“He jests at scars that never felt a wound.” -William Shakespeare
Being a Kansas City Chiefs fan does not come without its share of heartbreak and misery. As with everything, however, it could always be better and it could always be worse.
Just ask Cleveland basketball fans.
The recent departure of LeBron James has put more of a national focus on long suffering sports fans. There are plenty of fan bases that can claim the label of “tortured” yet for the most part, no matter how great their suffering, someone, somewhere has it worse.
Every so often there is an article that ranks the most tortured sports cities. Inevitably the comments of these stories are full of complaints by fans claiming that their woes are clearly worse than those cities ranked ahead of theirs. They want to be recognized for their suffering. If you can’t be the best, you might as well slug it out to be the worst.
At the heart of the tortured cities argument and the part that often doesn’t receive enough focus, is the individual fan. “Fair Weather Fans” can’t be tortured because by their very definition, they only show up when the sun is shinning. While I don’t agree with the behavior of such fans, I have to say their logic makes sense. They don’t get too emotionally invested. They aren’t going to spend their time watching a crap team. They’ll do something else, wait until things turn around and show up when things are fun again. It is an intelligent strategy. After all, you may enjoy playing golf but you don’t head out to the course when it is raining.
Yet for some reason, there is a breed of fan, often referred to as the “Die Hard” or around here, an “Addict,” that almost seems to enjoy putting themselves through hell. These fans are they type of people that will stay until the last second of a 30 point blowout. They will refuse to give up their season tickets despite 10 wins in 3 years. They will sit in the stands in a blizzard to watch a terrible team bungle around the field.
Because they have probably experienced a perfect day.
The perfect sports day has to be hard to come by. It doesn’t matter how extraordinary the perfect day is to the sports community as a whole. What matters is how important it is to the fans. The Chiefs victory over the Steelers was, I am sure, a perfect day for many of you last season. It was exciting and dramatic. It featured many heroes and ended on a last second, heart-stopping pass to Chris Chambers, who turned things over to Ryan Succop.
Along with the Pittsburgh game, I have had two perfect sports days in the last 8 months.
The first happened last December the 26th. As many of you know, I am originally from the Cleveland area. While I am a Chiefs fan through and through, I always pull for the hometown Brownies to do well. My father is a life long fan and I would love for him to see a Cleveland Super Bowl at some point in his life. Hell, I would love for him to see a Cleveland championship period.
Living in NYC I rarely get back to Ohio so last Christmas I bought my dad a pair of tickets to the Browns, Raiders game. I figured it was a good bet for a win because the Browns were on a 2 game winning streak and well, they were playing the Raiders.
The day turned out perfectly. My old man and I packed up the cooler and the grill, drove in to the city and set up shop in the parking lot. It was freezing but we had a great time shooting the breeze, drinking a few beers and scarfing down a couple burgers. We walked in to the stadium and watched the Browns stifle the Raiders. For once it was the Browns that made the other team look foolish and I got to sit there and enjoy it with my father.
Sure the Browns only won 5 games last year. Most of the other 11 games were excruciating and likely ended with my dad turning of the TV early in order to engage in more enjoyable tasks like mowing the lawn or cleaning the basement. Yet, I am willing to bet he wouldn’t trade December 26th in for an extra 5 wins and a playoff run.
And neither would I.
The second perfect sports day came on May 29th. For my birthday, Ms. AA got me tickets to the Indians, Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. I was super excited. I hadn’t gotten to see the Tribe play in years and while I was sure the Bronx Bombers would destroy my favorite triple A team, I was happy to get out to the ball park and see some of the Tribe’s young prospects in action.
As luck would have it, the Yanks had former Indian CC Sabathia pitching that day. We took the NYC Water Taxi up the East Rive to the Bronx. It was a beautiful day to go to the ball park.
Then things quickly went down hill. The Indian were starting the young and inconsistent David Huff. They fell behind early, the guy behind our row was banging on the seat in front of him like an asshole, vibrating our seats and the largest, tallest man ever to step into a baseball stadium plopped down right in front of me, his huge head blocking out half of the field. I was trying to shrug off my grumpiness when things suddenly got very real.
Alex Rodriguez hit a line drive that bounced off Huff’s head and landed in right field. The entire stadium fell silent. Huff was face down on the mound. He wasn’t moving. Ms. AA was covering her mouth and I removed my hat, my hands on my head. We could see the replay on a TV a nearby luxury box. While they wouldn’t replay the hit on the scoreboard, those who could see the replay on TV’s around the stadium were able to see how horrifying the impact was. Even if you couldn’t see the replay you knew when it was being shown because you could head collective gasps around the quiet stadium. An ambulance drove out to the mound and Huff was strapped to a stretcher and driven away.
By the time we reached the top of the 5th the Tribe was down 10 to 4, there was still no word on Huff and I was investing heavily in the stadium’s $10 beers. Meanwhile Ms. AA was rethinking her choice of a birthday present.
Then everything changed. The Indians cut the lead to 10-5 in the 6th and then busted off a 7 run rally in the top of the 7th and ended up winning the game 13-11. We returned home and found out that Huff was going to be all right.
The game turned out to be the only of the 4 game series the Tribe would win. It was also the most thrilling, drama filled baseball game of the year for the Tribe and I was there for it.
It was a perfect day.
We’re sports fans. We’re Addicts. Every game we sit down to watch, we are facing risk. We are risking injury to our hearts and our sanity. We invest so heavily in our love of the Chiefs that the losing takes its toll. We punch walls, swear, kick things, drink too much and then we come back the following Sunday and we do it all over again.
It isn’t because we’re sick. It isn’t because we like the pain.
We do it because we know that at any moment, Jamaal Charles could have a 249-yard rushing day or Derrick Johnson might leap into the air for an interception and return it for a touchdown. Twice. We do it because we once saw Mark Bradley throw a touchdown pass to Tyler Thigpen. We do it because we remember when the Chiefs beat the defending Super Bowl Champions in overtime at Arrowhead.
We don’t come back for the pain.
We come back for that perfect day.