Opinion: Fans’ change in tune after players’ performance refreshing

Bryan Hudnell | Staff Writer

Much of what we hear and see regarding fans’ interactions with athletes is negative. I remember cheering at my TV screen when a Bengals fan threw a beer bottle at Ben Roethlisberger during the 2016 playoffs. Being a Bengals fan has its moments where yelling a curse word or repeatedly hitting the closest nearby object has unfortunately become a common occurrence.

We see fans burn jerseys and send death threats to players when they leave a team or make a crucial mistake in a big time game. They are accused of being traitors and often have vulgar accusations directed towards them. Whether it is on the field or on social media, it is safe to say that passionate fans take it too far.

Until the script is flipped, and everybody wins.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton rescued the Buffalo Bills from yet another missed postseason when he connected with receiver Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-12 with 45 seconds remaining to beat the Ravens during Week 17, securing the Bills’ playoff spot. Video of the Buffalo locker room reacting as the players watched on TV went viral immediately, and the long-suffering fanbase saluted Dalton for his heroics.

Some fans even began to express their gratitude tangibly by donating to Dalton’s charitable foundation, The Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, which helps seriously ill children and their families with medical expenses in Cincinnati. A popular donation amount was $17, a dollar for every year it had been since the Bills clinched a playoff spot. Dalton recognized the generosity and took to Twitter to thank Bills fans for their efforts. As of January 10, $345,000 was donated to the foundation from around 15,000 donors.

To take it a step further, one Bills fan got a tattoo of Dalton jumping and breaking a table, which is a common Bills Mafia tailgating tradition. Another fan raised money to get one of Dalton’s face and donated the remaining money to Dalton’s charity after paying for it.

Additionally, the Bills Organization sent the Bengals quite the dinner. They sent 1,440 wings, 90 pounds of celery, 30 pounds of carrots, six gallons of blue cheese, and nine gallons of wing sauce. Instead of eating it themselves, the Bengals were also charitable and decided to donate them to the Autism High School at Cincinnati Children’s.   

It’s not new for athletes and teams to raise money for various individual causes, but what’s different about this response is that it’s a specific reward for performance on the field, and that is a precedent well worth setting in the future.