Dear Cincinnati Bengals,
I am not a fan of yours, per se. I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the phrase “Who Dey,” I’ve been on the outskirts of Cincinnati only once, and never had Skyline Chili. I can’t tell you any of your important facts, I can only name three non-Paul Brown coaches, and maybe three non-Carson Palmer quarterbacks you’ve had.
But I did have a uniform of yours when I was a kid.
I’m a Miami Dolphins fan. I always have been, and always will be. Sure, there are years I will pull for a team once the Dolphins were eliminated from the playoffs (usually around Week Three), but I am a Dolphins fan, for better or worse.
We all have reasons for pulling for the teams we do. In my case, I read a bunch of books in our elementary school library that dealt with the early Super Bowls, which the Dolphins were in and won. I went to the beach often as a kid, so I actually saw Dolphins, whereas I never saw a Packer, 49er, or Raider, so I thought that was cool.
But you want to know what the clincher was, Bengals? The Dolphins’ uniforms and colors. They were perfect. The orange and aqua and white blended together in perfect symphony. Simplistic stripes of orange and aqua on white pants, a sweet aqua jersey with white numbers outlined in orange was a unique look in a world of blues, reds, blacks, silvers, greens, and yellows. The white helmet, aqua facemask and perfectly-spaced orange and aqua stripes spoke to me. It was the perfect uniform for the perfectly named team.
And the logo…my, the logo. Again, another example of radical simplicity. An aqua Dolphin in a Miami football helmet (meta, anyone?) jumping through an orange abstract sunburst? It was too much. I was sold.
(A side note: I will explain in another space why the Dolphins do not need to wear their ’66 throwbacks as their full-time uniforms, and I think most fans will agree. More to come.)
But you know who also stood out to me, Bengals? You guys! Because, in my estimation, you guys had the second-coolest uniforms in the NFL when I started paying attention around ’95.
It was because you guys embraced that radical simplicity I talked about earlier. Sure, I know the early years were a direct lift of the Browns, but when you stepped out in 1981, you guys created magic. Black uniforms with white pants were a nice step, but TIGER STRIPES where the normal pants and uniform stripes are placed? Genius.
The kicker though, was your helmet. Tiger stripes on the helmet?? It was so over-the-top and completely different from any other team in the league, and given that orange is one of my favorite colors, it totally appealed to an 8-year-old me.
So when I saw a pre-loved Cincinnati Bengals home jersey at a yard sale, I had to get it. I have no idea who the player was; I’m almost positive it was a lineman and was No. 78, but it didn’t matter. I had a Dolphins jersey, and now, I had one of the coolest jerseys I had ever seen. And I want to say I played a few sandlot games in it before it moved on in a yard sale of our own.
So when you guys changed up your uniform in 2004, I was beyond disappointed. As the great The Message Pitch consultant Jordan always says, “Hey, if you’re garbage, you might as well look good doing it.” And now, the Bengals played like garbage…and looked like a really bad high school team in the uniform department. White side patches, bad font, drop shadowas, an orange jersey….I hated it. The cool factor was gone.
And like a lot of things, Bengals, you guys stuck with it. For years. Way longer than you should. But now, it’s a new era in your franchise’s history. You’ve got an exciting young star at quarterback, a coach with a lot of promise, and you recognize it’s time for a change. And I’m proud of you for that. I’m glad you’ve decided to change up the uni’s and leave that monstrosity in the past.
But folks, you’ve got to do this right. You have to. I’m begging you. Your rivals in Cleveland got it right. The Chargers got it right. You can combine the past and the future and make an incredible uniform. Radical change is not always a good thing. I still do not own a single piece of apparel with the Dolphins new logo on it because I can’t stand the way it looks.
Please, please do not pull a Falcons. Do not copy the Rams. They took great, timeless looks, and destroyed them. Do not do this. Instead, follow this genius and his inspired vision. This is the road you need to go down. Embrace your past for a refreshed look that nods to the past and takes on the future. I can’t take another botched uniform redesign, and not one from a team that was groundbreaking and cool as yours once was.
I’ve seen the supposed “leaked” jersey. It’s not bad; it’s a good first step. But I think something more in line with your 80s uniforms and go with a block jersey number, and I think you’ll be headed in the right direction. Please.
If it makes you feel better, one of the teams that changed their uniforms to a retro-modern look just had about the best season you could have. Just think about it, and make the right call.