Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.


Every time a professional sports franchise tries to “give back” you realize…there’s a cost for your loyalty never seems to end.

There was an announcement by the Cincinnati Bengals this week that they’re throwing a party.  That’s right, a party for fans and season ticket holders at Paul Brown Stadium…a pep rally…to mark the opening of training camp coming in a couple of weeks.

Now usually, when someone throws a party and puts out an invitation to the public there’s no charge to attend…unless, that is, it’s defined up front as being a “fund raiser”.  So leave it to the Bengals to throw a party and ask the people for $10 (Are you ready for this?)…to cover the cost of the party.  They did mention charities, but none specifically.

I’ve thrown a few wing-dings in my time.  I never asked anyone for cash for the cashews.  Never soaked anyone a cover charge for the Coors Light.  Never tried to convince anyone that the ‘burgers were a bargain…at any price.

This is what Bengals spokesman Jeff Berding was doing Tuesday when he offered that even though it’s the NFL it’s still “really expensive” to provide 1) a band, 2) quality fireworks, and 3) security (?) for an event like an NFL  pep rally.

Truly, Berding and the Bengals miss the point.  You don’t need a band, fireworks and heightened security for training camp gawkers.  I’ve been there and I’ve seen training camps.  People don’t need sizzle, they just want to see the steak…proximity to the players, an autograph, a picture with Andy Dalton or A.J. Green to post on Facebook.  There’s nothing expensive about that.  Nor, from my experience, is there a security risk.  Most NFL players can take care of themselves in the face of a persistent, or precocious, fan.

It makes you wonder when you read the headlines…if anyone ever reads between the lines?  Does anyone ever get it…that there’s no end to greed, or to the extent that some will stoop to fleece the public. 

And for the sake of just pure human etiquette don’t you wonder…in an era where we at last understand that the best things in life really aren’t free…if there’s any way that “sports” and “CLASS” can mix, or be in the same building at the same time, anymore?

Outside of being nickeled and dimed, it’s the little things that constantly irritate you.  The rudeness of ballpark and stadium personnel hired as ushers.  The “Redcoats” at Ohio Stadium whose commitment to the duty…who check your ticket stub every time you go to the head…is so over the top you wonder if they don’t carry a paperback copy of The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich in their pocket.  I’m shocked they don’t carry cattle prods and tasers.

It’s going to a major league baseball game and watching the “security” people come out between innings and stand on the field to “glare” into the stands, assumedly looking for an Al-Quaida operative…someone wearing a hat backwards, or a nine-year-old with ants in his pants.

It’s never making the post-season while raising ticket prices for the coming season, year after year.  Here, just eat it because we’re the NFL.  One writer in Cincinnati said it best this week when he compared the Bengals’ attitude towards fans as  “treating them like chewing gum on the soles of their wingtips.”

It’s a lot of things, really, that make me wonder why anyone is a fan of sports beyond the preps.  That constant arrogant reminder that we’re “professional”, exclusive, and untouchable…a class above you or anyone else who scrimps and saves a week’s wages just to see a football game on Sunday.

I guess a pep rally is a good place to start, but it’s by no means the finish.  Credit the Bengals for cutting ticket prices this year, but it took a half-empty stadium to do it.  And, there should be a sobriety test for people entering the stadium, too.  I’m tired of hearing people tell about getting puked on by drunks in the row behind them.

Columnist Paul Daugherty has reminded forever that the Bengals “bludgeon people into believing that crumbs constitute dinner”.  That might be true, but they by no means have the market cornered.  And sadly, that message is being sent down the line, to each preceding level of sports.

It’s true, $10 isn’t going to make or break anyone who can afford the time, gas, and pride to say they go and hang out near professional athletes.  No, it’s principle of the thing, kinda’ like the Bengals since August 5th, 1991…the day Paul Brown died.

It’s about how one party treats another party, even for the sake of a party.  If you want to show us your loyalty, first show us your money.  If you want to have fun, remember…it’s the NFL (the No Fun League).  They should call it the NFF (Not For Free).

And please…no chewing gum!