OK guys, I already wrote a couple of words about how and why I became a die-hard KC Chiefs fan for life, so in the case that somebody missed it - here we go again:
Recently I formally became the member of the Chiefs community here at the Arrowhead Pride. Since the first day I felt some good vibes and hospitality, while many of you wondered "how and why". So, here is my story, written in my usual Indian-English version of language, hoping that somebody will read the story to the end, and find it entertaining and interesting.
It's year 2001, november the 4th. America still mourn the victims, slowly recovering from the shock of the 09.11. terrorist attacks. Serbia still coping with wounds after the terrible and unnecessary 1999. war against NATO, what led to more than 70 days of bombing. I was 31, just finished with my radio show for that night, and came back home at midnight while my wife and 4 year son were already in deep sleep. I didn't feel like sleep, decided to watch some TV until I finally get tired.
We entered the 21st century, something called internet just starting to spread like a virus changing the world, and third Serbian national TV channel (for fun, music and sports unlike the first two intended for some serious stuff and the politics) got some low-cost promo package of NFL broadcasting rights in order to expand the influence and gain upon some new fans and followers here in Serbia. Prior to that year almost nobody from my country knew anything about NFL. I remember just the few lines of text in the newspaper mid 90's that Dallas Cowboys won their second Super Bowl in the row, wondering "who the hell here wants to know anything about that"!?. So came 2001, the year that brought some major mindset modifications for many sport fans here. I got my november the 4th, the day that changed me for sure.
So, it's past midnight, I decided to watch the TV, but couldn't find anything interesting and worth of my attention. I skip channels and stop at the third national, hoping that some strong men wearing helmets put me at sleep as soon as possible. It turned out that I joined the second half of the Bears-Browns game that became one of the historical, probably with one of the greatest NFL turnovers and crazy endings ever! I almost succedeed to put myself at the sleep condition, but was lucky enough to stay awake and witness the madness at the end. Browns were ahead two TD's, leading 21:7, and the stadium in Chicago almost became empty because dissapointed fans decided to leave earlier, and avoid the crowd on the exit and parking. It was only about 30 seconds to the end when Bears scored what everybody thought a meaningless TD. Onside kick, the ball is in the hands of Chicago players again, they are on fire, time was up, but somehow they score another TD for 21:21, and overtime.
Those few fans still present at the stadium are delirious in disbelief, same as commentators here on Serbian TV (very competent people, what was very important for our first steps in understanding the NFL!), and instead of going to sleep I am fully awake, wondering "what the hell was that, and why is so interesting"! It's overtime, my eyes wide open even if I have no slightly idea what is going on, and what are the rules of that strange game. I found out later, when I learned something and rewatched that game.
Bears got the ball first, so as the chance to complete the major turnover, but they failed and gave the ball to the Browns. Poor guests from Cleveland pass the ball, but turn in over, Bears recover and bring it to the house, completing one of the greatest turnovers in the sport that I ever saw. Madness everywhere, except, I suppose in Cleveland. That was the corner game for me, as well as for the Bears fans too. They promised never to stop having faith in their team and leave the stadium before final whistle (I don't have the information if they kept the promise until today). I promised myself to learn as soon as possible everything about NFL, and watch that crazy, beautiful sport whenever I can!
Couple of months later I enjoyed my first Super Bowl game, and for the first time sacrificed my sleep and night rest for one football game. That was the game known for promoting some young guy as a champion, a guy with the name Tom Brady. That was the first and the last time I cheered for New England Patriots in my life. I liked the idea to root for the underdogs, and Patriots were 'dogs against Rams for sure. I also found interesting the story about Brady, the young guy who replaced Bledsoe and led his team to the end, many years later considered as the living legend. It looked like some kind of the Cinderella story, and it happened to be true after all. After that experience I was finally and irreversibly sucked into the world of American football.
What followed later was the period of learning the basics of rules and regulations, about the teams, conferences, divisions, players, history, statistics (and nobody in the world is even near Americans if we talking about precise statistics and data)..., so the nfl.com became one of the most important websites that I visit every day. For two or three years after the first experience I didn't have much choice but to watch the games presented on our national TV. The deeper I dove in the world of the NFL, the excitement and hunger for games and info became bigger and bigger. Finally I faced the need to have my favourite team to root for. Without the option of "natural born" choice and affiliations like Americans do, I had to choose the team to like more than the others, from that day to eternity. The process of choosing had something to do with my heart, my mind, and some "chemistry" like in real love. It also had to be one of the smaller and less popular franchises, the team that usually flies under the radar because I am kind of guy who has the sympathy for the underdogs, the players who must work harder and with more passion to catch the most popular ones.
