The Hallmarks Of Fanhood: The Tradition Of Believing In The Chiefs


Following is part of an ongoing series focusing on the “Hallmarks of Fanhood”

As a teenager growing up in southern California in the late 1960s, I was a Los Angeles Rams follower and the Green Bay Packers were the loathsome foe. I was also a believer of the NFL (vs. the AFL) so, when Lombardi’s Packers beat the unknown Chiefs in Super Bowl Uno, I was happy. But, not contented.

You see the Packers were really like the Raiders to me: the barfin’ Darth Vaders of the leagues. I even despised the Oakland lugs back then: it was a California thing I guess. A few years later, when the Chiefs beat the Vikings in SB Quatro, and because I also disliked the Vikings, I was all for the Chiefs: for my father had taught me, for some reason, to cheer for the underdog… when I didn’t even have a dog in the race. Plus, I thought Joe Kapp was crappy and he looked about as effective as a ball of cookie dough in a pinball machine.

Like many fans I formed my aliances when I was young. The reasons were many but, the loyalty was specific. Plus, red has always been my favorite color, so the Chiefs fit the bill.

Not too many years later, following the Vikings’ fourth Super Bowl loss, I began to cheer for them, much as I have for the Buffalo Bills for the past 20 years: mostly because of the underdog lessons from dear old dad.

Seven months after the the Chiefs played in, and won, Super Bowl IV, I personally participated in a summer youth volleyball league that took our team to Kansas City and then Iowa for a championship league tournament. While in Kansas City, part of our team was invited to stay in the home of a local family in Independence. Aside from the jukebox they had in their basement,  I was in awe of the amount of Chiefs paraphernalia throughout the house. They were the first true Chiefs loyalists I ever came in contact with. As any “normal” super-ego driven youth might do, I would argue with my hosts that the Rams were better than the Chiefs: that was quite a laugh.

Poor Roman Gabriel, never could get past Bart Starr, much less a Lenny Dawson.

As I was wowed by the love my K.C. hosts showed for the Chiefs, I began paying more attention to the Chiefs myself. Six short years later I moved to Kansas City where I lived for 21 years and there is now no greater personal sports tradition for me than believing in, and following, the Chiefs, even though I’ve lived in Dallas now for the past 14 years. As far as I’m concerned, the Chiefs are it.

When the Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium in 1979, they lost their LA identity and became a theme park attraction for Mickey Mousers the world over… as far as I was concerned.  

So, I was in my teens when I was re-born: as a Chiefs fan.

I was a jock of sorts in 8th grade and thoughout junior high, when I set all sorts of track records, I also popped my knee out sideways playing football. Eighth grade was my first knee operation and then after after popping my knee out in half a dozen other sports, a second knee operation was necessary in 10th grade.

Back then, they didn’t have the arthroscopic knee surgery technologies they have today. So, an operation like that required a six inch slit up one side of the knee or the other and I have both. Damaging both my ACL and MCL, I was done. Done as in… “finished” in sports. Participation-wise, anyway.

Why is any of this anecdotal history important? Because, for those who may read my post on a regular basis, you may be able to understand better the positions I take regarding our beloved Chiefs. I base so many of them upon personal experiences.

As an example: when I went to college I first began pursuing a coaching degree to coach either basketball or football: both of which I loved and played as a kid. Three years into my degree program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, I got a summer job at a local school, watching younger kids in the afternoon. I liked it so much I changed my degree program so I could work with that age – there, I found everything I thought that coaching would be. When I graduated and moved to Kansas City, I ran two private schools and learned to work with several school boards directly.

It’s that time working with school boards that led me to understand and appreciate the decisions that organizations make that are often confusing to the greater population.

Whether its deciphering where they came up with a strange TV show storyline, or understanding a political move that seems odd, or attempting to interpret an apparently flaky decision that is annouced at work: I hear the differing and sometimes despotic board room voices inside my head… working it out.. coming to their resolutions.

And sometimes those resolutions make sense.

When the Chiefs took Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson in the second and third rounds: I didn’t understand it but… I… understood.

Now, I also understand that these two players could be epic fails but, I also understand that the scouting department, the coaches, the GM, Scott Pioli, and the financier, Clark Hunt, were all on board before their selections. So, in a sense, who am I to question their decision or dedication to those choices?

