It’s the end of January and the Kansas City Chiefs—six five of them!—are still playing. That is something to celebrate, and more importantly, something to watch. It will be great to see Jamaal Charles et. al. back in uniform on my TV, and not just on the faces of random strangers.
Now, as I may have hinted at last week, I’m not normally a fan of the Pro Bowl, if you define “fan” as “someone who is aware that the game is on while the game is actually still on.” I mean, it’s hard to accept the claim that the Pro Bowl only features the best of the best of the best of the NFL, when exceptions are made for those players who are:
a) Even the slightest bit injured.
b) Faking injury.
c) Skipping the game because they would rather stay home and pout, without even bothering to fake injury.
d) Actually playing for either of the two best teams in the NFL.
And, as you all probably also know, there are special regulations for the Pro Bowl:
-A tight end must be on the field every play
-No motion or shifting
-Intentional Grounding is legal
-No “bad touching”
*With the exception of interceptions returned for touchdowns.
So you can see why, if I’m watching sports on TV at all that day, I might opt for one of the other available options, such as the Winter X Games or the Central Michigan-Akron hardwood brawl on ESPNU (who needs Michigan-Ohio State?).
But something must have happened to me this weekend. I was in New York, and I was actually rooting for the Jets on Sunday night. Now that I no longer live there, I can allow for the possibility of occasionally rooting for certain New York sports teams (not that the Jets—or Giants—play in New York). Okay, really, I was rooting against the Steelers, for whose fan base I just can’t feel sympathy since they’ve won more Super Bowls than any other franchise, including two in the last five years, and they are lead by a quarterback who seems to make really awful decisions everywhere except on the field, and, frankly, always looks like he just smells really bad.
However, if not for the Jets, the Chiefs would own the longest active Super Bowl drought (not counting the Browns and Lions—who, having not been to a championship game since before it was called the Super Bowl, simply don’t count). So I really did want to see the Jets get that monkey off their back…and then the Chiefs would be next in line. I know that sounds like a convoluted rationale, but that’s how I figured it. That, and Roethlisberger smells really bad.
Of course, Big Ben put the game all but out of reach in the first half, then more or less disappeared in the second until he converted a decisive third down in the last two minutes, and that was that. As a result, I did get to experience one of my favorite New York spectacles: the news stand on the morning after a big home-team loss. In this case, the award for best front page among the tabloid array goes to the (reigning champion) New York Post for its image of Rex Ryan on the verge of tears overlayed with a big “NO SUPE FOR YOU!”
And the good news kept coming. We all soon found out that the Jets’ loss (or rather, the Steelers’ win) was the Chiefs’ gain. Now that James “I Don’t Care If I Hurt People” Harrison and Troy “Head & Shoulders” Polamalu will be otherwise occupied during the Pro Bowl, Tamba Hali and Eric Berry have stepped into their proverbial cleats.* Just a few days before, Matt Cassel learned he would get one more shot against an NFC defense (his favorite kind this year), along with Charles, Dwayne Bowe, and Brian Waters. Whoever makes the AFC’s Pro Bowl jerseys will need to double the Chiefs’ order. (Hali still gets a jersey, right?)
*“Go forth with thy spirit and with thy cleats, and at the goal line shall thee make thy stand” (Proverbs 1:16).
As I flew back to Kansas City yesterday, I actually started to get a little bit energized for this game. Three weeks without a fix has lead to a long, slow withdrawal, and the Pro Bowl may be a mere placebo. But I’ll take it.
Consider this the Chiefs’ first spring scrimmage, a showcase for the future. With the exception of Waters, for whom this will be the 54th consecutive trip to the NFL All-Star Game, every Chief is making his Pro Bowl debut. Hali would be debuting, too, if it weren’t for the fact that he has finally admitted to playing the entire season with the muscles in both shoulders and a foot completely torn away from the bone. (Imagine how many sacks he’ll pull down when his extremities actually work.)
Even the NFL is thrilled to have these Chiefs in Hawaii: the lead story on the official Pro Bowl site is a video montage of Bowe touchdown highlights—not as a year-in-review tribute (great as those have been), but to stoke anticipation for Sunday night’s game. It’s hard not to get a little excited. It’s something. And last I checked, that’s better than nothing.
So for the first time in a long time, I’ll be watching. Will you?