Bengals fans from the ground floor: Area brothers taking trip to Super Bowl

John Kavanaugh, left and his brother Tom, are lifelong Bengal fans, they are traveling to California to watch the Bengals take on the Rams. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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John Kavanaugh, left and his brother Tom, are lifelong Bengal fans, they are traveling to California to watch the Bengals take on the Rams. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

John and Tom Kavanaugh got in on the ground floor of being Bengals fans.

Their parents bought season tickets when the franchise played its first season in 1968, taking John Kavanaugh, the then 8-year-old, to the first ever Bengals pre-season game at Nippert Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs and letting him paint his room “Bengal orange.”

Having the team just days from its third-ever Super Bowl and garnering favorable press nationwide is “very exciting,” said John Kavanaugh, who lives in Washington Twp.

“When you’re a fan for that long, there’s an emotional component to it,” he said. “To see the lead stories and everybody talking about the Bengals and what an exciting team they are, they’ve got a good chemistry and confidence, it’s just fun to see that recognition and respect when it hadn’t been there for a lot of years.”

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The Kavanaugh family has held onto its season tickets over the years, with John’s older brother Tom taking them over for their father about 25 years ago, then splitting them for the majority of the past decade.

The Kavanaughs have a connection to the Bengals’ opponent in the Super Bowl.

Tom Kavanaugh was one of the first University of Dayton football players recruited by John McVay, the grandfather of Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. He was a starting center for the Flyers football team in the 1960s.

Early years

John Kavanaugh, the father of former UD basketball player Matt Kavanaugh, said he remembers how good the Bengals team was early on, winning the division in its third year in the league and making the playoffs several times in the 1970s. Then Cincinnati went from being good for a sizeable part of the 1980s only to fade away in the “lean years” of the 1990s and early 2000s.

“We’d go down to games ... at the end of the year to watch them get their third or fourth win,” John Kavanaugh said. “Those were the lean years, so now, to have them on top of the division and on the rise with a group of young players, that’s exciting because, we’ll take one year at a time, but it seems like they’re poised for success for a number of years going forward.”

John Kavanaugh said he celebrated the team winning the AFC Championship Game with high-fives between he and his wife and his oldest son, Alan, then contacted his out-of-town children via video chat. The next morning, he and his brother received confirmation that they were selected in the lottery to purchase tickets for Super Bowl LVI.

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This won’t be the first playoff game John Kavanaugh has attended. He was at the “Freezer Bowl” in January 1982, when the Bengals beat the San Diego Chargers in a game with a kickoff temperature of nine degrees below zero and a minus 59 degree wind chill. He also attended the AFC Championship game against the Buffalo Bills in January 1989.

John Kavanaugh’s son, Alan, was born nine days before the Bengals went to the Super Bowl that year against the San Francisco 49ers “so I had more important things to do,” he said.

“I didn’t know if I’d get my chance to see the Bengals in the Super Bowl again, so I’m really excited about it,” Kavanaugh said.

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Name: John Kavanaugh

Resides in: Washington Twp.

Favorite Bengals moment (before this season): “The Freezer Bowl in 1982. I went with three of my brothers. That put (the Bengals) to their first Super Bowl. It was an epically cold day, but that was pretty cool.”

Favorite moment this season: “Watching them win the division against the Chiefs with my oldest son, Alan.”

Favorite Bengals player: “For years and years I always said (wide receiver) Isaac Curtis, but I think you can count me in the Joe Burrow column right now.”

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