I am not certain if you remember me, however I feel compelled to write you because you seem to be the most accessible person in the Bengals organization to our company. I want to thank you again for the tour of the stadium earlier this year as well as your hospitality. I believe the Bengals are fortunate to have a public relations person such as yourself. We love our seats in the new
stadium, and I have to admit that they are first rate. I am writing this letter because I know you will listen, and hopefully convey my and my family's feelings to the rest of the Bengals organization.
I still remember the day in 1997 when the sales tax vote came up on the ballot. I left work at 7:00pm to catch the polls before they closed at 7:30pm. All day I encouraged my friends and employees to make sure that they voted yes for the sales tax increase to build "our" Reds and "our" Bengals new facilities on the river front. Many of them scoffed, saying that it was wrong to use taxpayer money to supplement private business, and to which some extent I agreed. Many of them were die hard sports fans and had already voted yes for fear of losing professional sports in this town. I however felt that I had a unique perspective in voting yes on the issue. To me the Bengals and the Reds, as do all sports franchises, represent their city to the outside world. Its a way of going around this country and striking up conversations at a local bar or restaurant. And more important, it is a way of attracting potential employees and customers to our market. It is why people choose Cincinnati, instead of Dayton, Akron, or Toledo (no disrespect intended toward those cities). Being part of a family business, much like the Bengals, this is why I voted yes on the stadium issue. I voted for the city of Cincinnati to remain a growing major market city.
I still remember the day in 1998, when it was time to commit to Bengals tickets in PBS two years prior to the opening. The question wasn't whether or not we were going to buy tickets, but rather how many and where. We have been Bengals season ticket holder since day one of the organization, and as you know are very loyal fans. In fact my grandfather, who played for the University of Cincinnati and the Chicago Bears, was a friend of Paul Brown Sr., who originally encouraged us to buy Bengals season tickets. Anyway, being the recently named treasurer and controller of the family business, I sat with my father and discussed how much we wanted to spend. Originally we held about 12 seats in Cinergy field, which came to a yearly expense of about $6,000, not including concessions or parking. Despite their losing ways in the 90's, we decided to go all out, and "invest" in the Bengals. Currently our company holds 40 seats in PBS, the majority of which are club, and our employees and business partners hold 32 seats which they obtained through our ticket number to get better seating. A total of 72 seats in PBS, the majority of which are club, that our family business "invested" 2 years prior to opening of the facility. To further show our willingness to "invest" in the Bengals we signed up for those tickets not for the 3 or 5 year term, but the maximum 10 year agreement. Now you and I know how much these seats are per game, including the COA and the 25% security deposits; to spare the detail lets just say the Bengals now cost our company $6,000 a month, not $6,000 a year for seating. Moreover we have an "asset" on the books to the tune of $30,000 for COA's and security deposits. We "invested" in the Bengals not because we are bad business people (we've been in business over 60 yrs in Cincinnati); we "invested" in the Bengals because we felt the organization would take the necessary steps to put a winning and competitive product on the field, having learned their lesson in the past decade. We felt they would put a product on the field that the city of Cincinnati could be proud of and that would encourage people to come to this city (other than Browns and Steelers fans!!!!).
To go even further Jeff, I am sure that you are aware that our company throughout the 80's, 90's and even now continues to advertise with the Bengals. Our business appears in every Bengals Gameday Program. Boomer Esiason has long been an excellent spokesperson for our business. We sponsor the autograph tent. We spend around $20,000 a year advertising with the Bengals, over and above the cost of our seats. We are not a large corporation such as Firstar Bank or Procter & Gamble, so spending this amount of money on advertising and seats weighs heavy on our minds as we look at our bottom line.
