Don’t Look Back In Anger

DENVER - JANUARY 03: Linebacker Derrick Johnson #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs intercepts a pass by Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos and returns it 45 yards for a touchdown as Orton is unable to make the tackle to give the Chiefs a 27-17 lead in the third quarter during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on January 3, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Reality is chasing the Kansas City Chiefs.

Reality is chasing their fans.

Don’t look back.

When the 2010 NFL season began not even the most optimistic Chiefs fan could have predicted the team would start 3-0.

When I say “the most optimistic Chiefs fan” I’m not talking about crazy, delusional Chiefs fans like my buddy Casey who last season drunkenly declared during halftime of the Chiefs/Steelers game that if Kansas City pulled out the victory that he would celebrate by tattooing the teams logo on the underside of his forearm. After the game, when the Chiefs had emerged the victor my other buddy Marshall would not let Casey forget his declaration. By the time I got to the next bar where we were going to celebrate (victories were so rare the last three years that any win was worthy of a few more hours of drinking) Casey where nowhere to be found.

“Where is he,” I asked?

“At the tattoo parlor,” said Marshall.

You see Casey is the kind of Chiefs fan that expects the team to go 16-0, every season. He ensures me during every game, no matter how much the Chiefs may be losing by, that we are coming back. He isn’t “the most optimistic Chiefs fan,” he is the “delusional Chiefs fan.” He is a homer in the truest sense of the word. He is the backbone of Arrowhead.

The rest of us, full of our fears, insecurities and common sense, were trying to keep our expectations reasonable for the 2010 season. After three years of futility, 7 or 8 wins sounded more than reasonable, it sounded downright pleasant. We couldn’t have foreseen this. We had been conditioned to be reasonable.

We had been conditioned to lose.

***

It was January 6th, 2007.

The 9-7 Kansas City Chiefs were about to take on the mighty Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning’s team was weak on defense and powerful on offense. The Chiefs were barley better than average but I knew they could pull off a victory. I knew anything was possible.

Just a week earlier, on New Year’s Eve, I watched as each team standing between the Chiefs and an unlikely playoff appearance fell one by one. I sat on a couch while my friends enjoyed a party. I was the biggest San Francisco 49ers fan on the planet. If this young but improving team could just pull off a victory over the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs would make the playoffs.

They did it. The 49ers, in the final game of the regular season, with the final play of the regular season, sent the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs.

Anything was possible.

***

All week I heard it.

I was in my living room in my apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. ESPN was on the TV as usual and the “experts” were talking about the upcoming playoff game. The Indianapolis Colts were terrible against the run they exclaimed. The Colts were the worst in the league. The Chiefs could run the ball. It was what they did best. Larry Johnson was going to have the chance to eat the Colts defense alive.

“The Chiefs are going to come out and try to run it down Indi’s throat,” one analyst said.

“Surely,” I thought, “Herm Edwards wouldn’t be that foolish. The Colts will be expecting that. They’ll be game planning for it all week. They’ll be so set on stopping the run that there will surely be opportunities down the field in the passing game. We’d never do exactly what they are expecting. This is the playoffs. These “experts” are in for a surprise. The Chiefs will have a trick or two up their sleeve.”

They had four tricks, actually.

Run. Run. Pass. Punt.

***

November 23rd, 2008.

Casey and I sat in the back room of the Village Pour House in NYC, where we watch all of the Chiefs’ games.

Three years earlier I met Casey in that very room. Before he had a Chiefs tattoo, before Herm Edwards. Back then, the entire back room was dedicated to fans of the Kansas City Chiefs. All 5 TV’s blared the sound from the KC game while the fans of the Giants and Jets looked on curiously at a mini “Sea of Red.”

Yet on that day in November of 08’, there was only three of us. The hard times had scared the “reasonable” fans right out of the bar. We were now relegated to one TV, surrounded by NY football fans who looked at us curiously, wondering why in God’s name anyone would root for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The owner of the bar sent over a plate of appetizers and a pitcher of beer. He is from Kansas and while he is not a Chiefs fan, he understood our pain.

“Just to say thanks,” he said, “for showing up every week. It’s been a rough year for you guys. It will get better.”

