FanPost

Sunday Mornings and New Arrowhead: To Go or Not to Go

Being a Chiefs diehard has never exactly been arational act. The team hasn't won a playoff game since '94. They haven't been champions since man landed on the moon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Even when late-season games have mattered, they've never been for the faint of heart. It's bitterly cold, it's early, it costs, and you have to wait forever in the parking lot afterwards. Time, money, and comfort are saved by staying home, not to be able to keep tabs on your other favorite team -- your fantasy team.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But in my memory of growing up in KC and going to games, all the inconveniences of a day at Arrowhead never mattered much. Especially the cold. Chiefs fans have always been unflappable in the cold. When a Chiefs fan loses feeling in his fingers while walking to the car Sunday morning, the thinking has never been, "Damn it's cold."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It's more like, "DAMN IT'S COLD!! LET'S FUCKING DO THIS!!"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Like I said, not exactly rational behavior.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     But it seems like now, because of the economy and maybe some other reasons that are hard to pin down, we've become more rational Chiefs fans. Some of that wildness feels like it's gone.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As you know, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West last Sunday, and Arrowhead wasn't even close to capacity. It was a sad sight to see. And it feels like something has been lost.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ***                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For as long as I can remember, back to the days of Montana, Allen, JJ Birden, and Lake Dawson, the Chiefs have been the thing that brings KC together. More than BBQ or jazz or the Royals, Chiefs football gives us our collective identity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           KC is a sports town through and through. We don't have balmy weather of the west or the high arts of the east. Sports is the lifeblood, and Chiefs football is queen bee.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is a sprawled and loosely-knit community. People from Raytown don't go to Merriam. Except for how to get to KCI, folks south of the river know next to nothing about the northland. Even in our own neighborhoods, we barely know each other.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               We drive to work in the morning and drive home at night. We mostly stay in on the weekends, but on Sundays, we've always come together for church -- located at 1 Arrowhead Drive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         We come in troves. We come when there's no hope and no clear future. We come for community. We come for fun. We come to show support.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Hell, we come out of obligation. In these times of citizen disengagement and non-commitment, supporting the Chiefs feels like one of the last remaining civic duties.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         One of the guys is Belly Boy, a rather fat fellow standing and screaming on Sundays. The cameras always find him because he's always there and always shirtless, even when it's cold enoug to give lesser men hypothermia.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I always thought of Belly Boy as merely a more extreme version of all Chiefs fans. No matter how brutally cold it is, Chiefs fans ar there spitting in the face of common sense, Belly Boy our crazed ringleader.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I haven't seen Belly Boy at the New Arrowhead. I've only made it to one game -- the Jacksonvill game. It felt...different. In the first half, the crowd was groggy, like we'd forgotten our booze and/or coffee. It wasn't until well into the second half that the energy reached the level I remember it always being at Old Arrowhead.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Maybe it'll just take some time for fans to adapt to the new surroundings. Maybe when Arrowhead fills up again, the fans will do as the team and hit their stride all at once. But then again, maybe new Arrowhead will never be the same as old Arrowhead.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               New Arrowhead is nice. It's themed and stylized, fresh and futuristic-looking. It's more Apple, less Microsoft. With the gentrification came higher prices.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I get the sense that new Arrowhead isn't the ideal place for Tom, the mulleted phone company technician who tailgates in a Montana jersey matched with red and yellow leopard-spotted sweat pants. Or Belly Boy either. Or the guys like themwho make up a hefty chunk of Chiefs diehards.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I hope I'm wrong. All I can say is, right now in year one, it feels different, even though the physical changes were relatively minor. Some included:                                                                                                                                                                                                             -- Replacing the ring of honor with ribbon boards that show fantasy stats and ads.                                                                 --- Dismissing the raucous, long-tenured touchdown band to make way for more endzone                                                        seats. And more top 40. (The TD band packed up a couple years back I think).                                                                           -- Adorning the new club level concourses with white carpet and coffee tables.                                                                       -- A couple years ago the Star reported that the Chiefs were going to start discouraging too                                                            much standing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pretty minute changes, yes. It seems like, with the renovations, the Chiefs wanted to make Arrowhead a touch more like your living room. It's atad more comfy, but this has the side-effect of crowds that are more subdued.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I understand where the Chiefs are coming from. All NFL teams are dealing with the conundrum of how to compete with TV, which is always getting better. With their renovations, the Chiefs had two general strategies they could've pursued. One was to try to expand on what makes the live experience unique from TV. The other was to try to incorporate some of th successful elements of TV into the live experience. They went with the latter, which is by far the more popular and safer choice in stadiums these days.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     It probably goes without saying by now, but I don't care much for the renovations. When I go to a stadium, I want something completely different from what I can get at home. I want escape. I want history. I want the game to be God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Arrowhead used to be like that for me. I suppose that just about any change would've been taking a step away from my ideal, so maybe I'm not the fairest critic. While I will admit that the changes look nice and that Arrowhead is still a great place to watch football, there's no doubt in my mind that it hasn't lost some soul, contrary to what the slogan insists.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Which is why I have a deep down fear -- hopefully an irrational one -- that even when the economy comes all the way back, Arrowhead may not.

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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