The Boetian farmer Hesiod wrote a popular bit of Greek Mythology called "Works and Days" in which he tells a creation story and traces the lineage of men through four successive ages: The Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze (Heroic) Age and finally the Iron Age.
As I was thinking of the possible departure of Tony Gonzalez, one of our "heroes", it led me to think of Hesiods work and how it can be compared to the Chiefs.
The Golden Age
The first men were created by Chronus, king of the Titans and were perfect. It was Spring all year round and the mortals spoke and dined right along with the gods.
The Chiefs Golden Age was clearly the late 60s, led by Hank Stram . We look back on that time as a time of perfect harmony and the pinnacle of the Chiefs success and the time of their only Super Bowl appearances and victory. Six great players from this era are immortalized in the pro football Hall of Fame.
The Silver Age
The second race of men were created inferior to the first. They had to work for their food, but were very long lived, a child could play for a hundred years before growing up.
I thought the Silver Age aptly represented the Schottenheimer / Cunningham era. Coming out of the dark years of the 70s and 80s, the Chiefs were seemingly reborn, but nothing came easy for them. This era was unusually long lived, lasting over 12 years in which the Chiefs had much success, but were inferior to the Golden Age Chiefs in that they always fell short of making it to the big game and achieving the immortality they strived for.
The Bronze ( Heroic ) Age
The Bronze Age was actually broken into two parts. The late Bronze Age (after the Deucalion Flood) is the era that many people are familiar with in Greek Mythology. It was the Age of Heroes. Perseus, Hercules, Achilles and other demigods performed great individual feats and sought out fame, recognition and victory.
I thought the Vermeil era aptly represented the Age of Heroes.
Though Chiefs fans have always had their favorites, the explosive offense of the Chiefs at this time gave them nationwide notoriety. They were the #1 offense in the league for multiple years and for the first time since the early 70s, boasted players that you could comfortably say would eventually be in the Hall of Fame. For possibly the first time, a large number of fans that had never cared about the Chiefs before went to games or tuned in more to admire the individual performances of the players than the team as a whole.
Despite the fact the teams of this time only went to the playoffs once in five years, many fans were content with the entertainment they received from their favorites. Among them: Dante Hall, Priest Holmes, Trent Green, Willie Roaf, Will Shields and yes, Tony Gonzalez not least among them.
One thing that has always made the Greek Heroes so facinating is that they were not black and white Superman type heroes with no vices. Yes they had Superhuman strength and speed and the backing and assistance of the gods, but the Heroes of mythology all had flaws that usually impacted them negatively in a big way.
Ajax's great pride was hurt when Agamemnon and Odysseus overruled his claim to a girl they had captured. This character flaw in a great and well respected hero was so great that in a rage he burst into the camp slaughtering men, captured Agamemnon and Odysseus and began torturing them... Or so he thought. It turned out that a goddess had made Ajax THINK that was what he was doing to protect her favorite. When the Greeks awoke the next morning, they found Ajax actually slaughtering sheep in the pin and torturing two rams instead. The great hero had made himself a laughing stock.
It's difficult to see something simliar to happen to our great heroes. Trent Green who was highly respected by Chiefs fans allowed his pride to be hurt by the idea he might have to compete for the starting job with 2nd year man Brodie Croyle after coming back from a severe concussion. Rather than face that afront to his pride, he demanded to be traded and has since been kicked around a few times and is now a backup exactly as he feared he would be. In the meantime, it turned out Croyle wasn't ready to play at all and ended up sitting behind a far inferior QB to Green in Damon Huard.
Seeing what could be the last days of Tony Gonzalez gives me a similar feeling. Tony G doesn't show any signs of slowing down, and if he does get traded, he will no doubt still play at a high level. But will it be the same as in K.C.?
Tony has always been a big team first guy, but he allowed his own personal flaws to show through when he fell short of his personal goal at the Broncos game where he was fully expecting the adoration of the fans, an award ceremony and a great deal of personal recognition. Tony G could barely hide his disappointment and quickly left the lockerroom after the game rather than celebrating the end of a 12 game losing streak with the young team. This was really no big deal. What became a big deal though, was when he publicly expressed his extreme disappointment to the media the next week. Did it have a negative impact on a young team to see one of their mentors express such great disappointment when they were all overjoyed to have finally tasted victory after such a long time? It's possible the flat and unenthusaistic play of the entire team the following week in Carolina could have been partly attributed to that heartbreaking distraction.
If traded, might Tony find similar disappointment as Trent Green? Going to a team that is not used to having a TE of his ability available and possibly underuse him. What of the very real possibility that he is traded to another team and still never goes to the Super Bowl? Will he regret the decision to leave the only home he's ever known and still not achieve his goals?
This seemed unusual for one of the greatest of Kansas City's heroes. But much like the Greek Heroes of mythology, Tony G had essentially been raised during the age of heroes in KC where Vermeil praised individual playmaking and strongly encouraged and pushed shooting for players records.
What Tony G, as well as Larry Johnson, has come to realize I believe, is that they are essentially standing at the cusp of another age in Kansas City, much as Achilles and Hector had. The Chiefs are transitioning from an organization that encouraged and cultivated personal ambition within the boundries of working as a team to a philosophy that will always do what is in the best interest of the team, no matter what effect that has on the individuals.
The Iron Age
Hesiod labled the time of modern man from the death of most of the heroes of the Trojan War up till today as the Iron Age. The gods had largely abandoned the earth and there were no demigods to go out and slay monsters all on their own. Instead, groups of men would unite and fight together for their common goals and because of this, were able to accomplish much more than the great heroes of the past.
Brian Waters seems to be one of those men who is succesfully stradling the to eras. "I’m not concerned because I think we all would like to play for a contender,” Waters said. “But I would rather be the foundation rather than ride on the coattails of others.”
I think this aptly explains the type of team Herm Edwards wants to build in K.C. He is not discouraging individual effort (even the Iron Age Greeks had their great men: Pericles, Alexander, Leonitas, etc.) but the emphasis is much more focused on bringing together many tough, determined players to the team working together as a whole. The efforts of the team will not be risked for individual personal achievments.
There has even been a willingness on the part of the current administration of trading away the heroes of old that are approaching the twilight of their career and nearing the end of their usefulness for younger players that will fit in the overall scheme of the future. Less heroes, better team unity.
At the culimination of his vision, the defense would play at a high level to put the offense in good position to score, but likewise the offense would not work itself past the ability of the defense to maintain their end of the deal as often happened in the Vermeil years.
Of course, this is all early in the working out of the vision and there are many who doubt the vision will eventually work. But of course, in the early days of the Age of Heroes (Vermeil era) many doubted they would see what it eventually became as well.