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Fan confessional: The struggles of inconsistency

By Imaz Athar / Staff Writer

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I used to be a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Before Steelers supporters hunt me down, let me explain why I stopped being a fan. It happened during the 2005 NFL playoffs.

For much of my early childhood, I lived in a small town in New Mexico, which didn’t have a professional football team, and I didn’t know much about football. Nobody really talked about football in the area. Kids wanted to shoot a basketball like Kobe Bryant, not throw a football like Peyton Manning, so the sport wasn’t on my mind much.

That changed when I moved to Lexington, Ky. In Lexington, you automatically become a sports fan. Lexington didn’t have an NFL team, so everyone passionately rooted for the closest team: the Cincinnati Bengals.

I was surrounded by people obsessed with the Bengals, so I started to fall in love with the team too. Soon, it became a weekly ritual to watch the Bengals play on Sunday — and man, were they fun to watch. Their defense intercepted pass after pass, and Carson Palmer threw touchdown after touchdown as Chad Johnson danced in the end zone.

My young, naïve self was certain the 2005 Bengals were going to win the Super Bowl, and I almost cried when the Steelers’ defense blew out Palmer’s knee in the team’s first playoff game in years. Steelers fans may have rejoiced, but I tore off my Chad Johnson jersey and threw it into my closet after the game. Suddenly, I realized the extremes of being a sports fan: the jubilation that came with rooting for a sports team, along with the devastating pain of watching losses and injuries.

Last Sunday, I saw that the Bengals beat their division rival, the Ravens, in a close game. In the past, I would have watched the game and felt the adrenaline rush through me as the Bengals won, but now I feel nothing but apathy. Maybe I stopped caring because I haven’t had the time to watch Bengals games. Maybe it’s because my high hopes for the team were crushed in 2005 — and every year since.

However, not having a favorite football team has its advantages. I no longer get irrationally upset, and I haven’t entered that dark place that every fan enters when their favorite team loses. Now, I can root for the underdog, or cheer for Aaron Rodgers’ greatness without feeling envious. I can enjoy the game for what it is, and it’s liberating.

I have to admit, however, that part of me misses rooting for a team. Seeing people walk around on campus wearing their favorite team’s jersey makes me miss being a part of a sports community, and hearing my floormates cheer when Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers destroyed the Colts this past Sunday reminded me of how I felt when my friends and I watched the Bengals beat teams in the mid-2000s.

I’ll always remember the feeling of community and the priceless exhilaration rooting for the Bengals. But the misery that comes with watching your team fail over and over again is unbearable. My fading football fandom has allowed me to enjoy watching the game without experiencing the disappointment I vividly remember.

So my Chad Johnson jersey is going to remain in the back of my closet, and I don’t think I’ll ever pick it back up.

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Fan confessional: The struggles of inconsistency