Bengals fans pumped to be one victory away from the Super Bowl

Cincinnati Bengals fans are ecstatic that the team has beaten the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans and is headed to its first AFC Championship game in more than three decades this Sunday.

Watching the much-anticipated championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs will be Melissa Young, 32, of Piqua. A fan of the team since watching the team with her father and brothers when she was a little girl, Young now enjoys watching games with her husband, Brandon, and their two daughters, Lily, 9, and Ivy, 2.

She said the family’s fervor for the Bengals, which includes texting her brother during the game and talking about it during half time, has turned Ivy into a fellow super fan.

“I put a Bengals shirt on her for the Raiders game and she refuses to take it off,” Young said. “She’ll remove it only to bathe, but the Bengals shirt must go back on.”

Young said she held Ivy’s hand during rookie Evan McPherson’s game-winning field goal kick Jan. 22 “and then melted to the floor.”

ExploreWhat was going on last time the Bengals were in the AFC Championship Game

The Rev. Ken Winter, a Cedarville resident and pastor of Heritage Fellowship Church in Springfield, started loving the Bengals in 1986 while growing up in the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming, until they broke his heart in the January 1989 Super Bowl loss to the 49ers.

Winter, 42, said his then-9-year-old self cursed the team that next season and the franchise didn’t win anything for more than three decades other than a 1991 playoff game.

He said his family, which had moved to Colorado the same month the Bengals lost to the 49ers, moved back to Ohio in 2007. He started watching the team “a little bit” but couldn’t bring himself to root for them.

That all changed when the team drafted Joe Burrow. Winter started to watch games more often and found himself, especially this season, a devoted fan once again.

“When they won the first playoff game (against the Raiders), I said ‘If they win again, I’m going to wear my Joe Burrow jersey.”

They did win again, besting the Tennessee Titans Jan. 22, and with that Winter said “my 9-year-old self came back to life with tears of memories.”

His belief in the team completely renewed, Winter ascended to the pulpit Jan. 23 garbed in the vestments of the black-and-orange faithful and prophesied not just another Bengals vs. 49ers rematch, but Cincinnati winning the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

ExploreLooking back: How the Bengals’ last AFC Championship Game compared to this one

The sermon drew “a lot of hooting and hollering” from congregants.

Heather Boyer, 41, of Beavercreek said her memories of watching the Bengals play stretch back to her childhood of viewing the games with my father, brother and grandfather.

“I’ve followed them through all of the ups and downs over 35 years,” Boyer said. “I even had a Cincinnati Bengals youth jersey/uniform and helmet set that I wore all the time, especially when we played backyard football. I loved it.”

She said a part of her was “in disbelief” when the Bengals beat the Titans simply because Cincinnati was the underdog.

“But a bigger part of me saw the field goals ‘Money Mac’ was kicking and I somehow thought it might come down to his leg at the end,” Boyer said. “I’m happy for the team, coaches and the city of Cincy. They all deserve it.”

She said she’ll be watching the game this Sunday at the house with some friends:

“Unfortunately, I don’t live near my dad and brother anymore, so I can’t watch it with them,” Boyer said. “But we send text messages during the games. It’s been a fun season to watch them play.”

ExploreLooking back: How the Bengals’ last AFC Championship Game compared to this one

Watching the team win this season has been “an amazing time” for the entire family and that she “definitely kept getting chills” that the team would continue to be throughout the post-season, she said.

“We definitely felt that this was the year that we were going to,” she said. “(Beating) the Titans was just a complete bonus game. We are over the moon just (because) of (the team having) broken the drought.”

The Bengals having a quarterback like Burrow is “everything,” Young said.

“You can just feel it,” she said. “He has his team and the fans. He’s got Louisiana. He’s got Ohio, I mean, he’s getting everyone following and you can tell that he’s ... he’s Joey B. He’s so cool.”

Winter said

even if the Bengals don’t emerge triumphant in February, he’ll remain a fan.

“I’m in,” he said. “It certainly would be sad to see them lose, but I’m confident. I feel like this is a magical season.”

At TCI Sports Fan collectibles, which was founded in West Carrollton in 1988 and moved to Dayton in 1999, sales for Bengals trading cards are “a lot different from other years,” according to owner Terry Carter, 55.

“This is the first time in a long time in a long time where we’ve had people be interested the entire season in Bengal collectibles,” he said. “Usually, by the halfway point of the season, everybody starts dropping off because you can tell it’s not going to be a winning season.”

The business sold out of Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase cards last week ahead of second playoff game, with the former commanding anywhere from $10 to $250 a card and the latter fetching between $5 and $100 a card.

Other cards doing a brisk business at the shop include those for Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon.

Bengals fans entering the store have been more upbeat this year.

“(They’re saying) ‘we’re actually buying tickets for games at the end of the season and actually getting to buy tickets for a playoff game!’” he said. “It’s been a whole different attitude.”

A long line formed at Ashley’s Pastry Shop in Oakwood Friday afternoon as people purchased Bengals-inspired cookies, cupcakes and cakes.

“It’s been crazy. People love the Bengals and they love the treats we’ve been making,” said Theresa Hammons, owner of Ashley’s Pastry Shop.

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