Bengals fans are some of the most loyal fans in American sports. ‘Dey’ are willing to go to great lengths to defend their favorite team. I know this, because after I wrote an article months ago criticizing the Bengals for selecting Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell, my inbox was flooded with Bengal fans shaking their heads and their fists at me. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Laugh it up. I’m a big, dumb, smooth-brain. I’ve heard it all before. Sewell has been good this year, even great at times, but his rookie season pales in comparison to the historic heights Chase has reached.
Now where was I…. oh yeah…So, it makes sense that after the Bengals’ first playoff win since 1990, their fans would love nothing more than to see the team in action for a chance at to punch a ticket to their first conference championship game since the 1988 season.
All year long, Bengals fans have been one of the most impactful groups in the NFL. Way back in Week 1, far before the Bengals were considered a top team in the AFC, playing at home, the Bengals faithful caused the Minnesota Vikings to commit five false start penalties. In their Wild-Card matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had trouble communicating to his offensive line all game long as the 66,277 fans in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium forced three false start penalties from the Raiders. The only other time the Raiders had committed three such penalties all season was Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Bengals fans are a ferocious, dedicated bunch starving for postseason success, and the Tennessee Titans are trying to make sure those fans have minimal impact on this weekend’s divisional matchup.
Essentially, the Titans aren’t banning Bengals fans from coming to the game, just making it much harder for them to get tickets. With this new rule in place, after tickets are purchased, they cannot be transferred until 24 hours before kickoff, meaning the earliest any fan could sell their tickets to fans from Cincinnati would be 4:30 pm ET Friday. That uncertainty of being able to grab a ticket is likely to make many Bengals fans question whether or not they should hit the road. Thus, far fewer Bengals fans will be in attendance at Nissan Stadium. Do you see the issue here?
The Tennessee Titans are making like Darth Vader and altering the deal in an effort to benefit themselves. Even during a season where the team secured the AFC’s top seed, the Titans ranked 12th in attendance in 2021 — lower than their 2020 ranking (8th), when the Titans finished the regular season fourth in the AFC.
According to a report from WTVF-TV in Nashville, Titans fans have gotten sick of seeing other colors in the stands during home games this year. Terri Hood, a Titans season ticket holder for the last decade said, “Every game we are just inundated with so many other fans and I think Nashville is a big draw, but we really need the Titans fans to be loud and be proud.”
Titans Vice President of Ticketing, Brooke Ellenberger didn’t even try to hide this transgression stating “We want Nissan Stadium to be two-tone blue. And so by limiting this transfer window, it also limits the number of visiting team fans that we’ll have in the stadium.”
DO YOU SEE THE ISSUE HERE?!
Being inundated with thousands of opposing fans in your home stadium can be demoralizing for certain teams. Less than a week ago, Kelly Stafford, wife of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, asked Rams fans not to sell their playoff tickets to Cardinals fans for fear of having to play at home in front of the Red Sea. One of the biggest memes in the NFL for several years now is the fact that the Los Angeles Chargers routinely get more fans flying into SoFi Stadium than actual Chargers fans. That makes the Chargers an unappealing team to play for. It’s tough to get great players to join your squad when even your fans couldn’t be bothered to see you play. However, just because having a lot of opposing fans in attendance makes life a little more difficult for the home team, that doesn’t mean you can change the rules midseason in order to prevent it from happening.
In all fairness, there was still an opportunity to buy tickets through NFL partner companies like SeatGeek, Stubhub, or Ticketmaster when tickets first went on sale. No matter who you are or what team you root for, you could’ve bought a ticket from that site and had no issue. However, if you wanted to turn around and sell that ticket to someone else, say someone looking to fly in from a certain Ohio city, you now have to wait until 4:30 pm ET on Friday to do so.
Look, I’m all for playful heckling directed at an opponent from a team’s front office. Blatantly altering your ticket policies in order to prevent opposing fans from attending, though? That’s not playful, that’s the sports version of gerrymandering. You only want certain people in attendance so you make up rules and draw imaginary lines in order to get the outcome you desire. You’re picking your fans as opposed to letting them pick you. The only thing stronger than this stiff arm technique being pulled by the Titans is Derrick Henry’s actual stiff arm.
It’s shady. It’s lousy. It’s definitely not in the name of good sportsmanship, and above all else, it’s just cold. Here’s to hoping Joe Brrrr can be a little bit colder.