Most of the world doesn’t know what it’s like to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan. I’m going to to try to enlighten them.
Over thirty years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs had completed another of their disastrous seasons. I took the front page of the sports section from our local newspaper and taped it to our bedroom door. It was intended as one of those trendy motivators for the next season. “Remember how this felt,” and that sort of thing. I don’t actually play for the Chiefs. I have zero effect on their win/loss column. But I sometimes think I am on the team and I suppose I felt like I was doing something.
The next year was every bit as disastrous, and I added another headline to the door. And another and another, as the years went by. My son Beau, who was a small boy at the time, said “Dad, when are you going to take those down?” “When they win it all, son. When they win it all.”
Beau is now 35 years old. My bedroom door is covered with losing headlines. “Defensive Debacle,”Chiefs Last In, First Out Of Playoffs,” “Chiefs Playoffs Hopes Disappear,” “Home Field Disadvantage,” “Crash And Burn,” “I Tried My Hardest (All Chiefs fans remember Lin Elliot),” “Titanic Meltdown,” Steel Suffering”. The list goes on and on. There isn’t a square inch of wood showing on either side of that door. And I’ve just added “Tom And The Heartbreakers” to it. I’m now on a second layer, covering up old heartache with new agony.
It’s not just the papered-over door. In 1964, my dad took my brother and me to old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City to watch our new professional football team. H. Roe Bartle, the mayor who negotiated their arrival and who was known to all as “Chief,” was, no doubt, pleased that they had shed their old name as the Dallas Texans and become the Kansas City Chiefs. (At one point, they were to be the Kansas City Texans, which would have made no sense at all and thank God for H. Roe Bartle.)
I’ve been with them, in spirit, since then.
So this is not for Chiefs fans, but for all the others in the world. Imagine, if you will, something close to fifty years of waiting, of “maybe,” of “almost” and “nearly”. Imagine a season in which we are finally for real. It’s not just a lucky season. We’re for real. Imagine this game against the Patriots. For the championship. Imagine the final two minutes of regulation play and being ahead 28 to 24. And imagine the Chiefs intercepting Tom Brady. We have the ball. All that’s required is to use up the clock. We’ve just beaten Tom Brady and the Patriots. And we are headed back to the Super Bowl. But wait. What? We have a penalty. We don’t have the ball. Tom Brady and the Patriots are picking our defense apart and we can’t stop them. They score, they win, we lose. If you can understand that, you can understand us.
Within minutes, the recriminations begin. We lost because of a coin flip. We lost because a phenomenal and outstanding defensive player lined up over the line of scrimmage. The roaring mob wants Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton’s head. (I may or may not have screamed that in my living room) Within two days, Sutton’s head has rolled. Thinking the worst of it was over, I turned on the television this morning and found that someone in the stadium was training a laser on Tom Brady’s eyes during the game. Seriously? Really? You’re a danger to yourself and others. Do you want to win with a laser or with a football team? You should be banned from all NFL games for life. Lasers do not win championships. Defense does.
This essay will be dated rather quickly, because August is still in the calendar for 2019. We will start again. There are silver linings; this was not simply a lucky season. We are for real. We can get better faster if we own up to a few things and dispense with the thousand and one ridiculous reasons we lost. We lost because we did not win.
Somewhere in this kingdom, the sun is shining bright. “Start Me Up” is playing while the laser boys take flight. Foxboro fans are laughing and New England children shout, but there is no joy in Arrowhead. KC has struck out.
My door is still plastered with losing headlines. Obi-Wan-Mahomie, tear down these newspapers.