CINCINNATI -- OK, citizens, let’s have a show of hands: When was the last time you heard anyone gripe about cost overruns at Paul Brown Stadium?
Way in the back there. What about it?
Come on. Someone has to have something for me. Nothing? Is this microphone working?
I know recent strife over the streetcar is top of mind with many Cincinnatians, especially considering how project managers, at the behest of now departed city leaders (and I use that term generously), read the tea leaves and put the pedal to the metal. Seeing that opposition leader John Cranley was headed for the top job on Plum Street, they floored it. Why not? Wasn’t their money and, besides, they knew better. They propelled the project to a symbolic if not actual point of no return. And so, for better (as even I see it now) or worse, we will have our own version of “The Hooterville Cannonball.”
To my way of thinking, this most recent exercise in civic “infrugality” has rendered past intrusions on taxpayers, real and imagined, a speck on the Queen City’s balance sheet.
Which brings me back to my informal poll of the populace about PBS. Anyone still irked?
Bengals’ President Mike Brown, for one, thinks there may be some lingering resentment from that fractious riverfront gamble.
During a pre-practice visit on Jan. 1, Brown offered the opinion that 15 years on, Paul Brown Stadium remains a sticking point for some.
“Of all the facilities built during that era, ours is the only one that remains somewhat controversial because it became so political. We were an easy target. The team wasn’t playing up to our -- or the fans’ -- expectations.
“While the revenue projections were sound at the time, they didn’t hold up. Look at the growth north of Cincinnati,’’ Brown added. “The tax base was shifting. And there were those who took advantage of those factors to build political careers.”
I reminded Brown of his stoicism at the time. His ardently predicted then that when the team started to win, the vitriol would subside. He never once pointed out then, or now, that the lion’s share of the PBS overruns were driven by the county’s decision to move the stadium a block west to property it didn’t own and had to buy at a premium.
As for the prospect of Sunday’s playoff game being blacked out? He’s not pleased because he wants as many people as possible to claim a stake in what could be the Bengals first home playoff win since 1991.
He sees the short turnaround between Sunday’s win over the Ravens and the deadline for selling out as the main reason they’re facing a crunch.
“And we’re not alone. Green Bay and Indianapolis are also dealing with this," Brown said.
But there is a small cadre of one-time Bengal loyalists who will never come around. They think their season ticket loyalty was abused during the bad old days and have vowed to remain NFL orphans:
Fans without a team.
Those folks aside, Brown feels he’s done the best he can, proudly noting that his adopted home is one of the smallest cities in America boasting two professional sports franchises.
“It is a feather in our cap,” he said.
In keeping with that, he need only to look up river for a sympathetic ear when it comes to not filling the house.
I reminded him that far too often in recent years the St. Louis Cardinals arrived here for a pivotal weekend series versus the Reds only to have seats go wanting for occupants.
Brown has embraced Bob Castellini’s view that you can only do so much to lure fans.
Don’t lament those who aren’t there.
Show those who do attend that their faith wasn’t misplaced.
Provide them the best time you can, and hopefully that includes a win.
This Sunday is the one and only chance to see the Bengals in person in the playoffs.
A win Sunday earns them a date at New England. Then the scene would likely shift to Denver.
So Sunday is it.
I’m not here to push tickets, but I’ve ponied up for a pair. Doesn’t make me noble, just eager to have my sister and brother-in-law see team history.
I’ll be in the press box where cheering is prohibited. When I sense something dramatic about to happen, though, I will step outside to experience that one-of-a-kind wave of energy that rewards those seeing it in person.
Come what may, Brown will offer little to no comment about any of it. He embodies the two time-honored family mantras:
• “Never complain. Never explain.”
• “When you lose, say little. When you win, say less.”