My Grandfather died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in 2010, a disease that makes you forget. It was explained to me that Alzheimer’s is not forgetting who your family is, it’s forgetting what a family is. We were very close, he and I, as we lived a few miles away from my grandparents for the majority of my life. There wasn’t a week that went by that we weren’t all together for one reason or another. Different seasons brought different events. In the Winter we celebrated Holidays, in the Spring we watched baseball, In the Summer we would swim, and in the Fall we watched Chiefs football.
By the time I was 8 I knew all about the Chiefs. I knew of Derrick Thomas, I knew of Marty Schottenheimer, I knew of Carl Peterson, and I could name almost every player on the roster. I watched game after game with family gathered around. They drank beer, made nachos, cupcakes, hotdogs, and various tailgating foods. We ate, we yelled, we cheered. It was like having Arrowhead at home without the lines for the bathroom. I owned the Chiefs Zubaz pants, Zubaz hat, and Zubaz football. I had Reebok Pumps, and a Joe Montana jersey. I wore it each Sunday, and I looked damn good. I would wake up early Sunday mornings, flip on HBO, and listen to Chris, Nick, Len, and Jerry recap the previous weeks games on Inside the NFL. It was all part of the tradition.
In 1994, my Grandfather took me to my first Chiefs game. I'll never forget the experience. The sweet smell of barbeque and freshly lit charcoal was in the air. We would pull out our lawn chairs and sit around a small trailer that would morph into a giant liquor cabinet. Which I thought then and think now, is the coolest Transformer of all time. I wasn’t able to drink beer at the age of 11 but I did my best to match them beer for soda while we tailgated. We would eat brisket sandwiches, throw the football around, and I would sit and listen while the old men swapped stories and spit and cussed.
We sat in section 119 under the overhang in the lower section. They were his company tickets that he just so happened to be in charge of. When he couldn’t get a client to go to the games with him, I would go. I watched a lot of football games from these seats. I remember how electric the stadium was in those days. Joe Cool would march this team up and down the field, and our defense would feast on opposing quarterbacks. Tony Dipardo would play with the TD Pack Band during intermissions and the fans would cheer and Tony would wave and smile. Sundays at Arrowhead were fueled with passion and tradition.
My Grandfather taught me a lot. He taught me about respect, how to make the best out of any situation, and how to have a good time while being responsible. He taught me how to fish, how to tell stories, how to golf, and how to cheat at golf. He taught me how to tailgate, how to watch football, and he taught me to be passionate about the things I cared about most.
Through the 90’s I went to countless football games with him, each game highly anticipated and each game lived up to the expectations. Eventually he had to give the season tickets up in 1999 as some of the higher ups in the company were beginning to go to the games with their clients in his place. Several times, we would go for the tailgating experience and then leave the stadium to go home and watch the game. It didn’t matter to any of us where we watched the Chiefs play, as long as we were able see the game. Just to be apart of the tailgate experience was enough for me. We were passionate about our team and our city and the fire was stoked anytime I was within eyesight of Arrowhead.
In 2002 my Grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t long after being diagnosed, that we began to see the affects of the disease on his body. 18 holes of golf began to be too much. Simple tasks around the house required our supervision. A once jovial man was being wasted away, mind and body, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Medication would only slow the process, but ultimately we knew what the end result would be. We made the best of the situation in the way that only he taught us to. We held tightly to our family and remembered the good times. He passed away on October 10, 2010 (10/10/10) just 5 months after my first child was born.
To this day we still get together as a family and watch the Chiefs. We still throw burgers, hotdogs, and bratwursts on the grill and watch the games as a family. The two things I am most passionate about come together on Sundays hand in hand. Through the ups and downs of the last 30 seasons we remain as passionate as ever because we remember the good times. With every 2-14 season there’s always a 13-3 season. With every struggling Matt Cassel, there’s always a Joe Montana. We remember #58 with every sack. We remember Tony Dipardo every time we hear a fading trumpet over a crowd of people. We remember “Home of the Chiefs!” at the end of every national anthem. We remember the wins and the losses, the upsets and the heartbreaks. Through the ups and the downs our passion for the Chiefs has never wavered. The Sea of Red has always been there. The Arrowhead mystique never went away. Through the good and the bad, we remained passionate fans.
It’s funny how you never quite realize when the best memories are being made. It seems as if it’s sometimes taken for granted. If I had known at the time that my first Chiefs game with my Grandfather would be one of my fondest memories, then I would have taken a second longer to admire the scenery and take in the smells, to add one more memory to the bank. Here we are in 2013 and some of the best memories still lie ahead. My son is 3 now and is becoming increasingly more interested in the Chiefs and football. He knows what Red Friday is and how important it is to Dad that he “gets his red on.” He’s still a few years away from his first Chiefs game at Arrowhead. But when that time comes, I want it to be as special for him as it was for me. I want him to experience the smells of tailgating, the Sea of Red, and the loudest stadium in the world. I want him to hear “Home of the CHIEFS!” during the national anthem. I want him to cheer passionately for the Chiefs and boo with even more passion the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos. And like my Grandfather taught me, I want him to make the best of every situation by remembering the best times and to be passionate about the things he cares for the most.
This season it’s easy to be passionate about the Chiefs. It’s easy to be a fan when your team is winning. But, only those who have been a fan in the worst of years, those fans that followed this team even when we were the laughing stock of the league, can understand how truly sweet this season has been. Through our dedication as fans we have earned this. Enjoy it! Don’t take these good times for granted. Stop and take a look around once in a while. Add a few memories to the bank. Through the good and bad, remember the best times and remain passionate about the things you care for the most.
“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping... waiting... and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us... guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.” ― Joss WhedonGo Chiefs!