- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - Orange juice in one hand, a grande caramel macchiato in the other, Matthew Catterall looked every bit the Bengals fan the Monday morning following a victory on an Oktoberfest Zinzinnati Sunday: bleary eyed, a little hungover, but incredibly satisfied.

Catterall flew nearly 12 hours from Manchester, England, to the Queen City last week- his first trip to the United States -to see his beloved Bengals play the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium.

“Everyone thought we were crazy for coming in,” he said Monday morning at the Starbucks on Vine and Fourth streets, wearing his black Bengals T-shirt.

“It feels like (being) home, surrounded by my family, and there were my guys on the field. I just can’t believe it, really.”

Catterall flew in with his friend, Jamie Wroe, also from Manchester, and also a Bengals fan. This was Wroe’s third straight trip in to see the Bengals during Oktoberfest weekend. His first trip was in December 2011.



“I kind of get the same buzz every time,” Wroe said. “It always sort of just gets you before the teams come out, and you kind of choke it back a bit. It’s a big thing. It is a big thing.”

The two met over Bengals Twitter in the United Kingdom, a small but devoted group of fans who interact with one another online and get together to watch games in the early hours- if they can. Usually English bars pick one NFL game to televise, so it’s a long shot that the Bengals are that team. If not, they pull up NFL Game Pass to watch online.

Catterall knew Wroe was headed to the U.S. for his annual trip and decided on a whim- well, a whim conceived in a bar and fueled by a bit of alcohol -that he was going to book a trans-Atlantic plane ticket for Cincinnati.

But the question the pair received most while frequenting the bars and then in their seats in section 307 at PBS was, understandably, “Why the Bengals?”

More important to understand is that Wroe and Catterall chose the Bengals. There is no birthright, no civic mandate to root for the hometown team. They could literally pick any team in the league to root for.

“I like the pain,” Catterall said with a smile. “No, they’re my team. I always say just because I’m British doesn’t mean I don’t bleed orange and black. They’re my team. I wear my stripes with pride.”

He discovered the team on late night television while he was in college- specifically the Monday night game on Dec. 18, 2006, a 34-16 loss to Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts.

Catterall loved the underdog status the U.S. nationally televised broadcast painted the Bengals in, and he drew a parallel to his favorite soccer club, the Bolton Wanderers F.C., which has not won anything of consequence since 1958.

Wroe’s fandom goes back to the turn of the century. His father was already an American football fan- of the Green Bay Packers -so he needed a team to play his dad against in Madden. And, because he was better than his dad at the game, he said he picked one of the worst teams on the game to give his father a sporting chance.

He decided to stick with the Bengals- even though he only saw them on English television one time in three years back then -an 18-0 loss to Cleveland on Nov. 25, 2001. Yes, Wroe remembers it, and yes, he remembers Jon Kitna, Akili Smith and Scott Mitchell all played that day for the Bengals in the loss.

“I have an inherent distrust of the Bengals,” Wroe admitted, though sporting his orange team shirt. “I’ve been going with them as a fan for 15 years, and they’ve found repeated and very creative ways to let me down.”

As for Sunday, Catterall and Wroe congratulated themselves on the Bengals being 7-0 when they’ve watched the games together, and Catterall said his first trip to PBS couldn’t have gone better. He felt welcomed, at home.

“It was good to just be surrounded by fans of my team,” Catterall said. “The Bengals are not a very big team historically or anything but they’re my team.

“It was just so amazing seeing everything around me. You could see the cheerleaders, the Ben-Gals, as well,” he said. “Everyone having fun, kind of a family atmosphere. It was crazy. So good.”

Catterall purchased a BenJarvus Green-Ellis jersey for $30- which he said will create some jealousy back home. Bengals jerseys are hard to find in the United Kingdom -and expensive. He couldn’t believe it as he watched A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Andy Dalton and Marvin Jones run out onto the field and perform. The topper, of course, was a nail-biting victory.

“Everything has just been crazily good,” Catterall said. “I wish I stayed here for longer now. I’ve been here for four and a half days, and now I’m going straight back (Monday), and my clock is all messed up.

“But it’s been an amazing experience.”

The group of Bengals fans will meet in London to watch the Dec. 6 game against Cleveland, but Catterall and Wroe said they’ll do what they can to get to San Francisco for Super Bowl 50.

Caterall joked- maybe -that he’d quit his job to get to that.

“Fingers crossed,” he said.

___

Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, https://www.enquirer.com

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