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Looking beyond the Chiefs playoff loss

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I had the greatest football experience of my life on Sunday. Hear me out on this.

I wasn’t supposed to be at the Chiefs-Steelers playoff game.

It just wasn’t in the cards for me. I won’t bore you with details, but I’ll just say there were no plans for me and my family to attend the most important Chiefs game in years.

Then, a week before the game, I received some tweets from one particular reader (and soon many) telling me they were going to get me to the game. These people, in particular Josey Elijah Moore, decided that I “deserved” to see the Chiefs in the playoffs and that they wanted to do something nice for me. What followed was something I’d never seen before: 43 different people, over the course of 10 days, raised money to send me (and, it turned out) my wife and sons to the playoffs.

I cannot begin to express what the gesture meant to me. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to accept it. But refusing an act of love like that felt wrong. And even more than the gift itself, the incredibly kind words people said to me as they gave were something that I won’t forget. So before I even begin to explain why Sunday was the greatest football experience of my life, I need to say thank you to all of you.

I have written articles here on Arrowhead Pride for nearly seven years now. SEVEN YEARS. During that time, I’ve had three more children (grand total of five), enrolled in law school, graduated and started practicing as an attorney, moved once, and had all other sorts of things change. My role has increased and evolved over the years, from a guy who once wrote creepy breakup letters to Matt Cassel to a guy who spends a dozen hours a week pouring over film.

One constant in all of that has been you guys. When I had new children, we rejoiced together. When I reached career goals, you celebrated with me. When personal tragedy struck my family, you mourned with me in a way I’ve never been able to properly express gratitude for (and still can’t).

And now, as if that isn’t enough, you paved the way for me to bring my two oldest sons (Tucker, 10, and Mason, 8) to Arrowhead for a playoff game. I don’t know what to say, but I’ll try ...

People joke about football simply being about rooting for laundry, and I used to agree. But laundry doesn’t create what we have. Neither does a ball, or a set of rules, or the numbers on a scoreboard when it’s all said and done. What we have, it’s created by us. The bond that forms as we celebrate victories and defeats (on and off the field) together is something that is quite real. Strangers don’t cheer when I pass the bar. Strangers don’t weep when I lose a baby. And strangers don’t, unasked-for, give money they worked their tail off for so someone can be at a game. That stuff is reserved for family.

And I want to talk to you about family today. I’ll spend a lot of time breaking down the X’s and O’s of what happened on Sunday, but I need to be honest with you: walking out of that stadium I wasn’t thinking about what happened on the field. I was thinking about a whole host of other things.

I was thinking about how, when Mason first walked into the open air of Arrowhead Stadium, all he could say was wow over and over again.

I was thinking about Tucker, with his brand new haircut (identical to Travis Kelce’s haircut. His request), sitting down with his younger brother and them trying to identify every single player they saw warming up on the field.

I was thinking about my sons next to me cheering as Eric Berry, a hero to both of them for more reasons than one, knelt in the end zone long after everyone else had left the field. Arrowhead, in a completely spontaneous act of love towards a player who may never wear the uniform again, began roaring as Berry knelt and stared into what seemed like an empty abyss. The shouts grew louder and louder until finally Berry jumped up and began running (not quite sprinting, but I wouldn’t call it jogging) off the field. The crowd (early arrivals) gave him a cheer that was as loud as anything I’d heard at Arrowhead (until Sunday, that is). Those boys will never forget that moment, and neither will I.

I was thinking about both of my boys screaming into a complete fog of noise as the Chiefs were on defense (seriously, Arrowhead was a wall of sound for much of the night. I can’t possibly describe how incredible the crowd was throughout the evening), being a part of something bigger than them and loving every second of it.

I was thinking about high-fiving my sons and jumping for joy with them after the first Chiefs’ touchdown, or after Berry’s miraculous pick, or any other of dozens of other moments. We tend to forget when the final result is a loss, but each game brings with it moments of joy. This game was no exception.

