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Chiefs road trip report: Arrowhead magic

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All right, I’ve got a confession to make. And when I do it, I’m going to lose some of you. I’ll do my best to accept this, because I believe honesty is the best policy. Ready? Here goes...

Arrowhead never quite lived up to the hype for me in the past.

(waits for the angry roaring to die down)

Wait, hear me out! Don’t go!

Here’s the deal ... I became a Chiefs fan during the Joe Montana era, but I never made it to Arrowhead until 2012. There are a variety of reasons for this that I won’t bore you with right now (simple geography being part of it), but the point is that by the time I was able to attend a Chiefs game they were B-A-D and a lot of the Arrowhead mystique had been drained by years of irrelevance.

Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible experience seeing everything live (nevermind that the first game I attended was the “we are not gladiators” game). But the more games I attended, the more I wondered where the Arrowhead “roar” was at. Was it loud? Sure, at times. But it was never DEAFENING.

That changed to an extent against the Steelers in the playoffs last season, as I got to experience a completely packed Arrowhead for the first time in my life and finally heard the cheering reach borderline deafening levels. However, while the crowd was fantastic, the game itself was of such a nature that there weren’t any moments of pure, unadulterated joy.

Then there was Monday. And holy crap, I wish I could tell ya’ll who weren’t there how great it was. All I can say is that on the last third down the Redskins had (the “nonononononoYES” drop in the end zone that made 70,000 people gasp, which was cool) was the loudest I’ve ever heard any crowd get anywhere, at any time, for anything. It was a wall of sound, an entire group of people trying to WILL the Chiefs into the defensive stop.

I’ve heard from a lot of fans who have been around for a while that Arrowhead isn’t quite what it used to be. I’ve heard from people that home field advantage for the Chiefs isn’t quite what it used to be, either. Well, I don’t know about up to this point, but for one night Arrowhead seemed like a stunningly tough place to play. And it was a privilege to be part of it.

In the past, I’ve graded various aspects of my Arrowhead road trip. This time will be no exception. Let’s talk about road tripping. As always, this grading system is totally arbitrary and subject to my whims.

The Drive Through Iowa: A-

I know, I know, it’s stunning to me too. For once, Iowa did not mess with our scheduling because of construction or harass us via a state trooper pulling us over on the interstate. In fact, I barely remember Iowa on the way through OR the way back. When I’m driving through a state, that’s exactly what I’m looking for. The only thing missing was great scenery, which... well, it’s Iowa. I wasn’t really holding out for that. Nice job, Iowa.

Minsky’s Pizza and Joe’s KC BBQ: A

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to pack up and move down to Kansas City based on the food alone. Eating a z-man is the equivalent of eating a rainbow, or... something close to that at least. I’d call it a borderline religious experience, but I think the thankfulness I feel when I’m eating that sandwich takes the “borderline” right out of it.

Of course, it helps when there’s good company to go along with the good eats.

Eating with my colleague Pete Sweeney, who’s a bit too good-looking to keep company with (around these parts we call that “being a regular BJ Kissel”) but is a good guy all the same, is fun. Chowing down with the Locked on Chiefs fellas is great. Eating with my buddy Charlie and my big sister Hope is priceless. But having AP reader Mike show up and pay for lunch for me AND my sister? Dude... that’s beyond priceless. Seriously, you guys are awesome.

Arrowhead Tailgaiting: A

We’re seeing a theme with these grades, I know. But seriously, can you top getting to see a bunch of regular AP members and even getting a picture with a bunch of them? Oh, I know how... by later on having one of them (shout out to my guy Eric!) giving you an Eric Berry jersey to replace the one that was stolen from you out of a hotel room!

Too many AP users to start tagging everyone, but ya’ll will shout yourselves out in the comments. It was great seeing some people again and meeting others for the first time. Additionally, I ate the best special K bars of my life along with meat loaf stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon with a sweet BBQ sauce. It was right up there with the z-man as the best thing I ate that day, and I’m not even kidding.

All right, let’s get to actual football stuff.

Alex Smith Something Point Something: A+

So far this season we’ve had Alex play one great game against a poor defense and two very good games against very good defenses (which in my opinion is more impressive), along with one very “meh” game. In short, there’s been very little actual bad to what Alex has done (outside of a few snaps here and there, which is going to happen) and a WHOLE lot of good.

