Minutes after Bengals kicker Evan McPherson threw the winning field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs, winning the team the AFC championship and their first trip to the Super Bowl in 34 years, Karen Roseman’s phone- Harris started ringing.
Phone calls and text messages poured in from excited Bengals fans wanting to know about Super Bowl travel arrangements. For more than 35 years, Roseman-Harris, of Forest Park, or “Mrs. K” to her friends, has organized road trips to Bengals games.
She and a friend, Marsha Watts, began in the mid-1980s by taking a busload of rabid Bengals fans to Cleveland for the Battle of Ohio each year. Over time, one bus trip grew to two, then three, and now Roseman-Harris runs up to four trips out of town each year to watch Bengals games.
She estimates she has arranged trips to more than 100 away games for the Bengals, including London, Buffalo, Green Bay, Dallas, Las Vegas and Arizona, to name a few. She even sat next door and chatted with Nancy Brown, wife of Bengals owner Mike Brown, on a bus trip to Buffalo in 2015.
“In the three hours following the AFC Championship game, I received over 95 phone calls and text messages requesting information about the Super Bowl,” said Roseman-Harris, owner of Travel by Karen. “Since then, I have worked non-stop.
And this is not hyperbole. Roseman-Harris was heading out of town for a girls’ vacation in Cancun days after the AFC Championship game, but admits she spent more time booking Super Bowl trips than the beach. In fact, as of Thursday, Roseman-Harris still hadn’t secured his own tickets to the big game in Los Angeles.
“I just want to get our fans out there,” she said. “I sleep an average of four hours a night. I want to get as much as I can to the Super Bowl.”
Arranging road trips is a labor of love, said daughter-in-law Susan Janelle Roseman.
“She takes people to games because she’s excited about the team and she wants people to share the excitement,” Susan Roseman said. “There are times when someone doesn’t have the money to go and she always tries to make sure she has a way.”
Sometimes that means digging into your own pocket to get there. Roseman-Harris arranged a bus trip to Nashville for the Bengals’ AFC Division game against the top-seeded Tennessee Titans. The 40 people on the bus each had to pay $299 for travel, game tickets and accommodation. But after the Bengals’ upset win, their first ever on the road in the playoffs, something happened to him.
“I was so excited. I don’t know what came over me,” Roseman-Harris recalled. “I got up at the front of the bus and told everyone this trip was a me. If they had already paid they would get a full refund and if they still had an outstanding balance consider -it as settled.”
Do the math; it’s almost $12,000. And one hell of a victory celebration.
I have had the pleasure of traveling with Mrs. K many times over the years. The Bengals-Browns trips were an annual affair for me and my wife. We have also traveled with her to London and Green Bay and have thoroughly enjoyed each time.
You don’t just get a ride when traveling with Mrs. K. It’s more like a party on wheels (or wings if you’re traveling by plane). It offers an assortment of food and drink and there are giveaway raffles, Bengals trivia (which I almost always win) and lots of music and fun. His daughter-in-law described it as “showing up to a party without having to bring a dish”.
Then there are the cheers. Before departing to each destination, Mrs. K stands in front of everyone to teach them the cheers the band will sing when the Bengals win – and Mrs. K still expects the Bengals to win. These are age-old tunes passed down to him by his grandmother.
On va comme ça (sung to the tune of the witty African-American “Wade in the Water”):
“Go to the shower, go to the shower, Rams,
Go to the shower, the Bengals turned on the water.”
A second cheer looks like this:
“Awww shoot! It’s hot in here. Must be a bengal in the mood”
As many of us who frequently travel with her say, “Ain’t no party like a Ms. K party, ’cause a Ms. K party don’t stop!”
“They mean the world to me,” Roseman-Harris said of the trips.
Or maybe she was referring to the Bengals. Roseman-Harris considers herself the No. 1 Bengals fan, a love affair that began as a tomboy watching Bengals games with her parents, John and Agnes, at their home in Avondale. She even tried out once to be a Ben-Gals cheerleader in her twenties, but pulled out before the final selections.
“I don’t know why I never followed up. I guess I got cold feet,” she said.
Roseman-Harris developed a love for travel through her mother, who was part of a women’s travel club that only did bus trips. She said her first trip with her mother’s band was to the Million Women March.
To honor her mother-in-law, Susan Roseman wrote a letter to the Bengals before the AFC Championship game asking them to give her one of the game balls if the team won. In addition to booking trips, Roseman-Harris co-owns the Gametime Ultimate Sports Bar & Grill at Mt. Healthy. Susan Roseman told the Bengals she felt it was important for the team to recognize black-owned facilities and be intentionally inclusive.
The Bengals responded by sending head coach Zac Taylor to Gametime with a game ball immediately after the team returned from Kansas City.
“We got the first of five balls they were giving away for this game,” Susan Roseman said. “It was surreal when we got the phone call that Zac was coming straight from Kansas to the bar. It made us feel like we were part of the team, the energy and the movement that infects the whole city and much of the country.”
And Taylor didn’t just deliver the ball and walk away. He stayed to take pictures with every customer who wanted one.
“He was so gracious, approachable and attentive to the fans who were at the bar that night,” she said. “You write a letter and you hope it matters to someone and they will even read it. The Bengals considered my letter and acted on it. It made us feel connected and made us want to keep going. to support the franchise.”
At 65, one wonders how long Mrs. K intends to continue organizing trips to the Bengals.
“I just love sharing the love with the fans who just want to be there to support the Bengals and cheer them on to win,” she said. “I want to do this as long as my wheels keep rolling.”
And when they don’t anymore, Susan Roseman said Mrs K is already grooming the next generation to take the wheel, so she can just sit back and drive with her husband Cecil.
As for Sunday’s big game, Roseman-Harris is still hoping to get to SoFi Stadium to see the game. But otherwise, she’ll be next to other Bengals fans she helped get to Los Angeles at a restaurant in the Los Angeles Airport Hilton hotel watching the game on 50 TV screens. And of course, she expects the Bengals to win.
“I never doubted it for a minute,” she said. “The Bengals are going to win 34-31, and when they do, I’ll be here to say I told you so.”
Opinion and Engagement Editor-in-Chief Kevin S. Aldridge can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @kevaldrid.