Thursday, September 25, 2003

We all benefit: The Bengals are starting to get it

Laura Pulfer

I am trying to be outraged, but I just can't work up a lather. Even though it concerns the Bengals, who usually make me automatically froth at the mouth.

First alert came from a reader who sent a copy of an invitation to "Bengals Football 101 for Women." She was "highly offended by the implication that the average woman is not able to enjoy football because she is unfamiliar with the 'rules and nuances of the game,' " she wrote, quoting from the invitation. "I am more aghast that the worst franchise in NFL history deems itself qualified to reach out to these women. Maybe they've decided the Bengals players just don't get it, and they're hoping to have better luck with a bunch of women."

The flier for the Oct. 9 event promises that "Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and members of the coaching staff and football staff will provide instruction, including hands-on demonstrations, video presentations in the Bengals team auditorium and a take-home workbook. Attendees will also enjoy a VIP tour of the locker room, weight room and playing field."

As I say, I found myself curiously unperturbed.

I am able to work up considerably more outrage, for instance, about what has become the annual arrival of a cheesy banner the team slings over the side of the $450 million palace on the river, "Tickets now on Sale!"

I can get sincerely honked by examples of the organization's institutionally high-handed attitude toward the people in this community who agreed to build Paul Brown Stadium and keep hoping to find reason to celebrate that decision.

But Football 101 sounds friendly and kind of fun.

Maybe things are changing. The team is better. Even though it hasn't won any games yet, a victory appears to be in the realm of possibility. And Marvin Lewis is the most civic-minded coach since Sam Wyche.

Lewis made more than 40 public appearances in his first six months on the job. And he's done plenty of things when the cameras were not rolling. He came into the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce offices on a Sunday before the season began, signing about 60 footballs used to raise money for that neighborhood's Crossroads Health Center.

Football 101 is a benefit. "The cost of the program is $50 per person, with all proceeds from the event benefiting the Marvin Lewis Community Fund and the Multiple Sclerosis Society," the invitation says.

"Marvin will be holding a press conference to announce his fund on the same day of the event," according to Jeff Berding of the Bengals.

As for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, board member Dianne Bohmer says, "I don't know why the Bengals chose us, but it's a good fit because 73 percent of people diagnosed with MS are women." She added that she was also grateful that "this year, for the first time, the Bengals bought a table for our Dinner of Champions." The team contributed $3,000 toward the Nov. 13 dinner, which will honor outgoing University of Cincinnati president Joseph Steger. Tickets, by the way, are still available for the event at 769-4400.

The football event is already sold out.

The possibility that the Bengals finally have decided to play ball with the rest of the community leaves me aghast. And amazed.

But far from outraged.

E-mail or phone 768-893.

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