FanPost

River Falls: My Pilgrimage

This is my first fanpost so I'm sorry if I'm doing it wrong, but I thought that a couple weeks of membership it was time for me to share a personal Chiefs experience. This is an essay I wrote for my english class about my first trip to River Falls, WI in '08.

 

My best friend Caleb and I were, as far as we could remember, die-hard Chiefs fans.  That is why in the summer of 2008, we decided to do what we had talked about forever, but had never done; we were going to go the Chiefs' Summer Training Camp at River Falls, Wisconsin.  Caleb and I had started planning the trip early in the spring.   Initially we were going to go with two other of our friends without any parents, but we dropped that idea after our friends wanted to skip the whole camp and just make a border run into Canada where they would be of legal drinking age.  Not that we weren't up for a good time, but it just wasn't worth missing any chances to possibly get a much coveted autograph or photo opportunity with a player.  We planned all through the spring, even though camp didn't start till the end of July.

Caleb and I didn't know much about River Falls, our destination.  We knew that it was a small college town with a population of about 11,000 and approximately an hour from down-town Minneapolis.  By early April we had our plan completely finished.  We would leave in the morning of the last Wednesday in July and we would comeback that Sunday evening.  I had decided, upon Caleb's urgings, to let my father drive us.  Initially, I was upset by that, but then I soon realized the advantages of having a former football coach along for the trip.  Unlike Caleb or me, my dad would actually be able to tell us what was happening during the practices. Of course we knew a lot about the game of football, we knew good plays from bad, but just not always why they were good or bad, which is where my dad came in.

Everything seemed perfect until one night in early April when I turned on NFL Network after coming home from work and read the byline: "The Kansas City Chiefs trade Pro-Bowl DE Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings for currently unknown draft picks." I was stunned.  Jared Allen was both mine and Caleb's favorite player and who we were most looking forward to meeting and getting an autograph from.  I immediately called Caleb, who was already asleep, but I told him the next morning at school and we shared a short moment of grief that only true fans would feel.  The months went by slowly with the trip always in the back of our minds.  On the night before we left, Caleb came over and we stayed up all night watching "The NFL's Official History of The Kansas City Chiefs".  It was the perfect venue to get us fired up for the trip.  The documentary, to our pleasure, described in detail the Chiefs' great players and their great Super Bowl teams of old.  We fanaticized over the thought of maybe running into some of the old greats in River Falls while they "checked in" on their old team.  Our Imaginations ran wild.

"What if we are at the Dairy Queen and Tony Gonzalez walks in and we get his autograph," Caleb pondered.

"Or what if we are just watching the practice and Len Dawson is up there for Channel 9 and interviews us about what we think of it," I said.

"And lets us see his Super Bowl ring!" Caleb chimed in.

They were all fantastical scenarios that had only the slightest chance at becoming realities, but like kids making Christmas lists, we didn't care.  

After getting less than two hours of sleep we awoke at around six in the morning and began the six hour drive to Wisconsin.  Our goal was to get there in time for the afternoon practice with plenty of time to stop and eat along the way and check into our hotel.  River Falls was not what one would think of as "impressive" but it did have a subtle charm to it. The main street was old and filled with several small restaurants and bars; it even had an old one room movie theatre too.  Signs on every shop said, "River Falls welcomes The Chiefs and their fans". It felt very homey.  Further down the main street we saw the old campus and finally the field where our beloved Chiefs were practicing for the next year.  There were no more than a hundred people watching the practice, only true fans make the pilgrimage up north. The second day there was no morning practice, so we hopped in the car and made the hour long drive to Minneapolis and The Mall of America.  The mall truly was a spectacle, but we had trouble enjoying it and seemingly kept drifting to the sporting goods stores, stocking up on cards of players who were there. The practice went well and we were excited about what we perceived as improvement.

The next day was routine, we went to both practices and snagged a few autographs, but it was the upcoming Saturday that was to be the most exciting. On Saturday there was only one practice, but it was a joint practice with the neighboring Minnesota Vikings.  We were hoping we would get our redeeming chance to get Jared Allen's autograph, and to ask him if he meant what he said when he said, "They say Kansas City has the best fans. They were wrong."

Unfortunately, the practice came and went with no sign of Jared Allen.  Afterwards, we went to Coaches, a small bar and grill on the main drag. The food was great, but it did little to cheer us up.  We were sitting there all depressed when my dad told us to turn around because Tony Gonzalez, the Chiefs' all pro Tight End, had just sat down in the booth behind us.  We rushed up and were the first ones to get his autograph, then sat down and were telling my dad how awesome it was, even though he was right there to see it.  As we were reiterating everything to my father, we started hearing some gasps from the other fans and just assumed they had just now realized that Tony Gonzalez was there, until my dad hinted at us to turn around again.  We did, and saw a large man with a mullet, beard, and cowboy boots.  It was Jared Allen.  As fangirl-ish as it was, I'm pretty sure we let out high pitched squeals of surprise and joy and ran up to shake his hand and get our picture taken with him.  I even got to ask him if what he said was true about the Chiefs' fans, and he just looked at me and said, "Hell NO! But you've gotta play the crowd. You guys were great fans, it was all Carl. I still love KC." 

I left River Falls, Wisconsin, with closure and some of the best memories of my life. That's why I will always remember that "subtly charming" Wisconsin college town.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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