You’ll be seeing this gif again in Alex’s all-22 review, but seriously...

With a tie game in the fourth quarter and less than a minute to go, Alex wasn’t content with taking the easy 5-10 yards the defense was willing to give him. Instead, he kept his eyes up, lured the defense to him, and made his best throw of the year when you factor in the fact that it was on the run and the context surrounding it.

We’ll see what the overall film shows, but Alex looked really solid under tough circumstances down the stretch on Monday.

Kareem Hunt: Alien

I’ve already written about what makes Kareem Hunt special here, but I have a feeling I’m going to be writing that a whole lot more as the season goes along.

Seriously, this is getting frightening.

We’ve gone from “Kareem Hunt looks like he’ll be pretty good” to “Kareem Hunt looks like he’ll be very good” to “Kareem Hunt looks like he’s one of the better backs in the NFL” to “Kareem Hunt is playing better ball than any other RB in the NFL right now” in the span of four weeks, and runs like that are why.

Hunt is even more impressive in person than he is on television. There’s something about his decisiveness and burst that really pops live, but the thing that stands out most is just how many tacklers he makes look foolish. Somehow, seeing guys swarm around him and dive at him and fall around him as he continues to keep his legs churning is just DIFFERENT in person. He’s a phenom, and he’s on pace for offensive player of the year, not just rookie of the year.

High-Fiving Everyone Leaving Arrowhead: A+

There’s really nothing like the vibe you feel leaving Arrowhead after a win, especially a close one that involved late-game heroics. Pretty much every face you looked at (besides the occasional Redskins fan) had a grin that stretched as wide as possible.

Driving All Night to Get Home on Time: F-

Man, sometimes being your own boss comes with a price. I had a last-minute change in schedule that required me to be back in northern Minnesota for a 1:00 p.m. hearing (meaning I needed to be there around noon to speak with the client), which meant my sister and I had to truck all night to get home on time. It was as blech as you’re thinking, but fortunately caffeine remains undefeated.

Road Trip With the Big Sister: All the good grades

My sister Hope is about 16 months older than me. Because of that, we hung out quite a bit in high school with some mutual friends, but also fought like crazy (she’s the only sibling I actually punched when we were kids, though I barely tapped her and she, being evil, pretended I half-near killed her in order to bring down the wrath of our dad like I’ve never seen it before. Well played, Hope). That’s how it is.

If you don’t know what it’s like to have an older sister, I feel kind of bad for you. It doesn’t just mean there’s someone to let you know you look ridiculous before heading out (though it does mean that). It also doesn’t just mean that there’s someone to bust your chops any time you do something stupid (again, it DOES mean that as well).

What it means is that under every circumstance in life from the time of your earliest memory, you’ve got someone who always has your back. Nobody, not your mom, not your dad, not your friends... NOBODY believes in you like a big sister does. And no one tries harder to protect you, even when you’ve grown to twice her size and can throw her 20 feet in the air. It didn’t matter how badly I was screwing up my life or how much of a schmo I’d become, my big sister thought I was talented and smart and capable and wouldn’t let me quit on life. And when I finally got my act together, no one was prouder than she was.

Of course, life happens and people get busy. You have kids, your siblings have kids, everyone gets different stuff in the way (whether it’s jobs or hobbies or other “adult” stuff. Adulting is the worst), and one day you wake up and realize it’s been YEARS since you’ve spent any real time with someone you used to hang with every day. And that, my friends, is a hard moment. It’s a cliche that life comes at you fast, but that’s because it’s scarily accurate. One minute you’re wondering if someone will ever stop hassling you, the next moment you’re wondering how on earth you managed to let a month go by without talking.

Yeah, Arrowhead was great. The Chiefs are undefeated. Food in KC is incredible. But getting to spend some real time with one of my favorite people in the world? That makes a trip unforgettable.

I’ve written before about how this whole football thing is a lot more about the people I share it with than the win/loss column for me. And sharing it with my big sister was as good as it gets.

Thanks for the memories, folks. Ya’ll rock. Hopefully I’ll see you (and Arrowhead) again soon.