Easily, without many doubts or hesitation, with no real competition at all, Kansas City Chiefs were the obvious choice - the chosen one. It would be fair to explain how and why, so here it is:
I just loved the Arrowhead experience! I love passionate fans who jump, shout, curse, smile, cry, getting angry or extatic, showing the whole spectrum of emotions when watching the game. I like people who are really involved into the game, supporting their team with all the heart they have. That's kind of fan I am too, and watching the crowd in red, that almost paplable energy at the stadium, listening the Tomahawk Chop, knowing that Arrowhead is one of the loudest (now officially THE loudest) stadium in the world - that was it! I found myself in that kind of experience. It had to do something with my heart and my personal energy in process of choosing my favourite team.
I'd like to make some comparisons with fans here in Serbia in order to understand the similarities of the Chiefs' and Srbian fans. It's obvious that I can't involve the football fans and teams to compare anything (yet), so the other popular sport had to jump in and serve the purpose. I'm talking about the sport that Americans invented and ruled the world since the very beginning. Serbs and people from ex Yugoslavia are just behind, second best at the planet, or should I say the best of the rest of the world. It's basketball.
I am huge fan of Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) Belgrade team since I was born. I am very dedicated and passionate about them. While the Chiefs fans make the Arrowhead the loudest outdoor sports place in the world, then the fans of Red Star make some incredible noise and unbelievable atmosphere indoors. It's just fantastic what the fans do, and how significant homefield advantage Red Star enjoy thanks to their energy. Red Star is one of the top 16 teams in Europe now, beating some of the best franchises like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Maccabi, Panathinaikos,... That's some kind of miracle because Serbia is poor country, and the budget of Red Star is sometimes 10 times less comparing with the "big boys", able to buy the best players outside the NBA league. There is no salary cap here, so try to imagine what Chiefs could do with 10 times less budget than, say, Patriots!?
What Red Star is doing now is the result of the great passion, team spirit, and never before seen homefield advantage thanks to dedicated fans. In fact Balgrade is divided into two opposed tribes, but that's another story. Many Americans play(ed) basketball here and every single one of them is telling the same - that madness experienced in Belgrade doesn't exist anywhere in the world - ever! This is the similarity my heart was looking for, and that's why the Chiefs were obvious and the only real choice. Even though I never experienced the Arrowhead before (and hardly I ever will), I kinda feel and understand what is going on at the Chiefs games, and how that homefield advantage actually works. Let me give you a few examples, just in case to ensure evidence for what I'm saying:
Euroleague is the most important competition of the best teams from Europe, and before every game it's the tradition of performing the Eurolegue anthem. Here is the example how it looks like on one of the ordinary games, involving two of the ordinary teams.
Here is the best example of what it's like before any Red Star game, performing the anthem that nobody can hear including players, officials, referees, or TV fans. Same kind of experience is here again, and the one from the different angle recorded by the fans.
Fellow American Quincy Miller in red & white on fire vs. Real Madrid. He just loved the energy and noise made by the fans, and this is the game when we crushed one great and rich opponent. Just listen to that noise, and feel the energy!
This is another fellow American Charles Jenkins on fire too, a couple of years ago. Also one of my favourite videos ever - Jenkins' sister who came from America to support his brother, for the first time in Belgrade on the basketball game. Her reaction is,... well, preciouss if you ask me, and you should see it to believe!
Bonus clip for those who enjoyed so far, for better understanding the energy and passion that bonds us together that much.
OK, that was some heart influence, and now I should explain the mind choice, including consciuousness as much as subconsciousness too. Not that much to tell here. Red & white color combination is my favourite, running deep inside me because that's the Red Star's combination, and since I was a kid I had some scarves and jerseys of my favourite team. Somehow I just had to pick NFL team in that color combination. I had to choose between 49-ers, Falcons, Bucs, Cardinals, maybe even Redskins too, but nobody else had the Arrowhead as a factor, and I just knew that heart and mind goes together this time. It just had to be the red & white army from Kansas City!
