The year was 1991. We were all excited about Wayne Flores leading his Detroit Lions back into relevance with a star running back by the name of Barry Sanders helping him along the way.
Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were dominating the NBA landscape back east while Magic Johnson shocked the sports world out west.
For us children of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, “Hasta La Vista Baby” became part of our every-day vocabulary.
It’s also the last time the Cincinnati Bengals won a playoff game. It’s been over a quarter century (and six playoff losses) since.
Cincinnati will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend for an opportunity to snap its extensive postseason victory drought.
Here is how the pop culture world looked the last time Cincinnati came out victorious in a meaningful January football game.
Whitney Houston’s “Star Spangled Banner”
With the United States engaged in a full-fledged war for the first time since Vietnam, this country was on pins and needles early in 1991. We had no idea how the coming years would turn out.
It was something a majority of Americans at that time had never been through — so much different than the country today.
The Gulf War began on January 17, 1991. Ten days later, the Buffalo Bills would take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV in Tampa.
While the game was amazing (more on that later), Houston’s absolutely stunning rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” is a moment many of us will never forget. Some had tears. Others were given chills. Either way, it was the defining moment of that era.
Paul Brown passes away
Born in 1908, Brown remains one of the most important figures in football history.
From his time as the head coach of Ohio State to the founding of the Cleveland Browns (his namesake) in the old All-American Football Conference to his shocking decision to head a franchise called the Bengals in Cincinnati, Brown’s importance to the game cannot be overstated.
The amazing thing here is that Brown passed away months after the Bengals won their last playoff game. He was 82 years old.
For the sake of his legacy and pure greatness, we are sure his old team would love nothing more than to win that next postseason game.
Magic Johnson’s announcement
It was an announcement that absolutely shocked the world and put a face on the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States.
I remember sitting at home as this former Los Angeles Lakers great told the entire world that he had contracted the HIV virus — a virus that had led directly to the death of millions of Americans in the decade since it became prevalent out on the west coast.
As a young kid without an understanding of what this disease was, I was actually afraid to go outside in fear of contracting the disease. To most of us young children, this also seemed to mean the end of Johnson’s life.
In a sign of just how far we have come in the past quarter century, Magic looks as healthy as ever. And the number of AIDS-related deaths have dropped exponentially in the U.S. — from 156,000 in 1991 to under 16,000 in 2014.
While there is still a long way to go here, especially in Africa, Magic’s willingness to act as a public face to the disease and work with leaders to help educate the public has made a huge difference here.
The Beatles sue Apple for copyright infringement
Apple Corps — a record label created by The Beatles back in 1968 — earned a $28.5 million payoff from this technological giant. It was the first large-scale payout from Apple Computer to the face of the British Invasion in what had been a decade-long dispute.
At the time of the settlement, the only original member of the bann that had passed away was John Lennon — the member that actually pushed to take Apple Computer to court back in the late 1970’s. Since then, George Harrison has departed us.
O.J. Simpson has cameo on “Naked Gun 2 1/5: The Smell of Fear”
This was around the same time that Simpson was analyzing football for NBC Sports. He seemed to have his post-football life in order and was as popular as ever. It sure didn’t hurt that his cameo on this hilarious comedy was one of the best performances by an athlete in the history of movie-making.
No one knew that just a few short years later Simpson would be embroiled in the biggest murder trial in American history.
Buffalo Bills beat the Los Angeles Raiders 51-3 in the AFC Championship game
The then Los Angeles Raiders turned the ball over seven times in windy conditions in this conference title bout. Jim Kelly threw two touchdowns while Thurman Thomas added 199 total yards and a touchdown in the blowout victory.
It remains one of the largest margin of victories in postseason history.
In what has to be considered a massive coincidence, this Raiders loss came four years before it uprooted back to Northern California. If Cincinnati could find a way to end its long playoff winning streak the same week as the Raiders potentially relocating to Los Angeles, that would be all sorts of weird.
U.S. minimum wage increases to $4.25 per hour
We have to put this into perspective before jumping off a ledge. The price of gas was $1.14 a gallon while the average home price was just over $147,000.
More than a quarter century later, and the federal minimum wage is at $7.25 per hour with home prices skyrocketing to $220,000.
It surely does seem like we exist in a completely different world than we did in the early 1990’s.
“Seinfeld” debuts on NBC
If one show defined the 1990’s pop culture scene in the United States it was this one created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Still an iconic force more than 25 years after its creation, “Seinfeld” has transcended generations.
From the “Soup Nazi” and “The Contest” to “Get out of here” and “Shrinkage,” this show has become part of the American lexicon.
No other sitcom in the history of television has contributed to society in this way. It truly is stunning.
By the way, shrinkage is really a thing.
Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies are named expansion teams
Two years before each team would make their Major League Baseball debuts, they were named the two newest franchises in the oldest sport America has to offer.
To put into perspective just how long ago this was, the Marlins opening day starter two years later, Charlie Hough, just celebrated his 68th birthday.
Colorado’s current manager Walt Weiss was just four years removed from winning the American League Rookie of the Year award when these two teams were first formed.
Since their inception, these two teams have followed different paths. The now Miami Marlins have won two World Series titles while the Rockies’ trophy case remains empty.
