Last week, I finally sat down to undertake what has become an annual (and particularly anal) preseason ritual: entering all of the Chiefs’ regular-season games into the old Google calendar. Usually, this happens much earlier in the summer, but this year there was that whole lockout thing, and I don’t like putting things on the calendar that are technically still tentative. And no, I don’t actually rely on Google to remind me when there’s a Chiefs game about to start—it’s not like I have ever found myself, say, alphabetizing my Garbage Pail Kids collection at noon on a fall Sunday and been struck with a sensation that there was something else I was supposed to be doing. I just like seeing that sacred time blocked out on the calendar (and color-coded red, of course).
When I was done, I got up, left the computer…and then realized that I hadn’t marked off the times and dates of the preseason games. I thought about it for a second, and this is what I thought: “F(orget) that.” And just like that, my boycott began. I didn’t watch Friday night’s mess* and I have only a vague notion of when the next one is (and will, probably until I read about it on this site).
*Not at the time, at least—more on that in a bit.
Oh, how those three little letters make such a difference: P-R-E. “Pre-,” a Latin prefix* meaning “prior to,” “earlier than,” “before,” or—perhaps most accurately here—“preparatory or prerequisite to.” It has the same meaning as “ante-,” as in “anteseason,” which sounds a lot like anti-season, which is sorta what this is.
*Actually, “prefix” is a good way to think of it. This is a little something before our actual fix, but is by no means anything close to an actual fix that could quell our jonesin’.
And especially now, after four-plus months of being taunted with the possibility that there wouldn’t be football at all, the last thing we (or at least, I) need is to be teased with the presumption that this, the crap that we saw Friday night and will likely see on—well, you know, whatever days and nights the rest of these televised scrimmages will take place—is football.
The “Chiefs” get whipped by three-and-a-half touchdowns to none, and now everyone’s either worried and feeling a bit discombobulated* or going out of their way to explain that they’re really not worried at all.
*My wife is an ophthalmologist, and when she came home yesterday she told me about a patient who claimed to have trouble seeing—a problem he said he first noticed while trying to read the score during Friday night’s game. She checked his vision, found nothing wrong, and asked if there had been any other times he’d had trouble seeing. He said no—only when he was trying to read the score. Her diagnosis: “I think he just really didn’t want to see that score.” Then she said, “I thought maybe you could use that in your Chiefs thing.”
One of the original impasses in the labor dispute was over whether the players and coaches really need all or even some of the games on the preseason schedule. In the end, this particular issue remains unchanged, and the players are still obligated to participate (to varying degrees) in four preseason contests. But we fans don’t need these games. And we’re certainly not obligated to take part.
So why put up with the consternation? Especially when none of this will matter. I mean, how many of you know what the Chiefs’ preseason record was in 2003, when they would go on to a 13-3 regular season, as opposed to their preamble to the debacle of 2007 (or 2008, or 2009)? I’m not asking because there’s some intriguing correlation or lack thereof, but because I seriously doubt that many (any?) of you remember.*
*For the record, so to speak, it was 3-2 in ’03—yes, with the Hall of Fame game, there were five preseason games—and 0-4 in ’07, 2-2 in ’08, and 0-4 again in ’09. And while we’re at it, the Chiefs were 1-3 in last year’s prologue. That makes Todd Haley 1-8 in the preseason as a head coach. Which is just plain awful—or not so bad at all, if the whole point of the preseason, as Haley understands, is to get ready for the games that count.
That said, I want to point out that I’m not boycotting the preseason, just the preseason games. I’m not turning my focus away from this team—just the opposite. And the problem isn’t that the games happen, but that they’re pushed on us as games—and pushed on paying fans (and season ticket-holders, who have no choice but to pay for them) as full-priced fan experiences.* But they ain’t. They aren’t even exhibitions. They are glorified scrimmages, minus the glory.
*The colorful** and curmudgeonly Jack Harry, who continues to broadcast the nightly sports scores and commentary on local NBC even though I thought I’d heard that he passed away in 2002, was on again this weekend, giving his curmudgeonly, colorful commentary about a sign he saw on his way into the Truman Sports Complex Friday night: “Royals Parking: $10; Chiefs Parking: $27.” Sure, both teams are primarily spending August trying out young players who they hope will be stars one day, but at least the Royals aren’t jacking up the rent on the same 6-by-10 slab of concrete.
**This refers primarily to his hair.
I really can’t think of a time when following preseason games didn’t offer far more aggravation than inspiration or even anticipation. And then, last year, while traveling in China during most of August and early September (and thanks to shaky, government-monitored internet service and a 12-hour time difference), I was blissfully cut off from all the foibles and frustration of Chiefs preseason games. As a result, I believe, I was so much more excited—and relaxed—when the regular season started. And we all know what happened next.
So that’s why I’m no longer scheduling my life or my Google calendar around games that don’t matter as games. But, of course, I am DVRing them…you know, just to have them on hand in case something truly intriguing happens that I will want to review, as Andrew recommends. And just as I would DVR any real-time look-in on a training-camp practice. Big Matt already captured my exact attitude with the title (and content) of his post yesterday: “Curious, But Not Concerned.”
Yes, this is probably the most passive “boycott” in the history of half-assed, sports-related boycotts. But it’s only because I am committed to seeing this preseason fulfill the purpose for which it is intended, for the players and for the fans and for me: preparing for the regular season.
And, ultimately, the post-season.