I had a very unusual and wonderful problem when trying to think of what to write today.
Quite simply, I couldn't decide which moment should top the "most fun" moments of 2015. I really couldn't. 2015 was unique for Chiefs fans in that there were two very, very, very specific moments that brought intense joy like fans of the franchise haven't felt in decades.
You don't often get a once in a decade feeling because... you know, it's a once in a decade type thing. The fact that the Chiefs had two such moments this year is... well, it's special. 2015 was legitimately special.
You know what moments I'm talking about. One was the Chiefs finally, finally, finally, after so many years, giving fans a playoff win (and a 30-0 blowout at that) to enjoy. The other was watching Eric Berry walk out of the tunnel at Arrowhead less than a year after he'd been diagnosed with cancer (I happened to be in the crowd that day. Indescribable).
How do you choose between those moments?
On one hand, Berry's return obviously carries more real-world importance than a football game. The man had cancer. CANCER. Hodgkins lymphoma. I mean, holy crap. All the talk after he was diagnosed (by myself and other fans) revolved around whether he was going to live. The more optimistic of us hoped that he'd play again one day. Coming back less than a year later is an unbelievable, real world story of strength and perseverance that is... well, it's staggering.
On the other hand, we're not talking about the most IMPORTANT moments here. We're talking about the most fun moments. And as incredible as Berry's story is, it's worth noting (as callous as this sounds) that he's been a Chief 5 years. Chiefs fans have been experiencing playoff agony for over 2 decades. Most fans have much, much, MUCH more loyalty and feeling toward the team than they do individual players. It only stands to reason that snapping such a horrible drought would hit higher on the "fun" scale than a non-football moment... right? Wrong? Maybe?
Here's what I do know... the simple fact that there's even a debate over what moment is more "fun" than watching the Chiefs win their first playoff game since forever goes to show what a great season this was to be a Chiefs fan.
Without further ado...
Moment Number 2: The Chiefs Break the Streak In Houston
Everyone who knows football and is objective knew the Chiefs were a better team than the Texans.
I say that not as a fan, but as a guy who watches more football than most. The Chiefs were simply better at multiple key places. In particular, they had significant advantages in the secondary and with offensive weapons (outside of that freak DeAndre Hopkins), and were much better at the most important position on the field; quarterback.
But my head couldn't convince my heart the Chiefs would win.
When Knile Davis took the opening kick back for a touchdown, my biggest fear (that the Chiefs would fall behind early and the entire team would crumble) was immediately removed from being a problem. Now, suddenly, it was the Chiefs in the driver's seat with a stunned crowd and a bad offense trying to come from behind.
But my head couldn't convince my heart the Chiefs would win.
When the Chiefs entered halftime up 13-0, they were winning by multiple scores despite having left multiple shots on the table. They were clearly the significantly better team, and it clearly wasn't close.
But STILL, my head couldn't convince my heart the Chiefs would win.
You know when I finally knew (I mean really KNEW) the Chiefs would win that game? When Travis Kelce caught a huge gain to put the Chiefs within striking distance in the third quarter. I wrote about it extensively in the link I just provided, so I won't get into the football aspect of it (other than to say it was a good play by Alex Smith and a great play by Kelce), but that was the moment I knew it was over.
I spent the rest of the game rooting for a shutout. And let me tell you, that entire fourth quarter was a joy to watch. And when the Chiefs (realistically) sealed the shutout with a Sean Smith interception, it was one of the greatest moments I've experienced as a fan.
Not only had the Chiefs finally, finally, FINALLY won a playoff game... but they had absolutely dominated the opposition. They had shut them out. They went to Houston's house, kicked in their door, and took what they wanted. I've seen more than a couple of Chiefs playoff teams that didn't quite belong. This Chiefs team did, and it showed.
The only fly in the ointment that kept it from being perfect bliss was the (incredibly damaging) injury to Jeremy Maclin and the troubling lack of Justin Houston. Everyone knew that a victory without Maclin and Houston (and Spencer Ware, it turned out) against the Patriots (the most likely foe) was extremely unlikely.
But none of that mattered that night, as we watched the Chiefs stomp their way through the wild card round. The streak is over. The monkey is off their back. Now, finally, we can truly go into a season talking about "the next step" and have it mean more than just getting a single playoff win.
Any other year, and this is at the top. But...
Moment Number 1: Eric Berry Conquers the Universe
I won't bother to try and describe what it was like being at Arrowhead when Eric Berry walked out of that tunnel. All I can tell you is that this video captures maybe a tenth of the emotion in that stadium.
Saying goosebumps doesn't come close to covering it.
There are very, very, very few moments related to sports that I can realistically say I'll remember for the rest of my life. Frankly, sports aren't important enough to me for that. The moments I'll remember forever are almost all related to my family, my close friends, my faith, and a few life lessons I've learned. It's not that I don't love football. I clearly do. But it's just a game. And a game generally has no place in the most important moments of a man's life.
But I will remember watching Berry walk out of that tunnel for the rest of my life. I'll remember the feeling I got watching that young man take something back he had nearly lost. I'll remember the joy of knowing that cancer doesn't always win. I'll remember a moment in which, in the middle of a world that generally piles crappy stuff on top of crappy stuff... something truly GOOD happened and was shared by thousands upon thousands of people.
The world is a dark, dark place most days. I tell friends of mine who ask me about my work with teens and people in trouble that the defeats far outweigh the victories. It's not even close. To be really honest, guys, some days I feel like this entire place is going to collapse under the weight of all the sadness and hurt people experience. Some days I ask myself if we're not just fighting a battle we can never win.
But every now and then, there's a win. And those wins are even sweeter when they are shared. And those moments when you feel like victory can be had? The ones that give you the courage to go once more into the fray? That's the type of fun you just can't find on a scoreboard.
Great, great season. I'll never forget it.