Friday, September 13, 2002


Mike says Bengals are sorry

        Mike Brown is snakebit, jinxed and voodoo cursed. He was born under a bad sign on Friday the 13th. He dropkicks black cats through broken mirrors. If it weren't for bad luck ... well, just watch the Bengals.

        Last Sunday they were stinkin' out the joint so bad the EPA should fine them for causing an environmental hazard. If they keep it up, fans will wear surgical masks to avoid being exposed to the reeking bad karma.

        Then, as if the crowd were not already hotter than a firewalker in paper shorts, they managed to dig a hole in rock-bottom.

        On a 95-degree day, some concession stands temporarily ran out of bottled water. “It was a miserably hot day,” said Bengals spokesman Troy Blackburn.

Hot and angry

        “Last year during the entire season we sold 35,000 bottles of water,” he said. “We sold 20,000 on Sunday.”

        So the stands that ran out began selling tap water until they got more supplies. At $3 per cup.

        Now, experts say tap water is actually safer because the filters that improve the taste of bottled water can also remove the chlorine that kills bacteria. But try telling that to enraged, sweaty fans who are madder than a cat in a clothes dryer. Try selling them tap water for $3 a cup — then stand back.

        Talk radio amplified the outrage, blaming Mike Brown very personally.

        Caller: “What are they gonna do about it, Willie?”

        Willie: “They won't do nothin' because Mike Brown DOESN'T CARE! He's too busy COUNTIN' HIS CASH.”

        Caller: “AAAARGH!”

        So I decided to get Mike Brown on the line.

        “There is a plausible explanation,” said the best Ivy League lawyer among NFL owners.

        Aramark runs the concession stands, which are staffed by volunteers from charity groups that earn donations.

'It's embarrassing'

        Five stands out of 56 ran out of water. The stands count sales by the cup, so volunteer workers couldn't give away cups of water without charging.

        “It's embarrassing to Aramark, and it's embarrassing to us,” Mr. Brown said. Aramark has offered free drink coupons to make amends, he said.

        But anyone who says Mr. Brown doesn't care is sipping something a lot stronger than tap water.

        “I am ultimately responsible, I suppose,” he said. “It compounded what was already a bad day and made it into one even worse.”

        Mr. Brown has a wit so dry it's parched. Many mistake his stoic reserve for indifference. But he cares. Believe it.

        “We feel the failure deeply, and we regret it intensely. But to say so doesn't really help or make anyone feel better.”

        As for the team, Mr. Brown had this to say to Cincinnati: “We can and will do better, but I will plead guilty that what you saw Sunday was below our standards — and for that, we apologize.”

        The Bengals are sorry. He knows it. And the reason has nothing to do with $3 cups of tap water. But it might have something to do with a $90 million payroll for players who don't work as hard as the concession stand volunteers.

        E-mail or call 768-8301.



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