With the Pro Football of Fame a scant 235 miles from Paycor Stadium, this summer's induction of Bengals Ring of Honor Member Ken Riley promises to be another deafening chapter in Who Dey Nation's Roaring '20s.
After stacking a Super Bowl appearance on back-to-back AFC title game berths to go with two straight AFC North championships, Bengals fans are already making plans to descend on the birthplace of the NFL to honor Riley on the 25th anniversary of Super Bowl XVI teammate Anthony Munoz's induction in the Canton, Ohio shrine.
Ken Riley II, who is presenting his late father at the Aug. 5 noon induction, hasn't finished preparing his three-minute speech yet. But he's hoping to view a familiar sea of orange and black at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium when he delivers it in front of a nationally-televised audience on ESPN and NFL Network.
"There's going to be a good crowd anyway from Cleveland with Joe Thomas," says Riley of the Browns left tackle enshrined in his first year of eligibility. "And with Joe Klecko and Darrelle Revis, Jets' fans travel well. So with Cincinnati so close and all the support we've had over the years, I'm looking for a good crowd."
"Bengal Jim," Foster is making sure of that.
Foster, a former Bengals nominee for NFL Fan of the Year who has made pushing Bengals for Canton a centerpiece of his stripes-and-stars forever agenda, has reserved a block of tickets for the induction. Floor seats are $99 and others are $35. Hundreds are available.
"We're looking for a huge crowd to celebrate Kenny and the team," Foster says. "The fans have waited a long time for this and it's going to be one great big celebration."
The induction is just one event out of a weekend that is a football fan's paradise, starting with the Hall of Fame Game between the Jets and Browns Thursday night at Tom Benson Stadium at 8 p.m.:
Friday, Aug. 4: 10:30 a.m. at Centennial Plaza: Photo opportunity for media and fans with 2023 class.
5 p.m. at Canton Memorial Civic Center and Cultural Center: Enshrinees' Gold Jacket Dinner. Tickets range from $175-$250. All seats are reserved.
Saturday, Aug. 5: 8 a.m. in downtown Canton: Grand Parade, complete with Foster and his Bengals Bus.
Noon at Tom Benson Stadium: 2023 enshrinement ceremony. Ticketed event.
8 p.m. at Tom Benson Stadium: Zac Brown Concert. Ticketed event.
Sunday, Aug. 6: Noon at Canton Memorial Civic Center: Enshrinees' roundtable. Tickets from $86-$96. All seats are reserved.
Also, the Hall of Fame museum is open each day. From 8-6 p.m. on Aug. 3, 8-8 on Aug 4-5, 9-8 on Aug. 6. Museum ticket sales end one hour before closing and doors close to new entries one hour before close.
JUNGLE TO THE HALL
Foster is planning one big hors d'oeuvres for one of the biggest bashes in Bengals history with a party for fans in downtown Cincinnati from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 in what is shaping up to be a cross between BengalsFest and Hall-of-Famepalooza.
The Banks is the scene of the third annual Jungle to the Hall, Foster's event he designed to bring awareness of the compelling Hall of Fame cases for several Bengals greats. This one is the biggest yet, a free rain-or-shine salute to Riley stretching from Jefferson Social Club to The Holy Grail with 12-24 former Bengals expected to be on hand signing autographs.
Although Riley is in the Hall, the fight continues for plenty of Bengals with impressive resumes. There are the Andersons with two-time Hall finalist Willie and Bengals all-time passing leader Ken, as well as all-time rusher Corey Dillon and all-time receiver Chad Johnson, along with some of Ken Anderson's fellow senior candidates in Isaac Curtis and Lemar Parrish.
Takeo Spikes, a 1998 Bengals' first-round pick who played 15 seasons at linebacker, ought to at least be discussed. Yes, first-ballot inductee Brian Urlacher had 12.5 more sacks and 61 more tackles for loss in 37 fewer games. But Spikes has an impressive line, too, with 98 more assisted tackles and five more forced fumbles than Urlacher, and should have a say.
Foster can certainly give it to him. From 1-2 is a meet-and-greet with either a live band or a deejay. From 2-3, Foster takes the stage with Bengals radio voices Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham to state the Hall cases of the Bengals legends in interviews that could include the two Andersons and Ken Riley II.
"We've been pleasantly surprised by the first response," Foster says. "We sent out an informal RSVP and heard back from about 300 people. I think about that big crowd on The Banks all dressed in Bengals gear and it gives me chills."
The start of a chilly summer for Bengals fans.