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The 10 stages of watching Jamaal Charles sign with the Broncos

Jamaal Charles signed with the Broncos yesterday. He also proceeded to, um, say things that made us feel emotions. And not good emotions. In fact, the opposite of good emotions.

I wanted to write an article on how all this makes me feel, but then Mrs. MNchiefsfan commented to me that my Twitter timeline was like watching someone go through the five stages of grief. I was a little insulted because I’m a grown man who would never be that dramatic ... then I looked at my Twitter timeline and said, “oh.”

And so rather than write extensively about my feelings, let’s present instead the different emotions of watching your very favorite player of all time sign with the team you hate more than any other team in sports and then proceed to say things that make you feel bad feelings. Let’s call it a play, that way it feels pretend and not this horrible thing that has happened.

Part 1: Jamaal Charles is a Bronco

You go numb on the inside as the sheer horror of what is happening sinks in. You try and convince yourself that it’s going to be OK, but the few Broncos writers you follow are celebrating and everything is terrible and we’re all going to die alone one day so who cares.

Part 2: Exploring the Depths of Sadness

The grief washes over you like a wave. Realizing that it’s been NINE YEARS just makes a guy think about all the things that have happened in this last nine years, like the fact that your two-year-old is now eleven and is never going to want you to pick him up again. Or that you’ve really drifted apart from your older sister over the last decade and you’ll never get that time back. These feelings, obviously, do nothing but compound the grief.

So then you sit there and wonders how it went by this fast. People reach out to for comfort and all you do is make it worse. You can’t pull myself out of it and can’t bring yourself to care about anything football-related. Things are not going well.

Part 3: Wallowing

I wrote that when Charles didn’t come back earlier this year, and the feelings are all the same. This is the lowest you can get emotionally, as you sit there and feel like nothing will ever make you feel anything but sadness over how it all ended with Jamaal Charles.

Of course, little do you know that something is about to happen that will pull you out of sadness and into something completely different...

Part 4: What did he say?

Wait ... what does he mean he ALWAYS wanted to be a Bronco? That can’t possibly be right. It just can’t. There’s no way he meant to say that. Well, maybe he meant to say it, but he just got signed to a new city and is trying to say all the right things to win over his new fanbase. OK, OK, fine, fine, whatever, whatever ... You can let this go. I’m an adult, and it’s going to be ...

Part 5: WHAT did he say?

Oh, it won’t be weird playing for a rival will it? That’s cool, Jamaal, I guess. You only played in Kansas City for a decade and were part of multiple bitter games against the very team you’re on. You only watched the best player on your new team take multiple potshots at your quarterback and, wait ... wait ... DO YOU NOT REMEMBER THAT PUNK AYERS TRYING TO BREAK YOUR NECK WITH A SUPLEX AFTER THE WHISTLE, JAMAAL?

The emotions are becoming too much to contain at this point, but you want to maintain some semblance of dignity and...


So to sum up, your favorite Chief of all time has now said the following:

  1. That he has always wanted to play for the team you hate the most in the world.
  2. That it won’t be weird at all not being a Chief and being a rival.
  3. That he felt like this was personal.
  4. That he’s happy he’s playing the Chiefs twice this year (ie. he wants to punish them)
  5. That John Elway (retches) ... that John Elway (violently dry heaves) ... that John Elway (sprints to toilet and vomits out six pounds of comfort food) ... that John Elway was his favorite player.

Part 6: Trying to digest what is happening

You sit there and try to absorb all the information that you’ve just received, but it won’t compute. It can’t compute. Everything you thought you knew feels stupid and wrong, even though you KNOW that it’s insane an immature to get so fired up about something a perfectly nice human being is saying about sports. It doesn’t matter. Except it does matter. It matters so much.

Part 6: Watching Chiefs Twitter React

Let’s just say Twitter had an opinion or two or 20 million about Jamaal’s rapid-fire commentary on becoming a Bronco. You sit there, still in total shock at the complete turn this is all taking, still mad at yourself for being a grown man getting so upset about all of this, but still SO UPSET ABOUT ALL OF THIS. It’s at this point that your wife starts seriously questioning your sanity as you try and muddle through sadness and anger and indignation and shame and a million other completely weird emotions.

