July 12, 2011
I am writing you this letter—okay, so it’s a blog post for my regularly scheduled slot*—with the hope that long before you are able to read and understand this, and optimistically within a matter of days from now, the NFL owners and players will have resolved their silly little labor dispute (no, I cannot explain that to you now—we are still busy trying to explain it to each other) and you will grow up in a world flush with Kansas City Chiefs football, as did your father and those before him.
*Daddy likes to multi-task. So sue him.**
**Not literally. This is just an expression. You’ll learn.
As your father, I see it as my responsibility to ensure that you grow up to know the wonderful joy, occasional disillusion, and ultimate, satisfying bond of being a Chiefs fan. It is, of course, only one of my many important jobs as your dad—which, as you must know, also includes (though it’s never intentional!) embarrassing you thoroughly, beginning with this letter. Sorry, kid—I think I may have seen that Google “Dear Sophie” ad one time too many.
First of all, I want to commend you on how far you’ve already come in just three weeks: you eat constantly, burp and fart at will, and don’t even bother to get up when nature calls.* And you complain loudly the moment things don’t go your way. In short, you are well on your way to becoming a real American—and more specifically, a real American football fan.
But Vivi, I think you’re really going to love being a Chiefs fan. There is much fun to be had and many thrilling moments to be shared, at home, at Arrowhead, or anywhere. I should warn you, though, that it isn’t always going to be easy. Once you’ve mastered certain mysteries in your young life—walking, talking, algebra, etc.—you will still inevitably have to contend with the inexplicable: A draw play called on third down? An all-time-great running back sitting on the bench? Holding? Holding!?! YOU CALL THAT HOLDING?!?!?
But perhaps, as I really hope, you’ll look back on this era of Chiefs history—with its grainy, “3-D high-definition” video (soooo 2011!)—as the time the team started its return to glory.
I hope the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, of course, but now I hope they do it for you, while you are still a kid. That would be the greatest. If the Kansas City Royals only win the World Series once in my lifetime—and though they supposedly have a bright future, this remains a distinct possibility—I’m glad they did it when I was 10 years old. It’s a moment that lives in my childhood memory and could never be surpassed by a dozen consecutive championships now.
But Daddy, as you probably know, has never seen the Chiefs win the Super Bowl—at least, not while it was actually happening. Now that you’re here, I see this as an odd blessing, because it’s something we’ll be able to look forward to together.
Oh, which reminds me: just a quick word, Vivien Jeanette, about the woman—your grandmother, my mom—for who* you are named. I’m sure you have heard by now about all of her virtues—her love, humor, strength, intelligence, and commitment—and all her good work in the community. It just so happens she was also the most passionate Chiefs fan I have ever known, and the source of my own hopeless (and ever hopeful) devotion.
*Or do we still use “whom?” Daddy doesn’t remember high-school English.
In fact, one of the few things more important to Grandma Jeanette than the Kansas City Chiefs was her own family. This can be illustrated nicely with a story I like to repeat, though I most definitely was not there: On December 25, 1971, she was watching the historic Chiefs-Dolphins divisional playoff, which I’m sure you know is still the longest game in NFL history (that’s why it’s historic!). When the game went into a second overtime, she had to choose whether or not to leave to go on a scheduled date with your grandfather. She went. This started a process—one that, I hope, your own mother will be the one to explain to you in several years—that eventually resulted in me.
Due to the wonders of technology and Gmail’s rather generous storage capacity, I have been able to keep all of the electronic correspondence from the last few years of my mother’s life, during which we lived a thousand miles apart. I want to share one short missive from your grandmother that I think eloquently conveys the depth of her passion for her team.
Now it is important to know the context in which she was writing: The Chiefs lead the Cleveland Browns by two touchdowns with less than 12 minutes remaining. The 7-4 Chiefs could all but secure a playoff spot with a win. The Browns, on the other hand, were already eliminated from postseason contention, had lost 14 of their last 15 December home games, and had not rallied from a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit in more than three years. I’m sure even a baby like you can guess what happened next, especially if Daddy reminds you that Herm Edwards was managing the game: Chiefs 28, Browns 31, OT.
Moments later, I received this email, which I am reproducing in its entirety:
Of course, as your grandmother would want me to remind you, it is almost never appropriate to use such language. For example, if the Chiefs lose to, say, the New England Patriots—who might still be a very good team when you read this—a simple “Gosh darn it,” or “Gee whiz,” or “What a bunch of Belichick!” will more than suffice.
But the point is, as I learned from your grandma and as I tried to explain here a few weeks ago, being a sports fan—and a Chiefs fan in particular—is a very special thing that goes beyond each game and each season. There’s something about how being a fan cuts across time and space. In my case, being a Kansas City Chiefs fan is a connection that gave me a sense of home no matter where I may have been living. It’s the one aspect of my identity that has really been consistent since childhood, and it links me to moments and family and friends that marked my life as I grew and changed in so many other ways. Being a fan—in the constant community of fans—is one of the things that makes me, me. And I hope it is one of the wonderful things that will make you, you.
May you grow up to be healthy and happy, and may you have everything you need and find everything you want out of life—and may that include the opportunity for us to see a Chiefs Super Bowl victory soon, together. And may we enjoy every game, and every day, in between.