By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports
In north Louisiana, the Cincinnati Bengals have historically been as relevant as a snow plow.
But things have heated up.
Black and orange is the new purple and gold.
Because of the dynamic duo of quarterback Joe Burrow and receiver extraordinaire Ja’Marr Chase, it’s a different ballgame. The stars of LSU’s 2019 undefeated national champions became teammates again this fall in Cincinnati, and ongoing aftershocks have reached from Ohio’s steel mills all the way to north Louisiana’s piney hills.
The No. 4-seed Bengals, 10-7, play No. 1-seed Tennessee Saturday at 3:30 pm for a spot in the AFC title game. Cincy won the AFC North and beat Las Vegas, 26-19, in Saturday’s wild-card game, Cincinnati’s first playoff win since a 41-14 beat down of the Houston Oilers January 6, 1991, 30-plus years ago.
Perspective: That was in another millennium. There are no Oilers anymore. No player in the league then is in the league now.
But Haughton’s George Fauber is. He’s lived it all. He grew up in West Virginia and adopted the next-door Bengals, for better or for worse. Air Force son who moved to town in 1972. Four-years of baseball at Centenary. Lifelong Bengals lover. Dude who knows ball.
“Me and my dad were the only Bengals fans in the area, I’m pretty sure,” he said. “We still don’t have much of an appeal. Now, it’s the LSU connection. Fans here are more excited about Burrow and Chase than the Bengals. Which doesn’t hurt my feelings at all. I just want to keep playing. Used to I’d wear my Bengals sweats and people would say, ‘You’re a Bengals fan?’ I’d tell them I just got it free at Goodwill.”
Fauber’s son Trey, 31 and a basketball guy, asked his dad if he’d watch the grandkids Saturday afternoon. In this case, the apple fell far from the tree. Way far.
“Son, you don’t realize history is being made?” dad Fauber said. “I can’t miss this. It’s something that’s never been done in your lifetime. The Bengals trying to win another playoff game.”
In NFL fandom, water is thicker than blood.
“I feel pretty confident,” Fauber said. “Titans favored by 3-and-a-half, but that’s for home field advantage. Makes me feel we’re pretty equal.”
In these parts, Fauber’s the exception. Fauber’s old Cincinnati money. Shreveport’s Bill Pou is new Cincinnati money. Fauber’s Rockefeller; Pou and all the newborn Cincy fans are Elvis in 1962. An LSU fan all of his 60-plus years, Pou couldn’t name one player on Cincinnati’s 2018 roster — nothing to be ashamed of; after several playoff years, the organization had become unwatchable.
But now, Pou is as Cincinnati as he is Baton Rouge. He is a blueprint for today’s Bayou Bengals/Ohio Bengals fan.
“I get as nervous during Bengals games as I do during LSU games,” he said. “It’s fun. You feel like with Burrow, you’ve got the best player, so you’ve always got a chance to win.”
Pou’s son Rex was a Bayou Bengals fan from the start. He got a dog six years ago and named him Leonard Fournette, after LSU’s wonderful running back, now with Tampa Bay. Four months ago, he adopted a rescue pup. Named him Burrow.
“I’m sick in the head,” Rex said. “But I love him to death. We watch the dadgum Bengals every Sunday. My wife Bailey loves Joe just as much as I do — only for different reasons.”
Photo: courtesy of LSU ATHLETICS