The Cincinnati Bengals are heading to the playoffs once again — this time, led by a young core that softened the hearts of even the most pessimistic fans.
While the Bengals aren't complete strangers to the playoffs (more like cousins you only see on major holidays), they certainly are strangers to winning in the playoffs. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since Sam Wyche and Boomer Esiason led the Bengals to a 41-14 Wild Card win over the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) Jan. 6, 1991.
I don't remember the 1990 season because, well, I wasn't born yet. Neither were Bengals stars Joe Burrow, 25, and Ja'Marr Chase, 21. Actually, only three players on the Bengals' active roster were alive when the game was played — safety Michael Thomas, punter Kevin Huber and long snapper Clark Harris. Thomas was an infant at the time, while Huber and Harris were 5 and 6, respectively.
Two offensive linemen on injured reserve, guard Xavier Su'a-Filo and tackle Riley Reiff, were also alive, but I'm willing to bet they don't remember the game. Su'a-Filo was born just five days before the win, while Reiff was 2.
For those of you who were alive and old enough to remember the Bengals' last playoff win, here's a look at some other things you might remember from the time:
1. The Cincinnati Reds had just won the World Series
Yep, 1990 featured multiple lasts for Cincinnati sports — the last playoff win AND the last World Series win. Like the Bengals, the Reds have made the playoffs multiple times since 1990. Unfortunately, they too have had little luck. The Reds' last playoff series win was over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1995 NL Division Series.
2. The "affordable, transportable cellular telephone" was on sale
In a 1990 commercial, Radio Shack advertised phones that could leave your car and go to the golf course, lunch or "the high seas" — and cellular service was available in "most major cities."
3. "Home Alone" was the most popular movie in America
Crowds met the crazy McCallister family for the first time in November 1990 — and the film remained the No. 1 film at the box office until February 1991. According to Box Office Mojo, "Home Alone" was the highest grossest Christmas film until "The Grinch" came out in 2018. Of course, the film also catapulted a young Macaulay Culkin into stardom.
4. Madonna brought "vogueing" into mainstream culture
Madonna's "Vogue" was the No. 1 song of the summer in 1990, introducing the world to a dance style that originated in the Harlem ballroom scene. Her hits continued into 1991 — "Justify My Love" was the No. 1 song the week of the Bengals win.
5. "I've fallen and I can't get up" became a popular catchphrase
I'm not sure LifeCall knew just how popular their 1989 commercial would be. When Mrs. Fletcher fell down the stairs and used her medical alarm, the country immediately grabbed hold of her famous saying, "I've fallen and I can't get up." The phrase was spoofed on The Golden Girls, Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
6. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" debuted — and was considered a "programming gamble"
While Will Smith was already a fairly popular rapper as "The Fresh Prince," he became a star with "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Before the show premiered, critics noted NBC's gamble to bring rap to network audiences.
In a New York Times article from September 1990, co-creator Susan Borowitz said the network "freaked out" when they handed in their first draft, saying they expected something more like "Crocodile Dundee." Still, the show went on for six seasons.
7. Germany was becoming one country again
Mr. Gorbachev might have started tearing down that wall in 1989, but the "Two Plus Four" treaty was signed in 1990 and went into effect in March 1991.
8. Everyone was listening to "Ice Ice Baby"
A song by a man named Robert Van Winkle took the world by storm — and resulted in a landmark copyright case. "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts in November 1990 — and in a mashup of these fun facts, Van Winkle reportedly dated Madonna in 1991.
9. Dolly Parton was still a national treasure
Many things have changed since the 90s, but one thing remains the same: Dolly Parton is always helping the community. Parton launched "The Buddy Program" to combat dropout problems in her hometown's schools. According to the Dollywood Foundation, more than 30% of students in Sevier County schools never graduated in the late 80s. In 1991, Parton met with seventh and eighth grade students, promising to give them $500 if they graduated high school — as long as their buddy also graduated. Dropout rates dropped to 6% and Parton really did pass out checks to each student.
The Bengals host the Las Vegas Raiders Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Interestingly enough, the LA Raiders defeated Cincinnati in the 1990 playoffs, starting the Bengals' playoff win drought. Second time's a charm, right?