FAIRFIELD, Ohio — James Lipscomb has been a Bengals fan since the beginning.
In fact, it seemed almost like destiny that he’d be a fan. He attended the team’s very first game at Nippert Stadium on Aug. 3, 1968 — his birthday.
“The team was just a mish-mosh of players. It was hard to believe they even put a team on the field,” Lipscomb said. “It was against Kansas City and we got stomped to death.”
Lipscomb was a season ticket holder for decades and never deserted the team, despite the ups and many downs. Now at 86 years old, he’s ready to witness something he’s never seen before: the Bengals win a Super Bowl.
“I’ll be there if he has to drag me there in a wheel chair or a stretcher, I’ll be there. I’m telling you,” Lipscomb said.
With the help of thousands of people, Lipscomb announced on social media he will be able to attend Super Bowl LVI.
Lipscomb's family created a GoFundMe campaign called “Send Grandpa to the Superbowl” earlier this week after a video of him in tears following the Bengals' AFC Championship win went viral.
“I had this blanket around me, I just put that blanket over my face and sobbed,” Lipscomb said. “I just, being with them since 1968, I went to the Super Bowl in Detroit, but I didn’t go to the other two Super Bowls. I sat through the Freezer Bowl down in Cincinnati…it was terrible — below zero temperatures.”
Brandon Burtis, Lipscomb’s grandson, said supporting the Bengals is a family affair.
“Growing up with the Bengals being a laughing stock and still remaining a fan…it’s been rough," Burtis said. "You get made fun of a lot, but when you see the signs of hope in your team, it means that much more."
Don Eschenbrenner, Burtis’s stepfather, agreed.
“All the playoff games with the Steelers...it is really soul crushing, but this is what makes it sweet,” he said.
Eschenbrenner, a lifelong Bengals fan himself, will be the one to accompany Lipscomb to the game.
“It’s always on my bucket list to go," Eschenbrenner said. "You work all your life to get to go somewhere then you retire and you can’t afford it. So, you spent your whole life loving something you can’t ever go see live."
The campaign raised $42,000 from more than 2,000 donors — allowing Lipscomb to get the best seats possible to cheer on his favorite team.
"People of the world, I bless you," Lipscomb said on Facebook after receiving the donations. "You have done something that many people would not think of doing — you have been such a wonderful, wonderful bunch of people that have taken me under your wing. I appreciate it, I love you, God bless you, who dey!"