I was thinking about Mrs. MNchiefsfan and her ever-patient way of dealing with a football fanatic for a husband (and more recently, multiple fanatic sons as well). As we left the stadium, she said to me “I realized tonight that I really actually do like football.” I’m not going to say that was a top five moment in our marriage, but it was a top three moment in our marriage.

I was thinking about what got me started on this path towards fanaticism. As some of you know, I became a Chiefs fan during the Joe Montana years. My dad was attending seminary at the time in Kansas City, and I didn’t see him during the week because he worked full time at nights while going to school all day. He (a diehard Vikings fan) adopted the Chiefs because he liked tough defenses, respected Marty, and respected Montana even more. When he was home on the weekends, part of our weekend routine became watching the Chiefs using rabbit ears and some aluminum foil (my dad, my two older sisters and me. My mom was probably doing stuff like keeping the house from falling down).

I didn’t really understand football at first (I was very young, maybe seven or eight). It’s a confusing sport, especially when all you’ve known is basketball and baseball. For the first few games (or more) that I watched with my dad, I really had no idea what was going on out there.

I reflected on this as I walked out of Arrowhead, a sad fan among thousands of other sad fans. Why did I start to care so much about a sport I didn’t even understand? What was the draw for a kid who had never played it even a little? How did I find myself here in Kansas City on this January evening? What was the cause?

So I tried to remember the games that hooked me in as a Chiefs fan. And the strangest thing happened ... outside of the Montana Magic comeback at Mile High Stadium, I couldn’t remember the details or the outcome of a single game during those years we spent in Kansas City. Not one. You know what I remember? I remember my dad telling me all about Joe Cool. I remember him explaining to me why Derrick Thomas seemed to live in the backfield. I remember cheering and high-fiving and jumping around the living room as some player (James Hasty?) intercepted a pass to win (or was it tie?) a big game (was it even a big game? It felt like it from my living room, I know that much).

And then I knew. It wasn’t about the game. It was about spending some time with my dad. See, my dad (he’ll never see this, so I feel OK writing it) is quite literally the best man I know. He was Superman when I was a kid, and I’m one of those lucky people who only grew to respect his father more as he gets older. He worked as a pastor for years and gave everything he had to people who generally took him for granted. He helps out anyone who needs it, and is never too busy to explain how things work (and of course, to me as a kid and even as an adult, it seemed he knew how EVERYTHING worked). He was the reason I cared. Because he cared. And by learning to love something he did, it gave me time with a hero. A small price to pay to learn to root for some laundry, in this guy’s opinion.

All this hit me as I walked out of Arrowhead Stadium with my wife and two oldest sons. I thought about what had been said to me over the last three hours of my life.

“Dad, did you see...”

“Dad, I really liked it when...”

“Dad, Eric Berry is great...”

“Dad, this is awesome!”

“Dad, what happened?”

“Dad, I think they would have won if...”

“Dad, I still think it was really cool when Marcus Peters took that ball away from that guy...”

“Dad, I can’t believe it’s over until next year...”

“Dad, they’ll win next time...”

Dad. That’s me. Those are my boys. And they don’t really care about the Chiefs, at least not yet. What they’re looking for is time with their Dad, something to stand together and cheer about and smile and laugh and enjoy and even, sometimes, be sad about together. They want to have something in common with me, just like I wanted to be just like my dad. And so they sat down with me every week this year and cheered when I cheered, yelled when I yelled (I need to work on the yelling part. Gotta be an example). Every single week we did that, and nothing will ever take that time away from us.

Yeah, that game didn’t go the way I wish it would have (I really did think they had it at multiple points throughout the game). But on Sunday night, I spent some precious time with my family and created some of our best memories together. And it wouldn’t have happened without you, my extended family.

Thanks for the memories, Chiefs Kingdom. We’ll get ‘em next year. Or not. But either way, you can bet your last dollar that I’ll spend every minute of every game with my sons (and my wife, and my daughter). And that, in this guy’s opinion, is the real point of all of this.