The Cincinnati Bengals win over the New York Jets on Sunday didn’t just spare them the ignominy of being the third team in NFL history to post an 0-16 season.
It also meant one of their most devoted fans got to sleep in his own bed.
‘I never thought I’d be up here for 57 days’
Jeff Lanham, who owns the Hog Rock Cafe in Milan, Indiana, about 45 miles west of Paul Brown Stadium, had spent nearly two months in a tent on the roof of the restaurant, even having Thanksgiving dinner with his family in the 12-by-10 foot tent.
It started as a joke: after the Bengals’ fourth loss of the season, to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lanham told his wife Chrissy that he would live on the roof of the Hog Rock if Cincinnati lost its Week 5 game to the Arizona Cardinals.
But Chrissy made it real when she took Jeff’s declaration public, sharing it on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A man of his word, after the 26-23 home loss to Arizona, Jeff packed a bag and moved to the roof on Oct. 7.
He finally got to come down Sunday night.
“I never thought ever that I’d be up there for 57 days,” Jeff Lanham told WKRC.
Lanham became something of a local folk hero for his dedication — there was a hashtag, #DoItforJeff, T-shirts, and a “Flat Jeff,” a cardboard cutout that friends brought to their tailgate at the stadium on Sunday.
“I don’t feel like I’m in prison now; I can do whatever I want,” he said. “Before it was just bathroom breaks, that’s it.”
23 hours a day
Lanham spent 23 hours a day in the tent, coming down for bathroom breaks, as he said, and to shower. The Lanhams’ home is a few minutes from the restaurant, so Chrissy would bring clean clothes. Either Chrissy or restaurant staff delivered meals.
The tent life wasn’t part of a losing bet so there weren’t rules at the beginning, but patrons following along sort of made them for him.
So he slept on a cot, kept the space heater running, and watched a lot of Netflix. It has already snowed in Milan, making the early walks Lanham took on the roof pretty much impossible.
Lanham is happy his adventure is over.
“I just said something I shouldn’t have said, and I had to eat my words and own up to it,” he said.
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