It’s at this point that often I see many fans suggest that I’ve gotten carried away with “In Pioli We Trust” or they say I’m a homer… or am blind. I say not at all. I simply acknowledge that this administration believes they know what they are doing and have done their due diligence to make such decisions.

Board room choices pass thourgh a maze-like mosaic of considerations and are simply too complex for most of us to grasp… even if we were there – live, in person.

Personally, I moved away from an administration position just because of these kinds of executive ranglings and the emotional jungle of board room warfare.

As a fan, I would give whomever the Chiefs, and Hunt choose a fair and trusting chance to make the organization into a winner. And likewise for whomever Pioli, Crennel and the scouts choose as well.

Does that mean they’ll be right? Well, they haven’t been right enough times in over 40 years now to compete for a Super Bowl but, that doesn’t change my loyalty to the Chiefs tradition.

And my trust and loyalty is within reason. Example: Herman Edwards.

I thought he was a good hire at the time. Boy, was I wrong. After just one year into this tenure I began to say to myself… and perhaps you’ve heard me say this before, “If a person set out to destroy an organization, they would do what Herm Edwards is doing.”

Now, even just a few years later, I can see that Herm was between a rock and a hard place. After going 9-7 his first season, he recognized the team needed to be rebuilt and decided to gut the team and go with a youth movement, which resulted in a 4-12 season and then a farewell 2-14 season.

The problem for Herm was that he wasn’t going to get to be around to witness the benefits of his own youth movement. Besides, it wasn’t likely that even Hank Stram raised from the dead was going to survive the changing of the guard at GM in 2009.

Lesson: while I’m not a Herm Edwards fan, I can appreciate and understand and trust in what he was doing. Especially since he left us with one of the best drafts ever by the Chiefs in 2008: Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles, Brandon Carr and oh yeah, Barry “The Screen Door” Richardson.

As a full time teacher I don’t find the kind of time to research and dig into NFL draft prospects as I’d like but, I was familiar with approximately the top 150 college prospects this year. So, when the Chiefs took Jeff Allen and my first response was “Who?” I was obviously puzzled.

CBS Sports value chart had Allen as prospect rated at #147 and what surprised me most of all was… I hadn’t read anything about him. Not one post, podcast or news feature. Zilch.

Drafting Allen at #44, it first appeared to be a mistake to me. “But, what do I really know?” That was my next response. When the N.E. Patriots took Tavon Wilson with the 48th pick and he was rated by many as a sixth round value, I realized it’s not about public perception, nor my opinion, nor Mike Mayock’s (I mention him since I generally trust his thoughts), nor was this about anybody elses opinions.

Teams have to rely on their own information.

I had to keep repeating that to myself over again.

Teams have to rely on their own information.

Fans are challenged to either believe they’ve made the best choices… or not… because they trust their own sources: which is kind of ridiculous when you think about everything the organization has invested into their selections.

Traditionally speaking, it’s a new tradition that I feel personally challenged by whomever the Chiefs select. Personally challenged, because there remains a knowlegde gap nearly a month later and I still know as little as I did a month ago… about why the Chiefs have chosen their new prospects.

Yet, I am all in with the Chiefs: that’s my tradition.

I recall when the Chiefs selected DE Art Still in the 1978 draft with the second overall pick, right behind Earl Campbell. I was sure wishing there was a way to get Campbell but, over the years I was thrilled with Still. Having grown up watching the Fearsome Foursome: Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones, I have known the value of forming an imposing defensive front four. In those days that was a recipe for success. Develop a vaunted defensive line and you’d find your way to a championships soon enough. However, those Rams never found theirs.

So, while I was challenged to believe that the Chiefs were right in taking Still, in the long run, things worked out great and Still ended up with 72.5 career sacks.

Now, I’m also behind the selection of NT Dontari Poe. People have mentioned Ryan Sims in the same breath with Poe but, I’m not thinking about that. I choose not to think about that. That’s too negative for my liking. That’s a tradition, too: staying positive about the Chiefs. My “fan’s prerogative.”

Besides, Poe seems like a bit of an oversized underdog to me.

An oversized underdog: wow, my father would be proud.

So, tell me, Addicts, how did you come to believe in the Chiefs?