If Paul Brown Stadium’s hot chocolate supply is depleted, I know the culprit. He was sitting next to me during the Chargers-Bengals game in Section 219 this past Sunday.
It wasn’t miserably cold in Cincinnati, but there was just enough Ohio River chill on a 50-degree day to make a cup of steaming cocoa quite alluring for this young Bengals fan, my 10-year-old son.
At $4.69, it was one of the more affordable items on the concession stand menu for ol’ Dad. Too bad there were no free refills.
About 35 minutes prior to kickoff, Brevin gave the caffeine-filled goodness a five-star rating. Moments later, he plopped the empty cup into the holder in front of him and released a satisfactory sigh. Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, he took mental note of fans chugging other beverages in the tailgate areas as we walked in.
A father-son friend duo of ours, my son and I eagerly anticipated the pre-game events — hype videos and songs (“Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ’n’ Roses), the National Anthem and player introductions as we settled into our Row 1, cushioned seats overlooking a corner of the south end zone. (I splurged a bit because it was his first game, it was a birthday present and, hey, I actually got a pretty good deal).
The first of many inevitable bathroom breaks occurred at around the 18-minute mark prior to kickoff. We scurried up the steps as quickly as Cup 1 had been consumed. After a quick restroom visit, we managed to return to our seats before the real fun began.
OK, so the game didn’t go as planned. “Who Dey” rapidly turned into “Dey Stink” as costly turnovers and a key drop paved the way to a 24-0 Chargers lead. I wasn’t even mad when Brevin asked for the second cup of cocoa. I didn’t care to miss a few minutes of the atrocity.
Deflation transformed into elation, though, as the Bengals bounced back with 22 consecutive points. We had an excellent view as Joe Mixon marched into the end zone nearest us.
OK, fine, let’s go ahead and make it a trifecta, son. Brevin celebrated the comeback with Cup 3. His buddy followed suit this time.
Mixon went from hero to zero in a flash, unfortunately. He inexplicably fumbled — his first cough-up since Week 1 of 2020 (also against the Chargers) — during a promising Bengals possession in the third quarter. Los Angeles promptly picked it up for a scoop-and-score, shifting the momentum in a major way.
The Chargers won, 41-22, but we couldn’t have asked for a better day overall. The weather was great for early December — it rained before and after the game but there was nary a sprinkle during. And the Bengals are still firmly in the playoff hunt.
We got our Gold Star coneys, too. That was an adventure in itself. We journeyed to the field level and finally located the popular spot at halftime.
On the drive home, although still somewhat soured by the loss, I couldn’t help but smile about the memories we created. I was happy, too, that my wife and daughter enjoyed a day free from the boys.
Years from now, we’ll talk about Brevin’s first Bengals game. We’ll probably remember seeing quarterback Joe Burrow and receiver Ja’Marr Chase for the first time, being in the company of good friends, those stellar seats, the boat taxi ride from Newport, the delicious cheese coneys and the pregame fun in the Jungle Zone. Oh, yeah ... and the best cup(s) of hot chocolate of all time.
Reach AARON SNYDER at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.