Despite Super Bowl loss, local Bengals fans ‘can’t wait to see what comes next’

Fans hope young core of team can produce multi-year run of success

Whether they were in the stands of SoFi Stadium in California or the comfort of their homes, area Bengals fans are disappointed in the team’s loss of Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams, but upbeat and optimistic about its future.

Steve and Suzanne Millard, of Washington Twp., season ticket holders for 30 years, attended the Super Bowl and said they are “extremely excited” to see the team return to the gridiron this upcoming season.

“It’s a young, talented nucleus,” Steve Millard said. “They have a window right now to establish a run similar to Kansas City.”

He said he cannot wait to get back to Paul Brown Stadium and that “the new season can’t come soon enough.”

“(There’s) lots of work to do in the offseason, but we are oh-so-close” to a Super Bowl victory, Millard said

Numerous fans, including the Millards and Rachella Whitt, of Springfield, said the Bengals must strengthen their offensive line this offseason to give quarterback Joe Burrow more protection, especially after he was sacked 19 times this postseason, the most for any quarterback in the playoffs ever.

“Joe Burrow ... does amazing things with no time, but if he had some time, he’d be really dangerous,” Whitt said and laughed.

Whitt, 48, a fan for the past 31 years, said the Bengals’ Super Bowl loss was “disappointing and heartbreaking.” But it did not elicit the same sadness she felt at the end of previous seasons, since her father started taking her to games in her teens.

“We’re a young team and I think they’re going big places,” Whitt said. “Obviously, they already did. I honestly didn’t expect (them) to go all the way to the Super Bowl this year. I’m super hopeful and proud.”

Whitt, who started taking 22-year-old son Marcus to games more than 10 years ago, said she is happy she finally purchased season tickets for the two of them for the upcoming season.

“I think I got them at the perfect time because we’re gonna be going to a lot of playoff games in the near future,” she said.

Steve Milano II, 52, of Centerville, said he’s been a fan of the “hometown underdog” Bengals since the late 1970s, buying team merchandise to show his love of the team.

He said he is “super excited” to watch the games and support the team with even more intensity than in decades past.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m about a 10″ in terms of excitement, he said. “I think we have our ducks in a row and the hard part is over, which is breaking the curse.”

Milano said he’ll continue to watch all Bengals games, but with “a better outlook” with Cincinnati in “a better position than they’ve ever been in.”

“This time, instead of having a disappointing season hoping for next year, (they) had that season we were all proud of and I thank the Bengals for that,” Milano said. “And now, hopefully, we’re gonna have some competitive years up ahead of us. We’ll see how this run goes.”

John Kavanaugh, of Washington Twp., a Bengals fan since attending the team’s first pre-season game in 1968 when he was 8 years old, said attending the Super Bowl LVI was “quite a memorable experience.”

Calling the Bengals a “young, exciting team” that have him thrilled for next season, he said he hopes the team will “keep the chemistry they have built” and retain key players like Jessie Bates.

The team’s success this year likely will affect the amount of exposure they receive on the national stage next season, he said.

“I expect Bengals fans will have to stay up later to watch them next year (as there will be) probably a few more prime time games” in store for the team, Kavanaugh said.

Elizabeth Powers, who started rooting for the Bengals in 1981 and never stopped, said the Super Bowl’s outcome left her “sad and disappointed” for the team and its fans.

“I did cry, just a little bit,” Powers said.

But the 56-year-old New Lebanon resident said next season will be different.

“I feel very hopeful,” she said. “I think they have a chance to do it again, I really do. A few more plays last night could have changed the game completely. It’s just amazing how close it was, really.”

Her message to Bengals fans who might feel let down at having the team take it this far and not seal the deal with bringing back the Lombardi Trophy to Cincinnati?

“Keep your chin up and keep on rootin’ because our day’s comin’, ” Powers said.

Millard, 59, said that “bottom line, no one expected this team to make the playoffs, let alone get on a hot streak and make a run at winning the Super Bowl.”

“While we are all disappointed, there’s so much to be proud of,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic, unexpected season and I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

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