CINCINNATI — The buildup to Sunday’s AFC Championship game in Kansas City is proving to be fun and joyous not only for Chiefs and Bengals players.
Civic leaders, local businesses and even the police chiefs of both cities are placing friendly bets and making playful jokes with one another in the days leading up to the penultimate game of the NFL season.
The winner of the 6:30 p.m. showdown will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. If they pull it off, it would be the Bengals’ second consecutive appearance in the big game.
Mayor Aftab Pureval confidently announced his bet with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas Friday morning as he hoisted a Bengal flag outside Cincinnati City Hall.
“I told you last year that this (Bengal) team personified our city perfectly: They’re young, they’re different, they’re hungry, they’ve got that Cincinnati swagger,” Pureval said. “And they are not just happy to be (in the AFC championship). We belong here. And we’ll be back year after year after year.”
What you need to know
- Mayors of Cincinnati and Kansas City are two of several political leaders making playful bets ahead of Bengals-Chiefs AFC championship rematch
- Betting on regional foods, like chili and barbecue, are common, but this year, leaders are using the game as a way to promote local businesses
- Even greater than a Super Bowl appearance is the added energy the Bengals’ success has brought to the city
Most of the bets revolve around the distinctive style of Cincinnati chili, but mayors are giving up on that tradition.
The Bengals’ postseason success led to excitement throughout Cincinnati. Here, fans pose with a game ball delivered by the Bengals’ coach following a win over the Buffalo Bills. (Photo courtesy of Matt Jacob)
Luca he told reporters on Thursday that she has a “sensitive stomach, so I’m not sure I can handle” the Cincinnati chili.
Instead, Pureval is brewing a six-pack of Rhinegeist beer. In return, Kansas City agreed to send some of its “world-famous Arthur Bryant BBQ grills,” Lucas said. They’ll also be sending some Kansas City gear from a local brand called Charlie Hustle, which is also the nickname of Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose.
“(Lucas) doesn’t have that AFC North fortitude, I get that, so we’re going to send him a six-pack of Rhinegeist beer,” Pureval taunted. “If it’s too much for his sensitive constitution, we’ll send them a martini. It looks more like the speed of him.
Cincinnati Police Chief Teresa Theetge offers to send Kansas City Police Chief Stacy Graves a case of Skyline Chili if her team wins. Both women have been in the spotlight lately because they are the first women to lead their respective departments.
Members of Congress are also taking action. U.S. Representative Greg Landsman, D-Ohio, has bets with U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and Sharice Davids, D-Kan.
If the Bengals beat the Chiefs, Landsman will send his congressional colleagues some of Cincinnati’s cinnamon chili sauce along with the Bengals jerseys to wear in Washington.
If the Chiefs win, Landman has agreed to wear a Chiefs jersey. He’ll also get some of Kansas City’s famous barbecue.
“I can’t wait for my Kansas City colleagues to wear orange and black in the corridors of the Capitol as they eat some Skyline Chili next week,” Landsman said.
Cleaver is undeterred.
“As a co-sponsor of the Big Cat Public Safety Act that became law last Congress, I am a strong believer in protecting all types of majestic big cats, but I’m making an exception for the Bengals this weekend,” Cleaver joked. .
Davids noted that Kansas City has the best team, best fans, and best barbecue.
“(It’s) something Rep. Landsman is going to learn,” he said. “I appreciate his confidence, but it takes more than confidence to win a Super Bowl. We would know.
Meaning Cameron, the owner of Cincinnati-based Black OWned Outerwear, sported a reversible bomber jacket that was a collaboration between his company and the Bengals.
“The mayor could use a little Cincinnati bravado, because the outfit he bet me was really pretty tired,” Pureval said, before teasing Lucas’s physical stature.
“I love him, but he’s a little small,” Pureval said. Cameron laughed that he planned to send Lucas an “extra little.”
Lucas doesn’t seem to mind the trash talk, though.
“It’s on,” Lucas said. “It’s going to be a big win this weekend.”
In recent days, Pureval has referred to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium as “Burrow-head Stadium,” an allusion to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow who has a 3-0 head-to-head record against the Chiefs and star player Patrick Mahomes . during his career.
Bengals players pose for a photo with Black OWned Outerwear models. (Photo courtesy of Black OWned Outerwear)
“The funny thing about Cincinnati is that I don’t think Cincinnati had (Bengali) fans before 2020,” Lucas said in response to Pureval’s renaming of the historic Kansas City stadium.
Win or lose, postseason racing has benefited both cities.
The Chiefs, who have made five straight AFC championships, are expected to bring about $15 million to Kansas City this weekend because the game is played there, Lucas said. Had the Bills defeated the Bengals last week, the game would have been at a neutral site in Atlanta due to a change in playoff format.
When the Bengals went to the Super Bowl last season, Cincinnati received millions of dollars in advertising last year, according to the Cincinnati Experience, a tourism and marketing firm. Pureval wouldn’t be surprised if City surpasses that figure this season.
On Saturday, Pureval and Lucas will reunite in Kansas City for raise money for local children’s hospitals as part of Touchdown For Kids! Challenge.
“It’s just good news for our local economy,” Pureval said, adding that Bengalis have brought so “so much energy, so much momentum” to the city.
Having Bengali players modeling his various signatures “Stripes are not easy“Items in promo shots and regular season games mean a lot, Cameron said, but the win just ‘sparked everything.’
“We’re all Bengals fans, but it’s so much easier and more fun to get behind something when you’re winning because it feels good,” he said.
Joining Pureval for the flag-raising at Town Hall on Friday morning were Bengal representatives Caroline Blackburn and Elizabeth Blackburn, team employees and relatives of club owner Mike Brown.
Pureval liked their looks, but it was the crowd of a few dozen orange-and-black-clad city employees that inspired him the most, he said.
When the flag was raised, it was only about 30 degrees. That didn’t stop the enthusiastic crowd from chanting “Who Dey” and celebrating during the 30-minute cheer.
“Our Bengals have once again represented us with unparalleled confidence and bravado,” said Pureval. “Fans have been joining this team all year and we are ready to bring all our energy into these past few weeks.”