So this is how my glorious NFL opening weekend ends: Sitting here in the waning moments of Monday, rooting for the Raiders to beat the Broncos so that I can finish near the top of my pick ‘em pool—but hoping they do so without too much help from Darren McFadden, lest my fantasy-league opponent come from behind in the final game. The Chiefs? Oh, right, that’s what this weekend was originally supposed to be about…
What is there to say, really? What occurred Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead was worse than the lockout, worse than the horrible preseason—unless, as I daydreamed at times during the game, this still was the preseason. How else to explain the lack of competition and emotion, the stadium that emptied in the third quarter, and all those Chiefs on the field who probably don’t deserve to make the team? All we could hope for was that none of our top starters would get hurt.
Of course, I don’t have any answers, or, really, any questions right now. I feel that all I can do is hang on and see where this thing goes. As Patrick recounted, Coach Todd Haley did the “right” thing, the only respectable thing, in taking all the blame* and reasserting his confidence in his crew. And there’s always next week. For now, that’s enough for me, I guess. For now…
*Though I did notice that at least once he employed the ever-so-subtle deflection technique of speaking in third person: “You can point the finger right at Todd Haley,” said Todd Haley. Uh…yeah! I agree with the coach! It’s all the fault of that Todd Haley guy!
It all seemed so promising. The weather was beautiful. And I had plans (if not tickets) to be there in person. My college roommate, a Buffalo* native, was going to fly in for the game, but wound up having to work over the weekend. Little did I know just how thankful I would be that: a) I didn’t have to sit next to a Bills fan while this embarrassment unfolded; and b) I didn’t have to be the guy who brought a $%*@# Bills fan to this game.
*In response to those occasional comments I’ve seen about how Buffalo is in New York and therefore it was perhaps fitting that their team triumphed on September 11… I lived in New York City for 12 years, and I’ve been to Buffalo. It ain’t New York. It ain’t even Canada. If anything, it’s the Midwest: the people look like they’re from Wisconsin and sound like they’re from Ohio.**
**That distinction is for those who can appreciate the subtle variations in Inland Northern American English dialects.
And while we’re on the subject of 9/11, credit is due to the team and the league for striking the right balance and tone. Much, much better than six years ago, the last time the NFL kicked off its season on September 11. Apparently, then, the league felt the best way to honor our nation’s enduring spirit was with a simulcast pop rendition of “God Bless America,” sung—if that’s the right word—by Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey (in what was probably their last performance together). I guess Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen were unavailable.
Instead, we decided to stay home and watch as a family, so that we could be with our daughter—born on the 101st day of the NFL lockout—as she experienced what we hoped would be her first Kansas City Chiefs victory. Instead, she (sorta) witnessed what was not only the Chiefs’ worst loss in her lifetime, but the team’s second-worst home loss and absolute worst opening-day loss in anyone’s lifetime. Fortunately, the baby slept through most of the damage. But when she woke up and saw the score, she immediately spit up all over her new Chiefs onesie.
As I watched the Bills put up more points than they had in their last four regular-season games combined, various thoughts, ranging from disbelief to sarcastic acceptance, ran through my mind: “I can’t believe this is happening…” “Well, at least there’s college football…” “Hey, if this keeps up, I’ll have a lot more free time on Sunday afternoons.”
“But you’re going to watch every game no matter what happens,” my wife said in response. (I tend to think out loud.)
She’s right, of course. But I worry about the worst-case scenario: Not that the Chiefs will not win, but that I will not be entertained.
While I don’t contradict the substance of Big Matt’s latest post, “The Beginning Of A Potentially Long Season,” my real concern, if Sunday is any indication of things to come, is the exact opposite of his title: This could be a really short season, at least for me as a fan. I’ll watch the games, but the days in between—despite what solace I might find on this site—will be devoid of hype and anticipation. The games—as was the case too recently, in ’07, ’08, and ’09—could become weekly commitments to schedule around, but not necessarily look forward to…
I really don’t think that we—or, at least, I—ask too much. I don’t ask that the Chiefs march out as Super Bowl favorites every year. I know that over the history of the franchise they have won more than they have lost, and that there are going to be ups and downs. I don’t ask that they win every time out. But I do ask for the minimum they are being paid to provide: entertainment—which, as contracted, is approximately three hours’ worth per week during the season. If they want to keep it close but not quite close enough in the end, fine. If they want to blow a lead and break my heart in the last second, I’ll stick with them. But when they give up like they did on Sunday, when they can’t even provide the minimum three hours of distraction and intrigue I expect once a week, I’ll start to turn.
In other words: If it turns out the Chiefs can’t compete with their opponents on the field, I hope they will at least compete for our attention.