Newsflash! (Not really.) This world now offers a smorgasbord/myriad/boundless/innumerable amount of entertainment choices for the population to choose from. Nowadays, there is anything from watching the entire collection of the classic western TV series "Gunsmoke" on Netflix (all 635 episodes) to perhaps attending the "World Shin Kicking Competition" at the annual "Cotswold Olimpick Games" in England.
Despite all of these options, many of us look to the NFL for our number one source of entertainment. Around these parts specifically, we look to our beloved Kansas City Chiefs football franchise to captivate and entertain us. "The Clarks" provide us with a team that we each follow in our own unique and individual ways.
I won't answer for everyone, but for me, I just happen to love this sport immensely. It is the perfect blend of drama, action, violence and unscripted awesomeness to keep me coming back for more each and every week, plus studying relentlessly in the offseason for absolutely no reason other than sheer interest in the game. Being a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs is a wonderful disease that takes up way too much of my time for zero pay. Almost pathetically, I realize that I actually pay the Chiefs for the opportunity to waste all my time, and honestly, I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Growing up, I was never the best athlete or the first one picked for team. No, I was always more in the middle of the pack. That didn't stop me from dreaming about one day where I could perhaps overcome the odds and become a professional athlete. In fact, before I got older, I didn't really give any other career fields much of a chance.
Before I moved to Missouri in the summer of 1992, I was a huge Major League Baseball fan who grew up in Grand Island Nebraska worshiping the Cornhuskers (as every child there is taught to do). When I did watch pro football around that time, it was usually watching Jerry Rice and Joe Montana dominate the 1980s, along with watching the Nebraska star players make the transition into the NFL and having my mother teach me to hate teams like the Cowboys, Dolphins, Broncos and Raiders because, well, that is simply what good fans do.
Watching the NFL back in Nebraska on Sundays, it never really matched the passion that people had for the Huskers on Saturdays, only the Super Bowls really compared and that was more party than passion. At that point, the best part of the NFL for me was eating off the snack trays and watching monster hits (do you remember when the NFL let players hit?)
However, it all changed in September of 1990, my (now former) stepfather gave my family their first opportunity to see the Chiefs play live at Arrowhead Stadium. I can still hear the crowd and smell the barbecue cooking during the walk up to the stadium. It was absolutely incredible, everyone was wearing red, which was very familiar to me being a Nebraska fan that had been drowned in their version of the sea of red at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln a few times. At 10 years old, I could barely believe I was actually going to see the NFL, much less Neil Smith and Barry Word.
Before I was into the NFL, my favorite team was the Atlanta Braves (I loved their logo when I was really little, and you basically just draw pro teams from a hat when you live in Nebraska.) During the Braves games the crowd would always break into "the tomahawk chant" and I loved it, but never got to see it live in person.
It was the opening game of the season in 1990, September 9th, a month after my birthday to the day, it was a belated present for me. The Chiefs were playing the Minnesota Vikings, and before the game even started it was every bit as loud as anything I have ever heard at Memorial Stadium after a touchdown, even with the band playing. My football god, I can't really describe how much I lost it the very first time I heard the "Arrowhead Tomahawk Chop" vibrating threw the stadium walls. Everyone was doing it, and it was magical to join along in the fun at that age. Have you ever felt that shiver in your heart and choked up inside because you are just over flowing with excitement/cheer/love/laughter in a great moment? I have many times in my life.
Though I will tell you nothing compares to how I felt listening to that chant after I watched Neil Smith sack Wade Wilson. It was one of the best Chiefs moments of my entire life and I absolutely fell in love with this team at that moment. It was like the football gods took the best things from my favorite teams at the time and said, "If you think you like that stuff, than you are going to love this!" in their resounding godlike voices in my mind. The Chiefs went on to win that game 24-21, but more importantly than that to me, they won my Chiefs fandom that day, and it has been up and down like a roller coaster ever since.
In 1992, when we moved to Kansas City, I was excited about one thing... seeing the Chiefs play. They didn't disappoint me either going 10-6 and losing in the first round of the playoffs thanks to the San Diego Chargers (gotta hate them too.) It was exciting watching Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas race to the QB combining for 29 sacks in one season. As a baseball fan, I loved watching Neil Smith hit one out of the park after a sack.
Truthfully, I left all my friends behind when I moved here (waaah), my mom didn't get me here in time to play baseball in 1992 (it sucked.) We lived between Camden and Fleming, Missouri, the combined population of both was approximately 335 people. It was a drag, the Chiefs were one of the only things I was interested in out here besides the Royals, but even that was hard to get excited about in the land of nothing.
1993, enter free agency and Carl Peterson signing my childhood idol Joe Montana to be the QB of our Kansas City Chiefs. Oh lord, it was freaking on, the football heavens literally opened up and shined down on the Kansas City gridiron and my blossoming blind love affair with the Chiefs. Another playoff loss aside later that year in the first round, the Chiefs were on to something, the defense was dominant and incredibly fun to watch. The Deron Cherry on top was the Chiefs selecting a former Husker by the name of Will Shields to play guard in the third round, you may have heard of him, or perhaps you will when he potentially goes into a little something called the Hall of Fame with his partner in crime Willie Roaf early next year.
The NFL was vastly entertaining, it captured most of my attention during that time and was already starting to catch up with baseball for me in terms of passion for the sport. The Atlanta Braves kept losing in the World Series (ugh) and when the Kansas City Royals finally fielded a team that was going places, baseball cancelled the season in 1994 and Ken Griffey Jr didn't break Roger Maris's home run record (he most likely would have that year without juice, take notes 1998 saves baseball.) For me, baseball was never the same, I was just a kid that wanted to be a Major League player so bad that I would have paid to play. Yet, here were my heroes refusing to play for millions. It was a slow descent into me just not caring as much about the sport.
At the same time, watching Joe Montana was electric, captivating and entertaining. Most importantly, he was on the field with the Chiefs playing the game that I fell in love with and never looked back. Man, I would have killed to be an NFL football player, but here I am at 31 years old still dreaming about it. Though like millions of other dreamers, mine never even came close to a reality, but I appreciate the Chiefs for helping me hope for something that would never be.
So instead, I would watch Joe Montana, Tony Gonzalez, Priest Holmes, Trent Green, Jamaal Charles and countless others on Sunday's and live vicariously through the magic that they created for my favorite team, dreaming about one day when I could perhaps overcome all odds and become a professional athlete. Ha, maybe that's why I am so delusional about this team?
Enter this season.
Right now our Chiefs are only 4-6 with just the faintest hope for the playoffs in this wacky AFC West divsion with six tough games left. We all witnessed the start of the Tyler Palko era in Kansas City last Monday night and the results were not great across the board.
Yet, what gives me some hope isn't the idea of Kyle Orton saving the season by strapping on his neck beard and saving the city, it's that the Chiefs are still trying to be entertaining, they are showing that they are willing to go down swinging against all odds and that makes me proud to be a fan.
As much as I love the Chiefs, I can't make it out to Arrowhead that often, usually I'm right here with you guys on a game day thread riding the AP emotional wave that is watching the Chiefs. On Christmas Eve that will change as our family is heading out to Arrowhead to smell the barbecue and listen to the crowd do the tomahawk chant.
This time my mom will be working the concessions, my sister, brother-in-law (as well as his folks), plus my niece and nephew will be there alongside me, with my son and daughter. It will be awesome and I just hope against hope that they will feel the same magic that I once felt as a young fan.
Why are you a Chiefs fan?