The last, but not the least (in fact, most important of all) was the impression I had while watching the Chiefs games when I had the chance to watch them on TV. It was the time when Chiefs played extremely interesting, offensively and efficent, so they just were fun to watch. Trent Green, Dante Hall, Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez - just some of the big names I remembered very well, and Dante Hall was the attraction by himself, having 4 TD returns in first 7 season games if I remember well, so I was delighted with that version of football. Chiefs scored a lot, but unfortunately allowed a lot, so I had to learn about the importance (and the beauty as well) of the good defense the hard way. Just as every other novice I didn't understand the actions, strategies, positions and all the aspects of the complex game. My eyes were focused at QB, just waiting to see some deep throws to the receivers and the attractive catches that make the game so beautiful. Chiefs gave me all that, the chemistry worked at the first site, they were crazy, attractive (the opposite of the Chiefs today if I may, but who cares!), so I just fell for them. It all worked for me, and somewhere in 2004. I officially became The Chief, full time and forever.
Do you believe in coincidence? We got our local American footbal club here in the town where I live. Guess what? Their name is Indjija Indians! And guess what? They wear red & white! Coincidence or some higher plans and forces? Who knows for sure.
What followed since I became The Chief was improving in understanding the true value of NFL, learning about the game and strategies as much as I could, watching the games whenever I had the chance to. Unfortunately the Chiefs were rare birds on our TV because people wanted to watch winners, popular franchises, and some big names. In other words, Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, and few others were common guests, and majority got what they wanted to see. In order to watch my Chiefs in action I had to search for the videos on nfl.com after the games, or/and to download the whole games from internet if something was really worth of my attention.
I always loved playoff time because we could watch here every single game live, but unfortunately again Chiefs couldn't make it to the end except for few occasions when they were beaten in Wild Card games (Colts, Ravens). I just had to enjoy NFL by watching the other teams competing for the titles, while my favourite team struggled to even get the chance to win thier first playoff match after many years of painful waiting. Anyway I still enjoyed watching American football, but always missing something to complete the feeling and satisfy the passion in me. But here is the catch - the longer wainting, along with stronger pain and dissapointment, the sweeter feeling and stronger emotion when we finally succeed.
For the last couple of years the world changed some more and saw significant technological progress. This is the age of fast internet and connectivity what helped me to watch my favourite sport the way I wanted since the very first day. Thanks to the streams and the video servicies I finally could watch every single Chiefs game from the start to the end, simultaneously with the other interesting games by my choice, red zone happenings, etc. I didn't care any more about what somebody choose to put on TV, playing by the rules of the majority. So everything jumped on the whole new, different level for me. For the first time I could really watch and remember all of the Chiefs' players and coaches, I could recognize the actions, strategies, positions of the players... I could see the big picture and enjoy the defense too instead of just laying down my eyes on QB, waiting for somebody to catch the ball. I could analyze and understand better what is really happening on the field. It was a big jump, but not big enough yet.
That final step has been made last year, mostly by accident. Many good things in life come not by the plan, but the accident. In order to be informed about the news in America (mostly about sports news, particulary NFL) I developed the habit to visit Yahoo portal. From time to time I could find there the headlines about the Chiefs, and whenever I visited the origins of those headlines I would find myself at the very same place - SB Nation, and Arrowhead Pride. That was the final missing piece of the big puzzle. So many great aticles, a whole bunch of valuable information provided by Mr. Thorman, Super_G, MNChiefsfan and many other contributors (sorry for not having time to remember and list all of you people!), including the important and sometimes very funny comments by many of the the Chiefs' fans. Right now I don't just enjoy NFL during the season, but also understand all the fuzz about draft, summer activities, camps, trades, injury reports,... I am still not the NFL expert, and there is long road ahead of me to consider myself one. But even now, somewhere at the halfway, I can feel some significant progress and dramatically different, more quality way I understand and enjoy the football games - in fact everything around NFL!
Now, at the present day, exactly 15 years after my first, accidentally made experience with American football, and approximatelly 12 years since I became the Chiefs fan, here I am - encouraged to step out and become the full member of this community. I'm not born in America, I am not that long in this beautiful story as many of you are, but still I consider myself the full-time, passionate, faithful Chief with decent mileage behind me. And I feel great to be here.
Time to finish, but I got a little task for the Chiefs community before I put an end to the long story. Imagine some parallel universe where Chiefs doesn't exist! I know, I know, that would be the crappy universe we are lucky not to have any business with it, but do it for the purpose of the game. The question is which team would be my favourite one in that faulty universe? Based on what you know so far about my criteria and emotions, I dare you to choose the right answer. Lucky winners get the drink if we ever see each other, so stay tuned with the comments and find out the correct answer. Thanks for your patience, and GO CHIEFS!!!
The correct answer was the Seattle Seahawks, and here is the proof how good you were at choosing the right answer: