I have written before about my small town beginnings. The town I grew up in had less than 2,500 souls throughout my childhood. Like many before me, I sometimes felt like I was from podunk-ville. To a young man in his teens it seemed like nothing exciting ever happened in that town. It took years away from there and time to gain perspective, to realize that many things actually did happen, and some of them were indeed very exciting. Not having grown up in a metropolis has it's own benefits, most of which have to do with building character.
It's easy to do the wrong thing in a crowd of strangers. The internet is pretty much a crowd of strangers. If someone sees you doing the wrong thing, they don't know you so most likely the deed will stand unpunished or unreported. Once you start down that road, each incident becomes easier to perpetrate because all of the others that proceeded it had no consequence to the perpetrator. To add insult to this injury, if the wrong doing becomes fashionable, others in increasing numbers begin to parrot the behavior. This fact, in my opinion, is the key that unlocked the door to the unbelievably petulant attitude that the fans here have been embracing concerning the current struggles of the Kansas City Chiefs football team.
Please allow me to explain...
In that small town of my youth, there was a rivalry with another small town (albeit twice the size of my town--a huge place it was and is :) that was played out once each year. These two towns were willing to accept each others existence for 364 days each year, but on that one day, it became became fashionable to refer to those from the opposing town as 'the enemy'. Why? Because on that one day each year, the score between these two towns was settled on the grid iron. You've heard of the Missouri Tigers/Kansas Jayhawk Border war? It doesn't hold a candle to The Bell Game.
The Bell game was played during the regular High School football season each year between these two teams, and let me tell you the rivalry is a fierce one. Earlier this month, the game was played for the 75th time. It is one of the oldest High School Football Rivalries in the United States. What makes this contest unique is that the 'trophy' is a brass bell that was taken from an old defunct fire engine long before I was born. Winning that Bell gives the winning town bragging rights for the next year. I can tell you that during my days in High School, I stood on that field more than once, misty-eyed and rang that Bell. To know that I laid hands on that Bell just as others before me had done, and that others since then continue to do, makes me part of a tradition that connects me to both the past and the future. That, my friends, is something that cannot be bought. It can only be earned. The earning makes the possession so much more sweet. It makes me a bit misty just thinking about it. Back then, it was one of life's greatest accomplishments to win that Bell (well, that and getting the 'right' girl to take to the Homecoming dance--that's another story).
So what has all this to do with the Chiefs, their fans and this blog? Attitude. The attitude of those two towns about their chances for winning that Bell was ALWAYS 100% positive. It didn't matter if one team entered the contest without a win and the other entered without a loss, both sides were equally sure that their team was going to win. Why? Pride comes to mind as well as any given Sunday (Game). I have seen years where one of those teams, based on record alone, was truly an underdog. One town did have an advantage in size and therefore (at least theoretically) number of quality players, but that made absolutely no difference to the players, coaches or fans. These two teams were different enough in school populations that they played in different divisions and different conferences, vacillating between 1A and 3A over the years. No matter, they still went into every match up with the belief that they would win. It has happened more than once that the underdog came out the winner. It is amazing to see a group of kids that seem completely unable to play decent football in a particular year, go out and beat a better team. When this happens, it isn't because that one team suddenly found the handle. It's because on that day, those kids believed in themselves and each other, went out on that field, did their job and kicked ass.
It didn't matter about the game plan, they ran the plays and made them work. It didn't matter that they were of lesser talent. Determination outweighed talent in those meetings. It didn't matter what the fans said about the other teams prowess, those words bounced off those kids like rubber. All that mattered was that group, their determination and their WILL. If the Chiefs are to share this kind of success this season, it will come from Chiefs WILL. Whether most fans believe it or not, the 2011 KC Chiefs are capable of winning every game from here on out for the rest of the season.
This is how I view the Chiefs. It's more than just a football team--it's OUR football team. So much is made today of the money that is involved. Fans of all stripes want to use the fact that they have to pay to see the game as a reason to bash the owner, coaches and players. Funny, but last time I checked nobody was holding a gun on these fans and forcing them to take out their wallets and pay to watch an AFC West division winning performance last season any more than they are forcing them to pay to watch this season. Freedom of choice is still the way here in the good ol' USA. Of course we want a winner, but it's not always possible to have one. Particularly on a weekly basis. I still support the team when the team struggles because those guys are MY guys. They are not perfect and they will make mistakes. I believe Coach Haley when he says that he believes in this group of guys. Given the facts of how a football season plays out, it is not likely that we will be changing coaches or players until next season at the earliest. If you accept that, then bashing this team, or it's players or coaches without giving them a chance to prove themselves (yes, more than 18.75% of the season is necessary to make that call) is not supporting your team, it's petulance pure and simple. It's not as if we don't have time with these guys watching them as they go about trying to build an identity. If you are a bandwagoner who wasn't around the last couple of years, then you have no business commenting on the state of this Chiefs team. If you weren't there in '09 when we beat the Steelers in KC on the way to four wins, you simply have no idea the adversity that this team has been through. The season is not over and there is time to improve. No matter how unlikely it is right now, the team is NOT statistically eliminated from the playoffs. I know it's popular to think that way, but until that actually happens--it hasn't happened.
