The Bengals, Hamilton County, and the world’s worst stadium lease

[Cincinnati Magazine]

Well, after a couple teasers — a miscellany of quotations from the county official who became a Bengals exec; an appreciation of Mike Brown as a “near-brilliant litigator” — my feature on the Bengals and their stadium lease is finally here. The story doesn’t break much news, other than a few hints about a potential solution to this 15-year mess. But I do think it synthesizes that mess into a coherent story.

It’s also a very depressing story. If you follow Cincinnati sports and want something a little more uplifting, check out the previous story I did for the magazine — on the Reds and their efforts to win back their fans.

*  *  *

One more thing: I should elaborate on one part of my stadium-fund story — the end, where I claim the Bengals’ mistreatment of Carson Palmer “tells you everything you need to know about Brown.” After the issue went to press, the Bengals traded Palmer in one of the most slam-dunk deals of all time. That might seem like a vindication of Brown’s pettiness. After all, the Bengals now have two extra draft picks to go with their promising rookie quarterback. But I think this misses the larger picture. Throughout this saga, Brown treated Palmer, maybe the best (and certainly the nicest) player he’s ever drafted, with zero class. After the trade, Palmer took time to call the Cincinnati media, saying all the right things and handling the whole thing like a professional — like an adult. What did the Bengals do? Well, in the team’s statement — and you could obviously forget any interaction with the media — Brown didn’t even bother to thank Palmer for his years with the team. Marvin Lewis stooped even lower, bashing Palmer to reporters.

So here’s a question: how do you think players around the league perceived this? The Bengals have long struggled to lure free agents to Cincinnati. This offseason, Jonathan Joseph, a free agent and one of their best defensive players, bailed on the team despite its best efforts to resign him. Right now, it seems the Bengals can’t give their money away. Here’s a second question, then: What happens in five or six yeas when those two new draft picks become free agents?


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