Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, sports, the outdoors, and music; and he has a degree from the school of music at Ohio State University.

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In the hearts of fans, and I dare say a few players, the Bengals have a problem far greater than that of winning football games. They need to win over a few “minds” a long the way.

Well, the draft is over, and according to everything you read…from Marvin Lewis, from Jay Gruden, from Mel Kiper, and yes, even first and second round picks A. J. Green and Andy Dalton…the Bengals got their man (men).

But then…don’t they always say that?

There’s no questioning talent and pedigree.  It is what it is.  It is what we’ve all seen on film.  A.J. Green was one of the two best receivers in the draft and Dalton was the quarterback that led TCU over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.  And nobody saw that coming.

And like other NFL teams Saturday there’s little question that the Bengals helped themselves athletically  in rounds four through seven.  They’re getting a little long in the tooth at some positions, and insurance never hurts in a league with that kind of mortality rate.

But the comments of the fans in the local paper Sunday morning tell a much different story of the Bengals success in terms of improving their human resources.

Because for every quote from Green, Dalton, et.al., there’s a counter quote in the Sunday’s Enquirer from those who have watched too long, seen too much, and have suffered the effects of past and failed promise…David Klingler, Akili Smith, Ka-Jana Carter, Dan Wilkinson, Chris Perry, Levi Jones.  The list goes on and on…of those who came to Cincinnati with all good intent and got “Bengalized”.

To Dalton’s comments that “I just have to come here and work hard, like I’ve done at every step of my career up to now”, one of the unfulfilled “Who Deys” wrote this:  “Text Dalton to A.J. Green…OMG, we’ve been drafted by the Bengals.  This sux!”

Another added:  “What’s the over and under on the number of seasons it takes for Green and Dalton to become “Bengalized?”

And when it was announced Saturday that Andy Dalton would wear number #14 as a Bengal, Ken Anderson’s old number, this came from the back row:  “I have a problem with this. The clueless, arrogant, and evil Mike Clown refuses to honor the Bengal greats of the past. Certainly numbers 14 and 78 should be retired. Where is the Bengal Ring of Honor? Where is the statue of Anthony Munoz at Paul Brown Stinkhole. I’m sure Andy Dalton is a fine young man, but he’s now a Bungle and his impresive streak of winning is over forever. And he’s no Ken Anderson. While we’re insulting Bengal greats by handing out their numbers let’s give Tank Johnson number 78. Shameful Mike Clown!”

So, what does it mean to be “Bengalized?”

Obviously it’s not a matter of pure talent, or the lack thereof.  Carson Palmer, for one, had  talent enough to rise to the ranks of the elite quarterbacks in the league before the knee sent him on his outward course.

Is it coaching?  And can there be that much difference in the strategies and knowledge of what works in the NFL from one staff in Dallas to the next in Arizona…Pittsburgh and Minnesota?  You look at the Bengals’ staff and nearly every one of them have had their successes at other stops along the way.  Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer recognized as two of the best defensive minds in football, Lewis with a Super Bowl ring as a coordinator in Baltimore…and offensively the club has a history of putting points on the board, all the way back to the days of Sam Wyche (the player) and Ken Anderson.

Or is it the individual attitudes of those of which it’s claim that they’ve been “Bengalized?”  Cory Dillon certainly had talent, but became so frustrated as to take off his pads and throw them into the stands…frustrated with losing.

But there were lean years for Anthony Munoz, as well, and he never became a “sideshow”, crying to get out and threatening to retire.  The pride of being recognized as a professional was apparently enough for the likes of Bob Johnson, Mike Reid, Lemar Parrish, and Isaac Curtis.

So then it comes down to the man at the top.  There have been two.  And interesting, the list of “contenteds” listed above all played during the regime of Paul Brown.  The much longer list of malcontents, since 1992, has played for the other…Mike Brown.

It can be said that Paul Brown had success doing things his way because he was Paul Brown.  As president and CEO he directed the club to two Super Bowls…with his players, his coaches, and his ways.

It can also be said that since taking over for his father after his death in 1992, Mike Brown has overseen the worst period of failure on the field and discontent in the locker room in the history of the club.  I also question if PB would have stood by for those hideous uniforms they wear presently, either.

No, there have been no more trips to the Super Bowl.  There is no general manager and the expanded scouting staffs like other NFL teams have.  There is no “Ring Of Honor” in Paul Brown Stadium.  Apparently, there’s no sensitivity for tradition.  Bengal numbers are not retired in salute to past service and commitment.  They’re just handed down to the next generation.

You can make your points…lot of them…that “Bengalization” has come at the hands of Mike Brown, the man who’s made tens of millions, maybe hundreds, while driving to work in an old white Buick. But luck has a lot to do with it, too.  Who at the time could have criticized or questioned the drafting of Ka-Jana Carter, David Pollack, Takeo Spikes, and Chris Perry?  Injury and fate are as much a part of professional football as the stiff white shirts and the regimental ties worn by the men who run it.  So can you blame Mike Brown…really?

Obviously, it’s not all about how much money you have and how much of it you spend…or even having a ring of honor.  In the modern era of football no one has spent more or has a better “ring” than Jerry Jones, and he hasn’t won a Super Bowl in Dallas for 21 years.

Bob Kraft has won in New England…three times…and those who know him talk about him in terms some of which would remind you of Mike Brown.

Ralph Wilson has always owned the Buffalo Bills, and has known the frustration of four losing Super Bowls, but none since 1993.  He calls the shots and he signs the checks…just like Mike Brown.

Bill Bidwell is the man in Arizona…tight-fisted, autocratic, and unchanging in his ways of managing the Cardinals.  They made it to the Super Bowl two years ago and almost won it, amidst cries of the team and its coaches being “Cardinalized”.

So to answer the question…no one knows how long it takes to become “Bengalized”.  No one really knows.  It’s a matter perspective and luck.

And best of…to A. J. Green, Andy Dalton, and the fans who wait, once again,  to say “told you so.”

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