Meanwhile the Buffalo Bills extended their lead to 54-24.

***

September 13th, 2010.

I stood in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium for the first time, holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and breathing in the sweet smell of a thousand Kansas City BBQ pits. I was at the top of a hill that leads down to the team’s practice field. I decided that this must be the hill Priest Holmes made famous by running up and down it after practices, the same hill I had heard some of the Chiefs’ rookies were running earlier in the summer.

I should have known then.

I turned and walked back to the rental car where my friend (ironically also named Patrick Allen) stood over a sampler of Gates BBQ. Patrick was with Casey and I that day the Bills smashed the Chiefs. He had since moved to Canada for work. We met up especially for the Chiefs’ Monday night clash with the San Diego Chargers.

“Perfect day,” he said. “Great weather. It’s even a little hot.”

“Sure is,” I said smiling, plunging my fork into the Burn Ends that Marshall made me promise I wouldn’t leave Kansas City without trying.

“Hopefully it won’t rain.”

Later we met up with some AA readers who had invited us to their tailgate. Al and Rhonda had a huge Chiefs party bus sitting in lot N, complete with a kegerator. After indulging in some of their fine hospitality, I looked up and saw a tall fellow in a massive headdress walking towards me. It was the first AA staffer I had ever met in person.

Big Matt.

I was giving Matt the tour of Al and Rhonda’s bus when he suddenly leaned against the wall.

“I don’t know, Paddy,” he said.  “I’m pretty nervous. What do you think man?”

I leaned against the kegerator.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m pretty nervous too. It’s going to be tough. I’d probably be happy if they could just be competitive. It would be a good step forward.”

“But God, it would be awesome if they could win it,” I said. “It would be huge. Really, really huge.”

***

Present day.

The Chiefs stand at 3-0. They have the best record in all of football.

No one wants to believe. There are plenty of excuses for the team’s success.

“They only beat the Chargers because they were at home and it was raining,” the experts moan.”

“But the Chargers slaughtered us at home in the rain last year,” I think.

“They only won that second game, on the road, because they were playing the Browns with Seneca Wallace at QB,” the experts point out.

“But the Browns beat us at home last year with Brady Quinn at QB,” I think.

“They only beat the 49ers because they were at home and because the 49ers stink,” the experts declare.

“But you all picked the 49ers to win their division just a couple of weeks ago,” I think.

It is the Chargers game all over again. I, like Big Matt then, am nervous. I’ve found myself once again uttering “I just hope they can be competitive.” I am trying to be realistic and temper my expectations.

“It is Peyton Manning, after all. At home,” I think.

Have the past few years taught me nothing? Have I learned nothing from my pilgrimage to Arrowhead? From the 54 point whooping by the Buffalo Bills? From the New Year’s Eve miracle playoff qualification? Have I learned nothing from Casey and his arrowhead tattoo?

Have learned nothing from my own, undying devotion to the Kansas City Chiefs?

This isn’t the time to be reasonable. This isn’t the time to temper expectations and to be satisfied with progress or being competitive.

The Chiefs have given me some incredible gifts this season. They’ve rewarded me for standing by them when I suffered the curios stares and taunts from NY football fans. They’ve rewarded me for coughing up the cash to travel to Arrowhead, even though they’d only won ten games in three years.

And now they’ve rewarded me by achieving the last, unblemished record in the NFL.

I have three days to blindly believe that my team can beat any other team, on any other field, in the entire NFL. This is what being a fan is all about.

I didn’t know, that day the Chiefs took on the Colts in the playoffs, what was ahead. I didn’t know how much losing and heartbreak I was in store for. I can’t look back.

Who knows when our Chiefs might be in this position again? Unbeaten, undervalued and underrated. Who knows when the Kansas City Chiefs will once again have the chance to shock the world?

This weekend, go all in for the Kansas City Chiefs. Win or lose, it has been a hell of a ride so far and we have a long, long way to go.

Don’t worry about reality chasing after us. Don’t temper your expectations. Don’t be reasonable. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy every second of the next three days.

Don’t look back in anger.

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Tags: Arrowhead Stadium Herm Edwards Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs Priest Holmes San Diego Chargers

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