Bengals try to learn from latest Cincy title team

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CINCINNATI (AP) - Some of the champagne-soaked Cincinnati Reds had barely gotten to bed when the city’s NFL team began using their celebration as motivation.

In some important ways, the Bengals want to be more like the Reds.

Coach Marvin Lewis mentioned the Reds‘ NL Central title to his players during their team meeting on Wednesday, saying they ought to emulate the way Dusty Baker’s team gets the fundamentals right. The Bengals (2-1) have a lot of work to do in that area as they get set to play the Browns (0-3).

“I already talked about that this morning,” Lewis said. “I took them all the way through it. That’s the way it is. It’s amazing the simplicity of sports and what wins and what makes you average.”

Nothing average about what’s happened in Cincinnati lately.

In the last 10 months, three of the city’s major teams have won titles. The University of Cincinnati won its second straight Big East football title in December. The Bengals won the AFC North crown by sweeping the division. Now the long-suffering Reds have joined the party, securing their first playoff appearance in 15 years.

“Aw man, I’m excited for them,” running back Cedric Benson said. “It’s funny. I remember when they were giving the head coach down there a hard time earlier in the year, and look at them now. Not a lot of huge-name guys on that team, and they came a long way. It’s kind of neat being the underdogs and coming out on top.”

The triple-title feat doesn’t happen often.

The last city to have a similar run _ NFL, MLB and BCS teams all vying for championships around the same time _ was Miami, according to STATS LLC. The Hurricanes won the Big East in 2002. The Dolphins finished in a three-way tie atop the AFC East that year, but lost out on the playoff tiebreakers. And the Marlins reached the playoffs in 2003 and won the World Series under former Reds manager Jack McKeon.

Extraordinary stuff. And the Bengals can appreciate it.

“I don’t think the Reds ever won the division while I was here,” said former offensive tackle Willie Anderson, who was back in town Wednesday and stopped in to see the team. “That’s a good thing. This is turning back into a sports town.”

Punter Kevin Huber grew up in Cincinnati and has been part of two title teams. He punted at the University of Cincinnati when it first won the Big East, then was drafted by the Bengals and took part in their AFC North title drive last year.

Huber regularly attends Reds games and was sitting down the third base line Tuesday _ about a dozen rows up _ when Jay Bruce led off the ninth inning with a game-ending homer for a 3-2 win over Houston.

“It was pretty surreal,” said Huber, who was on his feet with the other 30,150 fans. “It’s pretty cool. It’s brought a lot of life back to the city, which I think the city needs. To have baseball going this far into the season and we’re still in it _ that’s something we haven’t had in a long time.”

For a long time, there was little to cheer around these parts.

The Reds hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1995, coming close only once _ in 1999 under McKeon, when they lost a one-game playoff to the Mets for the NL wild card. They had nine straight losing seasons heading into this year, their longest slump in more than a half-century.

The Bengals weren’t much better. They went from 1991-2004 without so much as a winning record, one of the longest such streaks of futility in NFL history. They finally broke through in 2005, winning the AFC North, and did it again last year.

The franchises used to share misery and Riverfront Stadium. The Bengals moved into Paul Brown Stadium in 2000, and Great American Ball Park opened in 2003.

Now, there are a few personal ties between the teams.

Benson grew up in Texas and played against Reds outfielder Laynce Nix in high school.

“I’m very excited for him,” Benson said. “He played quarterback. He was very solid. They never beat us, but he was a solid quarterback. But they would always give us a tough time on the baseball field.”

Benson hopes the Reds‘ success helps his team, too.

“You’d love for it to captivate the entire city and provide some energy for us all,” he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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