The Brown family will take the win as a sign of good things to come, but Bengals ownership had to be underwhelmed Friday night when less than 40,000 fans showed up for Cincinnati's 23-10 preseason-opening win against the New York Giants.
Capacity is 65,535 at Paul Brown Stadium, meaning there were more than 25,000 empty seats for a game between a four-year playoff team, the Bengals, and the four-time Super Bowl champion Giants with their big-name stars including quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The game started at a fan-friendly 7 p.m., and was arguably the biggest event in town one day before the start of Western & Southern Open professional tennis in north suburban Mason.
There were several smaller but popular events going on in the area concurrently with the Bengals' game including the Great Inland Seafood Festival right across the Ohio River in Newport, the Boney James and Brian McKnight concert downriver at Riverbend, the Crayfish All-You-Can-Eat Party up north at IKEA Restaurant in West Chester Township, and the nearby Oakley After Hours festival.
But, nothing bigger than the Bengals' first game of any kind this season.
The Bengals have made the NFL playoffs four years in a row, a franchise first, and have averaged 10 wins per season during that span. The Bengals are as successful as they've ever been, since their last playoff win in 1990. They have household-name players, including All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green.
They have upgraded their new digs. The Bengals and Hamilton County, where the team resides, put more than $20 million in offseason improvements into Paul Brown Stadium. Additions include bigger scoreboards including new HD video boards and sideline LED boards, upgrades to all concession stands, and a completed stadium-wide WiFi system.
Didn't matter Friday.
The official attendance figure of 39,914 was the smallest for a Bengals preseason game in four years. The last time the Bengals drew fewer than 40,000 fans to a preseason game was in preseason game four against the Colts, Sept 1, 2011, when none of the starters played.
The Bengals drew an average of about 45,000 fans to every preseason home game between Friday and the Colts contest in 2011.
They were averaging over 46,000 the 10 preseason home contests previous to Friday. Four of those were the last preseason game on the schedule, games notorious for their dearth of starters. Just two games in that span were preseason Week 3 "dress rehearsals" with a field full of starters.
The last time the Bengals played a preseason-opening game at home the first week was against the New York Jets on Aug. 10, 2012, when they drew 44,161 fans.
You can speculate on why attendance was down by about 5,000 on Friday: Apathy among Cincinnati football fans generated by no Bengals playoff wins in 25 years including a mind-numbing four straight first-round postseason exits, the lack of a head-coaching change, a lackluster offseason, quarterback Andy Dalton's general unpopularity, the general unpopularity of the Brown family, it's a Reds town.