I just saw a post that basically said that if you look at Matt Cassel's history, he is ready to go on a tear and put up several very solid games. The post goes on to say that you shouldn't be be fooled if Cassel does this. The premise of the post is that no matter what Cassel does over the next several games, he still sucks. Frankly, if that is your attitude, you are letting your hate for one player completely overshadow your desire to see your team win. It's absolutely and utterly ridiculous, yet this fan seems resolute in this opinion. I would call it petulant and immature. A post made in advance of a players expected success to make sure that said player is vilified for said success on the grounds that said player is only going to succeed by accident? This fan wants you NOT to give Cassel credit if he plays well the next few weeks? Does this fan realize how he now looks to the crowd of strangers he is standing in? Child, please. This, my friends, is unbridled petulance and it is more unbecoming on adults than adolescents who lack the life experience to know better.
Don't misunderstand here, as I am not saying that the absolutely poor play that we have seen early this season can just continue forever with Aiken following blindly behind never to see another win. Far from it. What I am saying is that the foot stomping, bottom lip protruding Jack Smacking good time being had by fans right now is premature. A time for big changes is not now. As far as where this team falls in terms of accomplishment, I would say that if you compare it to other teams and other coaching staffs over the years, this team has done some pretty good things. Coach Haley is not the idiot that he is being made out to be. In fact, based on record, you can put him in the same category as the three Bills. Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Bill Walsh. In their first two seasons coaching, Parcells record was 12-19, Belichicks record was 13-19 and Bill Walsh was 8-24. Really doesn't sound too stellar back then, does it? Todd Haley is 14-18. What? You mean that Todd won more games in his first two years as HC than any of the Bills? Yes. Is that a big deal? Not that big, but extrapolation of those two seasons to the rest of those Bills careers seems silly today considering how successful those coaches have been.
What I'm getting at here is that the jury is not even close to being in on this subject. We don't know yet how Haley will fare as a HC in this league but he is certainly in good company so far. The same can be said for Matt Cassel. Matt has had to overcome his own adversity in being the QB for a struggling team. 27 TDs and 7 INTS last year was a damn good year for a QB. I know that it is fashionable to somehow lessen this accomplishment by saying that we played high school teams last season. No matter how loudly that song is being sung, it just isn't true. Sure the competition wasn't that hot last season, but then again, who else did Matt have to throw to? Those opposing defenses might not have been great, but they didn't need to be so great when our only down field threat was a known commodity before those games started. It seems to me the question that is begging to be asked is, "Just what could Matt have accomplished with a better group of wide outs and a game plan that calls for throwing the ball more than once a series?". This goes back to the attitude thing about that Bell game. I know that Matt and Coach Haley can win games. They just haven't gotten their house in order yet this season. If they ultimately cannot do that, there will be ample time to skin'em and fry'em.
I know that this will not be a popular idea. Everybody wants to win NOW. Building a winner takes time. It took Herm three years to crash land this team with a 2-14 record. It has taken Todd Haley two years to go from that to 10 wins. I don't care what the competition was like, that accomplishment is worthy of our respect. I will be the first to say that I don't agree with everything that is being done with the Chiefs right now, but Haley is the coach and I, for one, am willing to wait to see what he can do before I start asking for his replacement. Being a Head Coach is, after all is said and done, a learn on the job type position. Bill Muir and Tyson Jackson can attest to that. Given where the Chiefs have come from, it just seems ridiculously early in the process to be talking suck for luck. That is a garbage argument and a garbage attitude. I couldn't root for the Chiefs to lose if I wanted to. It isn't in me. Last Sunday, I was livid when we didn't score any points after Kendrick Lewis returned an interception for 50 yards. This Sunday, I am still convinced that the Chiefs will take the field and beat the Vikings because this defense is being sculpted into a monster.
In case you missed it, LeRon McClain and Wallace Gilberry have also been 'vocal' on twitter about their belief that the tide will turn. My hats are off to them for keeping their positive attitude in the face of the landslide of negative opinion that Chiefs fans have foisted on this team. McClain has been a Chief for a whole two freaking months and he's more positive than thousands of fans that have been watching the Chiefs for years!
Here is to Sunday and the Chiefs meeting the Vikings in Arrowhead. It's gonna be one helluva game. I can't wait. If the Chiefs win, I will be right there beside them, ringing the Bell in joy. If they lose, well, they meet the Colts in the next Bell game. I know that they can win that one too. I've seen it before, and it is a beautiful thing to behold.