October 07, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans show their opinion of quarterback Matt Cassel (7) during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. The Ravens won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

How Can The Chiefs Solve Fan Disconnect?


You want to know why some Chiefs fans cheered Cassel’s injury and prompted a mega-rant by Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston on Sunday?

Disconnect.

Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star wrote about the disconnect Chiefs fans and the organization suffer. Basically, he wrote, the relationship between the fans and the team is broken. And, just like most messy divorces, it’s both parties’ faults. “Fans need to be better than to cheer an injury. The organization they pour money and passion into needs to be better than to let this much frustration build, too.”

Ross Tucker, a former NFL player and writer about the sport he used to play, took it a step further. It’s not just the Chiefs organization that’s experiencing a disconnect, it’s the whole sport. He cites video games and fantasy football as reasons why fans no longer relate to the players they support on the field. “Like video games, fantasy football has been a huge boon for the business of the NFL and, in turn, NFL players.  Like video games, however, fantasy football has contributed to the propensity of fans who think of and thus treat NFL players like commodities.  If you draft and trade and drop players on your fantasy team enough you really do begin to think of them in that way.  Ultimately they just become numbers whether that is the jersey they wear or the statistics they generate.  The human element is gone.”

While I tend to side with the correlation doesn’t imply causation crowd, Tucker makes a good point. The human element is, unfortunately, increasingly absent in the game of football.

In high school football, you know everyone who is playing. Whether you are currently attending or if you’re just a proud alum coming to support the team, you usually have a connection to some if not all the players. In college, it’s the same way. You could be attending class with the star quarterback; you could be playing a pick-up basketball game with a future NFL wide receiver. Even after graduation, these memories drive the fandom that follows, and helps your deeply rooted loyalties remain for life.

But when those players start making money, they then are swept into the world of professional sports, where fans are usually just spectators. Besides an occasional trip to training camp, a happenstance sighting at the mall, or a scheduled autograph signing, fans have little to no interaction with the players. That’s where Tucker’s point on the human element being gone comes in. If there is no human element, then these players are little more than statistics and a means of winning or losing games.

This isn’t the players’ fault, however. This is how professional sports operate. You can’t blame an athlete if he doesn’t live in your city during the off season; he’s most likely not from your part of the country anyway. You can’t blame an athlete for not being more accessible or open to the public: imagine if your life was surrounded by people who either wanted to sing your praises or curse your presence.

Now, some players, and owners, interact with fans via Twitter. And while I believe this is a great way for fans to become closer to the players and organization, some teams put restrictions on what their players tweet, even encouraging them to delete their accounts all together. Say what you want about Jim Irsay and his propensity at tweeting, he is connecting with the fans of his team in almost a modern version of what Lamar Hunt used to do for the Chiefs fan-base. Just with more technology.

So take the disconnect I was talking about earlier, and multiply it by 10, and you will get what happened Sunday at Arrowhead. The secrecy, the perceived ego, the stories you hear from within the organization of iron fist rule and alleged wiretapping do nothing but tear down the once unbreakable bridge that linked Kansas City with their most beloved sports team. Sure, Scott Pioli opened up in the book War Room and let readers into his world, but a few chapters of insight doesn’t help heal the wound when the team is losing, and losing in ways that Adele couldn’t even describe.

While I believe winning is the only cure for the current symptoms, long-term is still in question. It might be too late for Pioli to ever garner the goodwill of the city, but it’s not too late for Clark Hunt. If he wants to avoid another national story, he needs to open his organization up to the fans. And I have one suggestion that could help.

Do a Hard Knocks-esque show. Not Hard Knocks, but one almost identical in purpose. Make it a half hour or an hour and show it online or on local television. Open the door to the organization so the fans can better see it. Mitch Holthus is great for a show and training camp episode every week, but I want to see and hear from the players. Mic them up during rookie camp, OTAs, training camp, preseason, regular season. Cut and edit it where the fans see the players, see the raw emotion, the humor, and the characters that make up their franchise. 65 TPT, the Chiefs in-house production, has to have the capacity to pull this off. Get Paul Rudd to narrate it again like he did during the Chiefs appearance on Hard Knocks a few years back. Give us more Boomer Grigsbys. Show us more hot wives. Allow fans to get to know the players they own jerseys of. Show the GM talking to the coach. Show undrafted free agents get cut or make the team, just as long as we have people to root for. Mic up everybody! I want in, because I am a fan. Restore that human element and the bridge can be built once more.

Cleaning house can only do so much.

I know it’s a simple idea, and one that the team might not go for, but you can’t deny there would be the market for it. The fans deserve something like this, and if the Chiefs or the NFL in general want to help fix the disconnect that currently is coming to the forefront of our attention, then my suggestion is something to take under advisement.

And the sooner, the better.

Next Chiefs Game View full schedule »
Sunday, Sep 77 Sep12:00Tennessee TitansBuy Tickets
Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • chiefridgy

    Good article and great points. I thought I had heard that the Chiefs were going to do something like that at some point?