Lets move to the present. My Bengals experience in the year 2000 has been less than encouraging. What I expected to be a season of competitive football and a team that would finish 5-11, has resulted in a head coach jumping ship and what looks to be 0-16 (2-14 if we are lucky - but those end of season wins usually don't mean anything). I have to say that our "investment" in the Bengals doesn't look too promising now or in the future. I have to say that this is my first failure as treasurer and controller of my family business by allowing my father and uncle to "invest" so much in the Bengals. Why do I say this? Every week we have 40 seats in PBS that employees laugh at when I offer the tickets to them. On a recent trip to San Francisco at a Giants game in PAC-Bell Park, I was ridiculed for wearing a Bengals ball cap by someone I didn't even know. When I went to see UC play up at Wisconsin, a Cincinnati man was heckled the entire game because of his Bengals jacket. During the Colts vs. Jaguars Monday Night Football Game, Dennis Miller made the comment, "There is a pee wee game at half-time, and I think one of those teams is the Bengals." To the rest of the country we have become a joke. The reason why I voted for the stadium and invested in the Bengals, to attract people to our market, has in fact done the opposite. I must say that I feel quite foolish.
What I ask as a Bengals fan and investor is for the organization to look back on the past ten years. I want them to ask themselves, what hasn't changed? We have had different head coaching (I am cautious to use the term "coaching"). We have had our share of number one draft picks, the majority of which have resulted in almost nothing. We have changed quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and defenses, none of which have cured the chronic losing. We have moved into a $500 million stadium. (I realize this is the first year for PBS, but your organization knew it was coming since 1997). I believe if Mr. Brown looks in the mirror he will find the answer. This team lacks true leadership, management, and scouting from top to bottom. This team lacks the winning spirit in once had in the 70's and 80's. That's just my opinion (and the opinion of many others), and a I realize the worth of an opinion.
What's worth more than an opinion is actions, and here will be my actions for the rest of the season. Yes, I will continue to go to every Bengals game for the remainder of the year. I enjoy being with my family and friends on Sunday afternoons, which to me, over and above the football, is really what life is about. With the exception of the football, everything else is great on those days. Besides, this season has been paid for, and I do not believe in wasting money. My brother and I own a Bengals minibus
and with your help, I hope to get down to a practice sometime and have the players sign it. It will be a chance to let them know there are still fans out there. I will continue to cheer for the players, because, despite their lack of leadership (and talent for some), I believe they are giving 100% and want to win. I only pray that the losing doesn't destroy their competitive spirit and belief that they can win here in Cincinnati. I will no longer buy concessions, as my own mini-protest this year. Therefore, I will have to get my fill of beer and food before the games. Deep down inside I want this team to win - I hope the Bengals go 11-5 from this point, and I can forget about this letter. However, if 0-16 is what happens this year, it is unlikely you will see a check from us next year. At least you will not see a check signed by me; I cannot in good conscience do that to our family business. I will leave that choice to my uncle and father.
As for your request on the purchase of open luxury boxes, I think you will understand that our company will decline at this time. As you can see I am quite passionate about my team and my city . I truly believed you the day we stood out on the walkway of the half built PBS when you said "you are going to start seeing some changes to this team" Well, I'm still waiting. I have to say the businesses and the people of Cincinnati have certainly done their part.
One last thing I would like to share with you that is a special concern to me. My first experience of the NFL was as a 2nd grade kid sitting on my fathers bed with my older brother and sister. We were watching the first 1981 Bengals Super bowl. I remember the thrill of watching that game, jumping up and down the bed as we moved the ball. And I also remember the disappointment of the loss, which I believe is quite remarkable for a kid that age. From that moment on, I was a Bengal fan. I remember the 1985 crushing of the Dallas Cowboys. I remember the attending the 1988 victory over the Bills and again the thrill of that Super bowl that followed. The point is that I have younger siblings and cousins who have no memories of those experiences. To them the Bengals are, and always have been losers. You can ask them if the Bengals won or lost this week and they have no idea, and to tell the truth, they don't care. A generation of die hard fans lost. And to the Bengals a generation of loyal customers lost. This is what I find truly frightening.
I apologize for the length of the letter and wish you the best of luck in finding clients for your remaining luxury boxes. I pray this letter does not fall on deaf ears. I fully intend for you to distribute this letter throughout your organization, as I certainly will to my friends and family.
Who Dey from the NNATI KIDD!!!!
Concerned Cincinnati Businessman