>It’s all in the stripes.

>The Cincinnati Bengals are good. They’re 7-2, should be 8-1 if not for a freak play. Their defense is second in the NFL in points allowed per game, tied for fourth in the league in sacks, and tied for sixth in interceptions. The offense in middling, but they have a capable quarterback in Carson Palmer and the vintage version of Chad Ochocinco has reappeared. They’ve won based on their defensive prowess. It seems that every year there is a team like this, a team that feeds on the idea of not getting enough respect. The 2007 New York Giants claimed that they lacked the respect they deserved every week until they won the Super Bowl. The Bengals are the Rodney Dangerfield team this year. ‘”We keep doing what we’re doing, it’s going to make everybody respect us eventually,” said rookie running back Bernard Scott’.

The teams that make these claims are often young teams, hungry to be taken seriously and looking to get the recognition they feel they deserve. The Bengals have been awful for a long time, having only 2 winning records in the past 20 years. They were more recently known for a shameful number of arrests. They want to overcome that image of the Bungles. They don’t want to be a joke any longer.

Here’s their real problem though. They don’t just have to overcome decades of incompetence, the criminal behavior of their players, the fact that the face of the franchise legally changed his last name to a Spanish number (sort of). They have one more enormous obstacle that stand between them and respectability.

They have to overcome the uniforms.

And really, it’s a huge problem. Can you imagine them playing a serious January football game, in the snow in Cincinnati, wearing those ridiculous Tiger stripped helmets. Their jerseys look like something sold at Walmart to confused mid-40’s divorcees who like to prey on much younger men. Look Ladies, football for the fellows and tiger stripes for the fashion! Trying to be taken seriously as a team in those uniforms is like showing up to a business meeting dressed as a clown. It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are, nobody takes you seriously with a frizz of red hair and an enormous red nose.

Yes, the years of failure don’t help. It’s difficult to rewire a brain that immediately associates “Bengals” with images of the Three Stooges, but they have been one of the better teams this year. They already beat the defending champion Steelers twice. I think their problem lies on the surface. They will not be taken seriously by the media, no matter how far they advance this year, unless they change the uniforms. If you don’t want to be treated like a clown, stop wearing clown clothes.

There’s also this:

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