But it’s starting to come around, as you try and figure out where you’ve seen something like this before...

Part 7: Realizing you’ve been here before

If you don’t know what that is, well, first of all I feel sorry for you. Second of all, there’s no way to adequately explain it other than it was the greatest heel turn in the history of any TV show, movie, novel, or any other form of entertainment. Watching the immortal Hulk Hogan, after decades of being a hero, leg drop the Macho Man was the moment my innocence was shattered as a 12-year old boy and I realized that sometimes terrible, terrible things happen.

You realize, as you try and process all the complicated emotions you’re feeling, that the last time sports did anything like this to you was that incredible moment at Bash at The Beach all those years ago. An untouchable hero becomes ... something else, even if only for a moment.

Part 8: Coming to Terms

And now we’ve come full circle. Watching Charles go to the Broncos was hard. Hearing him say things that (again, only for a moment) tarnish the absolutely impeccable image I had of him (seriously he really didn’t do anything wrong and I KNOW that, but still... he was Chief and JUST a Chief, you know?) was significantly harder.

But at the end of the day, Charles is who he is: a remarkably special football player who provided hundreds and hundreds of special moments on the field and was, by all accounts, a wonderful person off it. My kids became fans watching his highlight videos. He’s the one player my wife believes is legitimately fun to watch playing the game. And seeing him live, in person, flying around the field while everyone else is forced to obey the laws of physics, is the most amazing experience one could ask for out of a sport.

Because of all that ... I can’t let some silly, ill-thought-out words destroy my view on a guy who was a great Chief.

Of course, as we all know, acceptance isn’t REALLY the last step, as we end up veering off into weird territory first ...

Part 9: Larry Johnson, the voice of reason

If nothing else, one good thing that came from all this was me finding out that LJ has really matured over the last decade and seems to legitimately regret the mistakes he made on his way out. That’s pretty cool, honestly. I’m glad for him.

Oh, and there was one more part to all of this...

Part 10: Realizing Why

A long time ago, I read an article by Bill Simmons in which he talked about his hatred for Roger Clemens. He wrote about how he watched Clemens have a press conference after he went to a new team, and he just waited for Clemens to say something about the Boston fans that had revered him and stuck by him for years. After a bit, he realized it wasn’t going to happen, and thus began the slow journey from love to hate.

I will never hate Jamaal Charles, but I realize now that what made all this sting was that I, for some reason, feel like Charles owes me (and Chiefs fans) some kind of “thank you” after all these years. I cannot logically explain that feeling. After all, Charles played his heart out and did a lot to help the team win. As fans, we really should not expect more from a player.

But for whatever reason ... perhaps because we care SO much about these players and spend SO much time and money on the sport they play, we expect some kind of acknowledgement from them in the end. Nothing extreme, just a simple “even though things didn’t end how I wanted in KC, I’ll always appreciate Chiefs Kingdom and Chiefs fans everywhere.” That would’ve been enough to offset everything else.

Instead, I’m left feeling like the only person upset after a breakup. Yes, I know the Chiefs cut Charles and that his comments are likely coming from a place of hurt. And I don’t begrudge the guy a job, he’s earned it. But man ... it would’ve been nice after nine years to hear some kind of thank you for caring as much as we did.

Yeah, it’s stupid. But so is spending hours and hours and tons of money on a game, and we do that without blinking. So that’s what stings in this moment. It feels like nine years meant nothing. Like Kansas City was never where he really wanted to be. Like there’s nothing special about that red and gold to him, like there is to you and me.

Look, I don’t think anything I just said is true. I think Jamaal desperately cared about the Chiefs and the city. I think he’s a guy who is hurt by the fact that he was cut and fans are getting caught in the crossfire as he aims at the team that didn’t believe in him (in his eyes). And one day, he will absolutely be a Ring of Honor man and will (and should) have fans at Arrowhead chanting his name for all the wonderful memories and for his utterly brilliant play. And on that day, I have no doubt he will tearfully thank Chiefs fans for their adulation over the years.

I look forward to that day. And I suppose that’s enough. All the best, 25. You were the greatest runner I’ve ever seen, and it was a privilege watching you in red and gold. Thanks for the memories.

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