Somebody or something always gets hurt when a whole group is graded from best to worst. If there is a first place, there is always a last place.
Such was the case for that Cincinnati Bengal recently.
Boston Globe’s Ben Volin has ranked all 30 NFL cities from best to worst as an overall fan destination. If experience is most of all being qualified, then Volin can certainly speak on the subject. In over a dozen years covering the NFL, he said he attended games in every city except Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
He’s seen a Bengals home game with his own eyes, however, and his personal experience at Queen City apparently hasn’t been a great one. Cincinnati came last in its ranking.
30. Cincinnati: The ribs at the Montgomery Inn are great. And you can stay across the river in Covington to cross Kentucky off your list of states visited. But downtown Cincinnati isn’t busy, the stadium has no space, and Bengals games are rarely exciting.
This was published about a week ago at the time of this writing and has already reached many angry Bengals fans and local Cincinnatians. Nobody likes to be said to be the worst. You can phrase it whatever you want, but 30th out of 30 is just the last place.
It even reached the Bengals’ content director, Seth Tanner:
Boy, this item isn’t going to age well in September. In 2021, Bengals fans will get something they’ve never seen before. I can promise you that.https://t.co/sFaU1UQD2F
– Seth Tanner (@MaximusSethamus) July 12, 2021
That, too, is in the nature of rankings: there has to be a low when there is a top.
This list is based on Volin’s personal experience; it is inherently subjective. Nothing we can write can change its original perception of Cincinnati as a place to watch an NFL game. And who is someone who claims that their own exposure to the city is invalid? If Cincinnati had been given a top 10 list instead, the response would have been very different.
No, changing Volin’s mind or saying that his time in Cincinnati was better than he remembered is not the aim here. To be honest, there are clues as to why the city was rated so low.
In Downtown Cincinnati there are no ocean beaches like Miami or Los Angeles. The further you go from the waters of the Ohio River, the better for your personal health. It’s not a busy metropolis like New York or Chicago. It is actually only the third largest city in Ohio. And the Paul Brown Stadium is not a historic football landmark like Lambeau Field in Green Bay or an innovative and colossal building like the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
In terms of NFL cities, Cincinnati is a modest change of pace when compared to better-known metropolitan areas. But that’s not bad at all.
Paul Brown Stadium is located in the southwest corner of downtown Cincinnati. The city’s most popular hotels are right next door or across the river in Covington. For most of the out-of-town fans heading to Cincy for the first time, do you guess what they are not facing? Traffic on the way to the game. Strolling downtown, Covington, and Newport is a pleasant experience in itself.
The cost of the hotel room could honestly be more expensive than the cost of attending the game. Per statista.com, the average ticket price for a Bengals game in 2020 was just under $ 80. Only the Los Angeles chargers and Buffalo bills had lower average prices. Entering the stadium is not a problem for your wallet.
I don’t know how anyone can say that Bengals games are rarely exciting when an offense built around Ryan Finley’s legs caused a two-point surprise in Monday Night Football less than a year ago, but I digress .
However, Volin encounters a few hard truths. The traditional tailgating / parking scene outside of PBS looks very different compared to the first 10 years of the stadium’s existence. With The Banks developing between the Bengals and Reds stadiums along the river, Lot D east of PBS has decreased in size dramatically. Business development has almost completely overtaken this area, but the now vibrant bar and restaurant scene that has replaced it offers plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy the pre- and post-game experience.
When it comes to activities in or around the city, options are a bit limited compared to other NFL destinations. There are no national forests to explore and the nightlife isn’t as wild as in South Beach or Vegas. Cincinnati can’t compete in this arena, but neither can most cities.
The fan vibe is something that I don’t think Volin fully counted into his ranking, but it’s positive for the Bengals and Cincinnati as a whole. Sports fans in this city haven’t seen any professional postseason success in over 25 years. Bengals fans have specifically waited over 30 years. Needless to say, they know the hardship better than most, and fans of other teams may appreciate that. There is no sense of arrogance you get when you look at a lot of cowboys or Patriots fans. As long as you don’t wear one Steelers Dress up and shut up, you are damn close to guaranteed civilian behavior and hospitality from local Bengals fans.
And the food. My god the food. Volin hit an important beat with Montgomery Inn BBQ, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. You can fill a three-day trip to Cincinnati with nothing but original local food and be completely satisfied. Pizza, burgers, beer, ice cream and Greek meat sauce that we call chili. Your taste buds will want to return soon enough.
I’ve lived in Cincinnati all my life. I cannot imagine living anywhere else or too far away. I enjoy traveling as much as the others and I realize that other cities in America have more to offer in certain areas.
I can’t promise you will like it here as much as I do, but I tell you, you will probably like it more than Volin.