Editor’s note: For the past three years, I’ve asked artists to predict the NFL season for their favorite team. Every year, Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides has been a participant. If we want to roll back the clock even more, the whole “predict the season for your team” idea came from a conversation I had with Andy in 2017. At the time, both of our respective teams were teetering. We were both cautiously optimistic things would turn around. Only one of our teams (his) has gone to the Super Bowl since. Thus, since Andy has been there since day one, I figured we’d open the floor to him about one of the best stories in recent NFL memory: the Cincinnati Bengals.
I still feel like it’s a dream. Like I was two weeks old, a little less than two weeks old, the last time they won a playoff game.
The first season I was really consciously cheering for them (rather than just like, “Oh, this is the team we cheer for”) was that Ki-Jana Carter season . I was a very little kid, but I remember that we would always go to my grandpa’s house to watch the preseason games, and all the hype around him and all the excitement about something good might happen. At that point, I guess I didn’t necessarily realize what I was in for in terms of the other [not so good] moments that would come along.
Being a Bengals fan meant hanging on to single players who were good. Carl Pickens was good, Takeo Spikes was too. You can’t imagine the excitement of over-drafting a linebacker that was felt in the city just because it seemed like he might be a good player. That’s really, for the longest time, what my fandom was as a kid. It was like “We’re gonna lose all the games, but at least we’ve got these fun guys that I can cheer for.” Whether it’s Corey Dillon, Spikes, Pickens, and then when Boomer Esiason came back for his last dance swan song season and they won a few games.
My whole life as a fan was always these moments of, “Oh, we’re bad, we’re bad, we’re bad. Oh, something good might happen,” and then it doesn’t.
By the time you get to 2005, it looks like for the first time, we have a legitimate team. I remember visiting my dad’s cousins, who were all big Packers fans, and they were asking us if we could get them Ocho Cinco (or Chad Johnson) jerseys and how cool he was. I was so proud that people who liked the Packers — which was like this glorious legacy franchise — would be interested in wearing Bengals jerseys, and how exciting it was that we had a cool team.
I think that if you asked most Bengals fans, they would say that the 2005 season — even though it didn’t turn into anything — was one of the most beloved teams. It brought such a sense of like, “Wow, this is really gonna happen.” And then the Carson Palmer injury and the subsequent collapse in that game. I believe that broke the fan base up until this year.
After that game, it was just living in absolute frustration. There’s nowhere for my mind to go, and it just makes me laugh thinking of how that same scenario played out in hotels in Brazil on tour, and about to walk out on stage. They lose in so many scenarios throughout the course of my life where I had all this hope, and then it gets thwarted.
This was a season where I had to watch almost all of the games on tour. I’m watching on an iPad in a hotel with shoddy service. In the instance of the Thursday night game (against Jacksonville), we were literally on stage during the second half, and I had my phone tilted behind my front monitor wedge, so I could watch it while we were playing. Of course, the season that I’m on tour almost the whole time is the one where the Bengals are great. Normally, I’m home during the fall and I can watch all of the misery from beginning to end.
I didn’t even really realize that my only “running errands” clothes are Bengals shirts and hats. For the first time ever, I’m doing my normal errands — like going to the post office — and everybody’s congratulating me. That has never happened before. Or they think I’m a Browns fan, because they can’t tell the difference.
I can’t help but find it so funny that now there are 14-year-old casual fans of the NFL whose favorite team is the Bengals because of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. To me, it’s outrageous. It’s fun. It’s exciting. I’m not even mad about bandwagon fans. I never honestly thought we would have bandwagon fans. It’s crazy.
There’s part of this team and part of being a fan of this team that is emblematic of — I think in many ways — the type of person that you are. I was talking to a Bengals fan recently about how so much of cheering for this team builds part of your character. It’s not even like Browns fans have the misery of “Oh, we’re the Browns and everybody knows we’re bad.” They get to have that, and Jets fans too. They have a sense of pride in knowing that they’re all in it together. The Bengals aren’t even the most covered or important team within Ohio in the NFL. So we’ve always had this complete lack of identity and complete dismissal. I think as a fan base, there’s something extremely galvanizing about being so dedicated to a team that 9 times out of 10, people forget are even in the NFL.
I always thought if a Super Bowl was going to happen, and the Bengals are going to be in it, I would go anywhere it was. Then here comes a situation where the Super Bowl is happening in the city that I live in, and all I really want to do is go home to be with my family [in Cincinnati] and watch the game there. After the AFC Championship, I FaceTimed my parents, my aunts and uncles and everybody who was watching it together in the living room that I grew up in, and it just hit me. “If this is ever gonna happen, it would be such a shame to not share it with the people that I watched every miserable game of this team with since I was a little kid.” And that’s why I’ll be home watching with them instead of at SoFi.
[As for a prediction], I don’t think there’s a way that this could end badly. The ’88 and ’82 [Super Bowl runners-up] teams are celebrated as victories of our city. I grew up knowing every player on those teams. And those are two teams that lost the Super Bowl! I get to be in my parents’ house with my whole family, decorated with all the Bengals stuff and watch the team play in the Super Bowl.
So for us, I believe this is one of the most beloved teams the city has ever had. To be in a situation where everyone in the fucking world is watching them, If you want to watch football next week, you have to watch my irrelevant team playing in the fucking Super Bowl against the L.A. all-stars that were handpicked and paid more than anybody in the world. It is so wonderful and poetic in so many ways that I love it.
I don’t know what the score is. It seems like it’s gonna be close because [Cincinnati Bengals kicker] Evan McPherson has to kick like four more field goals to get a record, so we got to get that happening. I also love that every week, everybody says, “Well, you know, McPherson will never be able to win the game. The Bengals keep having him kicked four field goals a game, and that’ll never happen.” And then every week he kicks 100 field goals, and we win. So I have no idea what the score is. But I like to think that the good guys win this one, and the prophecy is fulfilled.