would lose the following week to the LA Raiders. Then the rest of the 90’s happened. As I matured and my personal knowledge and understanding of the game grew, I watched as my Bengals became the laughingstock of the NFL. However, like any young man, I couldn’t ever seem to forget my first love! Like a bad abusive marriage, I had my heart broken again and again but for some reason kept coming back Chanting WHO-DEY and having a renewed sense of hope at the start of every season!
During the 1988 Super Bowl run my dad purchased a BOOMER BAR, and as the name implies it is a chocolate candy bar which is wrapped in brown paper and with the best depiction of Boomer Esiason’s face that late 80’s dot-matrix printing technology had to offer. My dad kept this candy bar in the freezer, and as a child, I asked him one time if I could eat it, because what five- or six-year-old doesn’t want a candy bar with their favorite NFL player on it? My dad told me WHEN the Bengals win the SUPER BOWL, I could have half of it. As the years passed I all but forgot about the frozen candy bar in my dad’s freezer. In 2005 the Bengals finally returned to the playoffs after winning the AFC North and earning a home game in the first round. By this time in my life, all childhood hopes and dreams of playing in the NFL had already faded and I was enlisted in the U.S. Army serving as an MP in Alaska. While living in Alaska I would actually wake up at 7:30 A.M on Sundays and for the better part of six seasons drive an hour and fifteen minutes to a bar/bowling alley that had NFL Sunday Ticket just to watch the Bengals play at 9 A.M. Alaska Time. I walked into that bar almost every Sunday with my Carson Palmer jersey on and got the same question every week from the bartender (who was a sweetheart of a lady and a Vikings fan in her mid to late ’50s) “I guess you’re here to pray for your BUNGALS again this week” to which I always replied “ today it’s going to be the Bengals 128 and (whoever they were playing that week insert team here)3. An obvious pun on the old SNL BEARS SUPER FAN skit that she never seemed to comprehend. Any way in 2005 I flew all the way home to attend the playoff game against Shittsburg. While tailgating before the game the topic of the BOOMER bar came up. I asked my dad if he thought this was going to be the year, we would finally get to eat the thing. Well as it turns out it wasn’t because the Shittsburg Steelers embarrassed us that day. I wasn’t able to make it home for the 2009 matchup against the Jets because of my military obligation. In Fact, I wouldn’t be able to attend another Bengals game until the 2013 season even though I was right there watching all the heartbreak that came from the Raiders for two straight years on TV. 2014 would be the last playoff game I ever attended with my dad, and once again we watched our Bengals lose in the first round of the playoffs to the then-San Diego Chargers. Due to work obligations, I was not able to attend the playoff game in 2015 against Shittsburg and we will not discuss any part of that game (thanks Jeremy Hill) as it is still a forbidden subject in my house.
This past summer I lost my dad to brain cancer on July 30, 2021. After his passing, while going through his things I found that old BOOMER BAR wrapped up in a plastic bag in the back of his freezer. I jokingly said to myself knowing I was going to keep it that my kids would probably find it in my freezer after I die.
Being a parent of two children myself now, I have a 12-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son who has acquired the same addiction for the sport that I have. Being a Bengals season ticket holder now, my son was able to attend several games with me this year, including his first playoff game. I found it kind of poetic he got to experience his first playoff game around the same age I did. Out of all the games I have attended at Paul Brown Stadium I have never heard that stadium as loud as it was four weeks ago when we played the Raiders. Paul Brown was absolutely shaking that Dey literally. For the entirety of the game, I saw the aww struck excitement in my sons face that my dad must have seen in mine 31 years prior. When Germaine Pratt intercepted Derek Carr’s pass in the final seconds of the game, out of pure emotion I picked up my son and hugged him as hard as I could, and I was instantly reminded of the hug my dad gave me 31 years previously. I would be straight lying to you if I told you I didn’t break down sobbing like a little baby. So much raw emotion flowed through me at that instant, and it felt like my dad was right there with us.
I have been fortunate enough to travel to Nashville and Kansas City to watch this incredible Super Bowl run. My son at seven years old has now experienced more playoff wins this year than I have my entire life. I never thought that less than a year from my dad’s passing I would be potentially breaking out that old BOOMER BAR and taking a bite out of it this Sunday with my son. I can only imagine how sweet that 33-year-old chocolate is going to be. WHO DEY BABY!!!!! AND as always, my predictions for SUPER BOWL LVI DA BENGALS 128 – DA RAMS 3