‘Dad will be there with me’

HAMILTON, Ohio (WXIX) – A diehard Cincinnati Bengals and season ticket holder since1985 is going to Los Angeles with 17 other family members to watch the team play its first Super Bowl game in three decades – and he’s taking his late father along.

Mike Craft, the third highest-ranking official at the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, attended most games with his late father, Bob Craft.

But his dad died three years ago, so now his son is honoring his memory and love for the Bengals by taking a vial of his late father’s ashes to SoFi Stadium in his pants pocket.

“Dad will be there with me,” Major Mike Craft said. “It truly is a gift from heaven. You only live once!”

No one other than his dad would have been more thrilled to see the Bengals reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989.

“He would have been ecstatic. He was the biggest Bengals fan in the world,” Craft said.

“I could never leave a game early when I went with him. He made me stay until the very last second. You couldn’t say one bad word about Mike or Paul Brown around my dad, not one word.”

Both times the team previously competed in the Super Bowl, in 1982 and 1989, his dad dragged a Christmas tree outside and decorated it orange and black to celebrate and to show support for team. The rest of the family has followed suit over the years.

The Crafts attended the playoff games this year and in 1982 and 1989, but they couldn’t afford to go to the Super Bowl until now.

Now, a total of 18 family members are traveling to California for the game.

The Craft family in Hamilton decorated this orange and black Christmas tree and displayed it outside to show their support for the Bengals the last time the team played in the Super Bowl, back in January 1989.(Provided by Major Mike Craft)
The late Bob Kraft of Hamilton was such a devoted Cincinnati Bengals fan, he decorated a van...
The late Bob Kraft of Hamilton was such a devoted Cincinnati Bengals fan, he decorated a van and dubbed it the “Bengals Buggy” when the team first went to the Super Bowl in 1982.(Provided by Major Mike Craft)

Craft said he almost missed out on seeing the Super Bowl in person.

He felt “dejected” when he was notified last week that, even though he was a 36-year season ticket holder, he had not won the lottery for tickets to attend the big game.

Then, he said, he truly believes his late father had a hand in what happened next.

On Monday, Craft was sitting at his desk in the Butler County Sheriff’s Office when his phone beeped, alerting him to check a new email.

He opened it and was stunned: He was eligible to buy two tickets after others turned down the opportunity.

“You could have picked me up off the floor,” he recalled. “I never expected it in my wildest dreams.”

Craft immediately purchased two tickets for $1,800 each. He said he felt grateful it wasn’t higher, noting that’s the low end of what tickets are going for – some cost upwards of $10,000 apiece.

When his mom found out he was going and taking his dad’s ashes along to the game, “she burst into tears,” he said.

“She got emotional about the whole situation. My mom wanted me to take a part of my dad with me to the game.”

He’s also taking his 16-year-old grandson, Ashton, who now attends Bengals games with him.

The entire family is excited about seeing the Super Bowl in person together.

They plan to wear their orange and black, Bengals gear and whoop it up as they celebrate with all the other local fans making the trip.

He says he can’t wait to meet other Cincinnatians at a tailgating event there on Saturday night that he says is sold out.

The Craft family rents a house to stay together that’s just 30 minutes from SoFi Stadium.

Most of them arranged for their flights the second the Bengals won the AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs nearly two weeks ago, he said.

Craft, however, showed he is the true spendthrift in the family.

He said he bought his plane ticket before the AFC Championship game, only shelling out $95 for a round-trip ticket on Frontier Airlines.

His flight to LA has a lengthy layover – and he’s smooth.

“Me being the gambler I am, I am flying out a little early Thursday night to Las Vegas. I have an eight-hour layover so I can go gambling and win enough money to pay for the whole trip!”

Butler County Sheriff's Office Major Mike Craft
Butler County Sheriff’s Office Major Mike Craft(Butler County Sheriff’s Office)

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