I found myself in the rare situation of knowing what I want to say without knowing how to go about saying it. Go figure right? I could do some research and come up with some loose comparisons in NFL history that could be picked apart by the best of them here around AP. Always a good conversation but doesn't really hit home with why I feel the way I do about it. So I decided to go the other route with a personal example of a similar situation in my life to help explain my thinking on where the team is at right now and where I think we could be headed.
I went to Central Missouri State (University of Central Missouri now) out of high school on a baseball scholarship. It was the best baseball program in the area at the time and the coach had a reputation of getting the most out of his players. The year before I went there they finished 53-10 and lost in the national championship game. Needless to say the program was successful and was expected to succeed every season.
That first fall in Warrensburg I was humbled each and every day by hitters that I wasn't used to facing in Kansas 6A baseball. Rather than explaining the whole story I'll just say this about that fall. My lung collapsed when we were "testing out", basically it was a conditioning test before we left for winter break. Then when we got back we had to "test in" before we were allowed to practice. I redshirted that first season and they finished 3rd in the country and had a 54-8 record. I came back the next year and was a part of the 2003 National Championship team that finished the season with a 51-7 record.
It's at this point to where my comparison with the Chiefs begins.
It was just three days after winning the championship that our coach was officially hired as the new head coach at Kansas State University. At that point I had a couple of choices considering I had three years left of eligibility. I could stay in Warrensburg and try and win three more championships, or I could try and compete in the Big XII. I wasn't a top-draft pick type of pitcher but if I was at my very best, I could at least compete at that level.
I decided to head to Kansas State for one simple reason. I would have regretted not taking the chance at putting myself up against some of the best players in the country to see how I could do. The challenge intrigued me and I wanted "to see what I got". That first season at Kansas State I remember very early in the season believing that the team I was on in Warrensburg could beat the team I joined at Kansas State. The Wildcats were coming off a 15-37 season and finishing last in the Big XII. They had never made a NCAA tournament and were pretty irrelevant in the conference.
We started off the season 19-7 and were ranked as high as 23rd in the country after a series win against Missouri to open up Big XII conference play. At that time nine of the ten schools that play baseball in the Big XII were ranked in the top 25. Only the Jayhawks weren't ranked. We thought we were pretty damn good all the while we were playing above our capabilities. I knew the coach had a plan and that he'd turn the program around eventually, but I started to believe he already had. I figured we'd just skipped the necessary steps and went straight to the success, and gained that false hope in where we stood as a program at the time.
We lost 19 straight Big XII games after that series win at Missouri. Talk about a wakeup call. It was easily the most difficult time I ever had as an athlete. We lost more games in two weeks at Kansas State than I had in two years at CMSU. I can't say it was easy to maintain the belief at that point that the program was still going to turn around, at least not while I was still there.
I compare this to the Kansas City Chiefs in that maybe the 2010 season gave us false hope that we had jumped a step when we really hadn't. A mere perfect storm of playing above our capabilities and a soft schedule. It's nothing to apologize for but it seems as if AP has adopted this belief that the Chiefs were Super Bowl contenders this year. I don't mean to rain on that parade but we aren't at that point yet. I only say that to question why it seems as if the sky is falling because of a week one loss. Albeit a ridiculous thrashing at the hands of a 4-win team the previous year but still, there are growing pains with becoming a sustained winner and that goal shouldn't change due to a false sense of development that might not have occurred yet. I think of the steps as eight game-increments.
My junior and senior seasons at K-State the program improved. We hit the 30-win mark my senior year and it started to look like the team and program had a chance to contend. They have begun to contend and since I graduated the coach has won Big 12 Coach of the Year honors, they've had a conference Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year (two seperate players and years), and they've made the NCAA tournament for three consecutive years after never having been there before the coaches arrival.
As frustrating as last weeks loss was to everyone that had to watch it, and even re-watch it. It's still the first game in year three of bringing the Chiefs back to contention. How quickly we forget that just two years ago we didn't have much to cheer about and AP didn't seem half as negative as it does now.
I already learned my lesson about believing there are shortcuts in building a winning organzation/program, and I won't make that mistake again. Everyone has every right to feel/talk/complain however they want against this team for what happened last week/this week/this season. But I tend to consider myself a 'big picture' person, and this team is in better shape than it was two years ago, despite how bad it might sting right now.