  • Altarium

    I like your idea about a show. If anyone has seen the “Six Days to Air” show that gives a rather intimate fly-on-the-wall look at how an episode of South Park is made, something like that would go a long way to making the Chiefs human again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Satterfield/100000182218273 Jim Satterfield

    I think the disconnect has been encouraged more by the NFL than by video games and fantasy football. If the fans do connect to a player and through them to the team management often doesn’t really care. They don’t go that extra mile to keep a player that means something to the community. Look at the cases of Tony Gonzalez and Jared Allen. Neither of them had issues because of the quality of their play. It was purely that the team had relationship issues with Allen and in the opinion of Gonzalez just wasn’t pushing hard enough to get to the playoffs and then be able to win in them.

  • tm1946

    LIke the idea of opening the doors at Arrowhead and letting some light in. But winning would be even better. Anyone think this team is on the edge of a superbowl appearance? No, why not? Clark and Pioli and coaches have had 4 years.
    Seeing the truth behind the scenes is great but a winning program would be even better and easier than seeing who sharpens pencils and coaches arguing who get the ball the most.

  • Sarah Thomas

    I like the article, and think it is a good idea. Anything positive will only help.

  • ChiefsinWinfield

    Great Idea!!!! That is exactly the reason that they had Len Dawson do the sports news at night and had special Chiefs interviews and clips on the local news hosted by Dawson. The fans loved it, the players loved it, and Lennie Dawson loved it. It connected the Fan base to the team and the players and that is exactly what this organization needs is some connection to the fans and not just the long time season ticket holders, they need to be connected to all of us. After living in several NFL areas, there is nothing like the passion that we as Chiefs fans feel for our team. It doesn’t even come close! I will always support the team no matter what but a little feeling of reciprocation would go a very very long way with the majority of fans.

  • Chief Hokie

    I want to see a rendition of “The Office” where Clark Hunt plays the part of Michael and Pioli the part of Dwight. Romeo can be Darryl the warehouse guy.

  • Doc

    Great idea, but….. I think you forgot one thing – Calrk does not liek to spend money if he does not have to. This appears to be a situation where spending money is not Calrk’s answer. No, until the seats go empty, and I am not talking about no-shows who have already purchased tickets, I’m talking about next year and not buying the tickets will there be a change. I would like to think Clark wants to put a good product on the field to keep the fans (make that money) coming in. I am of the opinion that he just does not share the passion of the Chiefs like his father did. So he will continue to put a band-aid on an amputation in hopes to stop the bleeding. Winning will only go so far to build the relationship back with the fans. Standing by your word and taking decisive action to support the Chiefs fans will be the cement that will truly build the bridge back.

    • ArrowFan

      the selling of ads will pay the bill what do think keeps 65TPT going?

  • KCinTX

    This is the result of a major change in the ones approach. My best memories of the Chiefs have nothing to do with football. I 1st met L. Hunt at Arrowhead in the early 90s. I had never been to the stadium and was passing through KC. I called the main line amd asked if I could swing by. It was the middle of summer no team activities. I was told yes. On arrival I was met by Mr. Hunt and given access to everything. I have a picture of me with my feet propped up on Marty’s desk. I was never rushed and was allowed onto the field and into the locker room. The equipment manager gave me a helm and even fit it to me. On my way out
    Mr Hunt ask me to leave him the helmet and my address. About s week or so after the 1st game I received the helmet in the mail. It was signed by the hole team and all the coaches with a hand written letter from Mr Hunt thanking me for the visit. The next time I met Mr Hunt was before a game at Arrowhead. He was just walking around the parking lots talking to everybody. No security just him and the fans. This is light years away from what we have with his children. The fans have changed but the owners have abandoned them.

    • KCMikeG

      Wow! What a wonderful experience. Game day stadium tours with a locker room pass is $200 – no helmet included. Although I did get a free jersey.

    • ArrowFan

      One of my dreams.

  • 44WinMag

    Fire Pioli, cut Cassel, Draft a franchise QB, and apologize for 40 years of futility while vowing to do what it takes to win a Championship. Freezing prices until the Chiefs actually win a playoff game would go a long way also.

  • TAZMOSIS

    As long as Pioli is the GM, I believe that there will be a disconnect with the fans. When you look at Pioli’s first draft and the players he passed on, it was a huge bust. So we go to draft #2. Slightly better, but all in all, we have to wait and see. The third year was better. Now, in 2012, Tannehill could have been the pick, although had we taken him first, he wouldn’t be starting. Hunt will not give up on Pioli, mainly because he still has another year on his contract, and Hunt ain’t paying two GMs and two head coaches. If the team is in position to get their franchise QB in the 2013 draft, and they pull the trigger on such a move, then that may improve the fans attitude. If that doesn’t happen, and I am not holding my breath, then Crennel and Pioli will both be gone. They have to realize that the Chiefs are not going anywhere with the current QBs, and only will appease the fans with someone they can build around. We have talent everywhere on the roster, except the most important spot.

  • adrian

    why do people think there are only good qbs in the first round??? we could of had Brock Osweiler. Kirk cousins. Russell wilson this year i think they are better than any qb on our team specially osweiler he gots a cannon a organization that wants to win doesnt care if they have a franchise qb they want another 1 just look at the broncos with manning and osweiler redskins with rg3 and cousins last year green bay had rodgers and flynn… favre and rodgers before that… patriots tom brady and ryan mallet. seahawks wilson(5th round pick) and matt flynn( highly paid free agent)…so just because your a 1st round pick doesnt mean you are going to be good and have success… i would still like to see stanzi because i saw him play at iowa and he has good pocket presence he stands tall in their like a tom brady remember aaron rodgers sat for like 3 or 4 years