Microsoft releases MS-Dos 5
Luckily for this one scribe, computers were not a major fixture in my household in the early 1990’s. I say luckily simply because my first job — at Bank of America — introduced me to MS-Dos. Ugh, kids today have no idea how great they have it.
Remember the commands you had to go through in order to even prompt another page from opening up on the computer? I would pay money to see a later-generation millennial attempt to use this program nowadays.
Evander Holyfield beat George Foreman at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City
There’s so much going on here. Six years before Holyfield had part of his hear gnawed on by Mike Tyson, he was at the top of the boxing profession.
Billed as the “Battle of the Ages,” Holyfield game out on top in a unanimous decision to keep the heavyweight title.
The match brought in a then record $55 million in pay-per-view revenue while Hollyfield collected $20 million compared to $12.5 million for Foreman.
Interestingly, this match took place in part because Holyfield decided to delay a potential battle with Tyson.
And despite the loss, the 42-year-old Foreman would reclaim the heavyweight title three years later — becoming the oldest titleholder in boxing history.
“I Wanna Sex You Up”
Most of us born in the 1980’s had absolutely no idea what the title of this song by the hip-hop group Color Me Badd meant. What we did know is that we loved singing along to it.
Us boys also loved the sexy ladies taking part in the music video on MTV (one of the greatest creations ever).
Still, it’s this one sentence that will live on forever:
“To the tick tock ya don’t stop.”
It’s a lyric that will always be ingrained into our consciousness. When the song plays, even decades down the road, we will probably jump from our rocking chairs to dance to it.
Let’s just hope that generation of children knows a good oldie when it sees one, because these kids today have no idea.
A.J. McCarron’s birth year
The current Bengals starter wasn’t born the last time his team won a playoff game. In fact, he wouldn’t bast the world with his presence until September of 1991.
No. 1 wide receiver A.J. Green had not even turned two yet. Meanwhile, head coach Marvin Lewis was younger (22) than the team’s two top running backs, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.
All said, 22 members of the Bengals roster were not even born the last time Cincinnati came out on top in a meaningful January football game.
Super Nintento released
If the Nintendo Entertainment System was the greatest thing children of the 1980’s had ever seen, this new version of the game console was even better.
Gone were Super Mario Bros., Punch-Out and Duck Hunt. They were replaced by games with super awesome graphics, such as Super Mario World and Street Fighter II (maybe the best game ever).
John Madden Football ’91, ladies and gentlemen.
The video game industry has come so far in the past quarter century. Heck, there are professional video game players — something that would have been a dream for those us us growing up in the 1990’s.
Still, there’s something awesome about pulling out this console and playing it every once in a while.
Rickey Henderson breaks MLB’s steals record
“Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I’m the greatest of all time. Thank you.”
Those of us who grew up Oakland A’s fans during this era had chills when Rickey made this speech during a game against the New York Yankees (such a coincidence).
It was a moment in time that saw Henderson break Lou Brock’s career stolen base record.
For those of us not mature enough to know the difference, Rickey’s speech was about as outstanding as it gets. For others, it showed him to be the ego-filled player many had become accustomed to.
Henderson would go on to play parts of 13 more years in the Majors before finally retiring at the age of 44 in 2003.
A 28-year-old Michael Jordan wins NBA’s Most Valuable Player award
Jordan earned only his second of five NBA MVP awards following the 1990-91 season, a year that saw the Chicago Bulls knock off Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers for the team’s first title.
Magic and Jordan would never meet in the Finals again, as the Lakers Hall of Famer would declare to the world his HIV diagnoses just five months later.
The 1990-91 season saw Jordan average 30.5 points while shooting a NBA-best 54 percent from the field. That’s the last time a guard led the Association in field goal percentage.
The very same game that saw Houston give her dazzling performance also gave us one of the most dramatic endings in Super Bowl history.
Playing in the first of what be a record four consecutive Super Bowls, the Buffalo Bills had an opportunity to knock off the favored New York Giants with a last-second field goal.
With eight seconds left and his team down by one, Bills kicker Scott Norwood took the field for a 47-yard game-winning field goal attempt. A kick that looked good sailed wide right to give the Giants the title.
It was the first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses by the Bills. To this day, they remain one of the greatest teams to never hoist the Lombardi.
Minnesota Twins win the World Series: Kirby Puckett led the Twins to the title in an amazing seven-game series against the Atlanta Braves. Game 7 was defined by a ridiculous 126-pitch, 10-inning shutout from Twins starter Jack Morris, who led the Twins to a 1-0 win to clinch the series.
“Silence of the Lambs” released: Anthony Hopkins was absolutely stirring as Hannibal Lecter in a performance for the ages. Anyone old enough to remember this movie has had a nightmare with “hello Clarice” involved in it. Fava beans, anyone?
Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” premieres: Say what you want about Jackson, this one video was absolutely amazing. This song brought the issue of racism and global conflict to an entirely new generation of Americans. It was a game changer.
Mike Tyson arrested and charge with rape: The career and freedom of this champion boxer was put on hold after he was arrested (and later convicted) of sexually assaulting Desiree Washington. Tyson spent just three years in prison.
Internet made available: The World Wide Web was made available for unlimited commercial use for the first time. It was nothing short of a dinosaur.