Back in the Jungle

by Matt James

This past Sunday afternoon I got to attend the Cincinnati Bengals-Minnesota Vikings football game at Paul Brown Stadium with several other folks from Christ’s Church—including my wife, my mom and her husband, several of my best friends on staff, and a couple of our awesome elders from church. There was an air of excitement in the stadium. After the NFL season that was 2020, in which fans couldn’t attend games in person, the fans were absolutely ecstatic to be there and see our #1 draft pick, quarterback Joe Burrow, back in action. I have been to many Bengals games over the years (and have suffered through several seasons), but the energy this past Sunday was truly electric.

People have asked me what I think our prospects are for getting to the NFL playoffs this season, and honestly, I have moderate expectations this year. It is just Burrow’s second year, and last year he suffered a season-ending injury. My hope is that they could be a .500 team—that is winning as many games as they lose—and maybe sneak a wild card spot at the end of the regular season. I am hoping that Burrow and other key players will stay healthy all season long. If they do, you never know what might happen! (Spoken like a true Bengal fan!)

 

A Triple-Braided Cord

The day the Bengals released their new jerseys in the off-season, my buddies on staff at church, Jeremy and Cody and I, headed down to Paul Brown Stadium during our lunch hour and each of us bought a Burrow jersey! That was early in the summer, and the anticipation of the season grew until last week, when their season kicked off. It was on that day that the three of us decided to get tickets for the home opener together—and I am so glad that we did! There’s nothing like going to the game with your bros. Whether it’s the Bengals, watching FC Cincy soccer, or the Reds, we have a blast together, and it has strengthened our friendship getting to experience these sporting events together.

I love what King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10, 12:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. . . . A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (NLT).

People joke about lifetime Bengals fans, because they know that we have been through so much disappointment and pain over the years. I am thirty years old and I have never seen the Bengals win a playoff game in my lifetime. The fact that there were so many fans at Paul Brown Stadium last Sunday speaks to the dedication of many through the years, and the hope for a good season this year. And, let’s be honest—we need each other for moral support, just as Solomon says.

 

No Matter the Stripe, We Are United

We use the phrase “Community Begins Here” a lot at Christ’s Church. When you attend a Bengals game, you can feel the community downtown before, during, and after a game. Last Sunday was special because, believe it or not, whether you were wearing orange and black stripes, or purple and gold as a Vikings fan, there were multiple moments when everyone in the stadium was in community together. After we experienced an absolutely crazy year and a half with shutdowns, lockdowns, and quarantines, people were excited to be in a stadium cheering on their respective teams. Additionally, the game took place the day after the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, and we spent significant time honoring those who lost their lives that day. In those moments, it didn’t really matter who we were rooting for. We were just happy to be there in person and thankful to be Americans. It was an awesome feeling.

In my opinion, the Bengals organization has been putting in a lot of extra work in the off-season to make the in-person experience so much better. They talked about how to improve the pregame activities, including the moment the team runs on the field. When the Bengals’ starting lineup was announced, the stadium went nuts! Not only was it so awesome to be there for the beginning of the game, the finish was fantastic. After four quarters of play the Bengals and Vikings were tied at 24-24. Then in overtime, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Cincinnati linebacker Germaine Pratt. This set up the game-winning score, a 33-yard field goal by a Bengal rookie, kicker Evan McPherson, as time expired. Bengals 27, Vikings 24. WHO DEY!

 

Matt James is a staff member, serving on the weekend experience and communication teams at Christ’s Church. He and his wife Haylee love being parents to their son Asa.

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