The Kansas City Chiefs need some help in fan relations

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 19: Helmets line the sidelines of the Kansas City Chiefs during a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 19: Helmets line the sidelines of the Kansas City Chiefs during a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M /

With myriad changes on the horizon for the Kansas City Chiefs, the relationship with their fans is the one thing that needs the most work.

With all the changes that will be coming to Arrowhead in 2018, there is one that should be a priority. The big change that needs to happen at Arrowhead has nothing to do with players, contracts, coaches or cap space. It has to do with the relationship between the Kansas City Chiefs and their fans.

The relationship between the Chiefs and their fans is a fractured one. You don’t have to look any further than across the parking lot to see evidence of this. The Kansas City Royals have one of the best relationships with their fans in any sports. I am sure that a lot of you reading this consider yourself a big Royals fan like I do. The rest of you will at least know the Royals as it would have been hard to ignore the 800,000 people clothed in blue in downtown K.C. two years ago.

I’m not trying to write a baseball article on a football website, but it’s a great comparison that we can all see because they share the same parking lot. It all starts with the players and coaches and the access the fans have to them. The Royals are one of the most accessible teams in all sports.

Their manager, Ned Yost, has a weekly interview on Fescoe in the Morning on 610 Sports Radio in KC. Unlike Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, Yost is open about anything and everything. I’ve heard hunting stories about him with Jeff Foxworthy and Dale Earnhardt Jr about as many times as I’ve heard Andy said he looks forward to a challenge. Yost recently fell out of deer stand and smashed his pelvis, and he was on his radio show the next week giving the fans every detail, including how the doctor was scared he may not live.

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It’s not Yost’s life away from the sport that we love. It’s his postgame interviews and in-season discussions. Like Reid, he’ll stick up for his guys no matter how bad they play, but he’ll acknowledge mistakes as well. When Alex Gordon is batting under .200 for the season he’ll talk about the veteran he is and how important to the team he is, but he’ll admit he’s struggling and they are working on things. And when they lose 10 games in a row and reporters are asking questions, you’ll get a classic ,“What do you want me to do, spank them?” response that shows the fans he’s frustrated too. That tells the fans he cares as much as we do. Yost is the type of guy that you want to go have a beer with. He’s that crazy uncle who always has a story and is always good for a smartass joke that your mom would yell at him for telling you.

On the other side of the parking like is Reid, where the only thing I know about him outside of football is that he likes to eat. Think about it: what do you know about Reid outside of football? He does little to no one-on-one interviews, and when he does its only football related. And those questions have to be run through the Chiefs first to make sure the interviewer isn’t asking anything they don’t want. So what you end up with is complete coach speak with questions lobbed so soft that my five year old could crush with his Nerf bat.

After a game it doesn’t matter whether we beat the New England Patriots or lose to the New York Giants, Reid’s attitude is the same. He respects the other team and look forwards to the challenge of the next opponent. If the Chiefs win, he praises the other team’s effort while saying we did some good things. If the Chiefs lose, he praises the other team’s effort while saying the loss was on him and he needs to do better. Either way, it’s quick, monotone almost like reading from a script. Then it’s, “Times yours.” If Yost is the crazy uncle with great stories, Reid is that guy at work who wants to tell you about the new shelf he put in the garage.

If it was just the coaches ,you could chalk the franchise differences up to their individual personalities. Unfortunately, it’s the players, too. It seems a Royals player is on the radio every day during the season. Multiple guys have set schedules to do interviews on 610 Sports Radio every week and they never miss it.

I’ve heard Danny Duffy on the radio less than 12 hours after getting smashed and only pitching two innings. He had a horrific game, but he was on the radio the next day and wasn’t shy. He said that he stunk, explained why he stunk and what he would do to fix it. It wasn’t, “Oh something was wrong, but I’ll watch tape and work behind the scenes.” No, he said his fastball was up, he wasn’t following through and he’s going to the mound this afternoon to fix those things.

Like Yost, we know as much about these guys off the field as we do on because they answer those questions. The team makes those players available and open to answer any question that we get to know them on a personal level. We hear what makes them tick, what they love, what makes them scared and everything in between. We  know what they are feeling, so we feel it with them. They Royals players feel like everyone’s family or best friends. When Brett Lawrie took out Alcides Escobar a couple years ago with a dirty slide, fans didn’t get mad because he hurt a Royals player. We got mad because he hit our guy–that was family out there and I’ll be damned if I let someone hurt my family. When Kelvin Herrera buzzed his tower a couple innings later, we all were 100% behind him because he was family sticking up for our family.

If you go across the street, you don’t get the family feeling. I couldn’t tell you much about any player outside of football. I know Eric Berry is scared of horses, Marcus Peters is from Oakland and Travis Kelce likes being on TV. Otherwise, we don’t know anything because the team doesn’t let us get to know them.

When was the last time you heard a player do a one-on-one interview? I listen to sports talk most of the day and I can tell you it never happens. The only time we hear players’ voices is in post-game interviews or league mandated press conferences during the week. Even those aren’t guaranteed because how many times has players ducked out of the locker room before reporters showed up or Chiefs PR cut off an interview after two or three questions.

This week is a great example as the Chiefs refused to have Steven Nelson available for interviews after he helped blow the game with his bonehead penalties. That is both cowardly and insulting to the fans that we can’t hear what he has to say. In addition, the idea that interview questions have to be approved first is so frustrating. It means one on one interviews never get good or interesting because the questions aren’t there to ask. And even in press conferences, if questions start to get to hard or the player starts to get a little to honest, Chiefs PR is right there to stop the questions. I can’t ever remember a Royals PR guy cutting an interview short. If Royals players feel like family, than Chiefs players feel like coworkers. People you like but you’re not invested in.

The Chiefs are loved in K.C. We all watch every second of every game and are invested in the team. We buy clothes, tailgate before games and feel the pain of losses and joys of wins. But the Chiefs make it feel like a one-sided relationship. Ticket prices and parking prices go up every season despite the team having no more success. The parking lot is a complete disaster to where if you arrive at the stadium two hours before kickoff, you aren’t guaranteed to be in the stadium by kick off. The team took away all the banners around the stadium showing the players charities, can anyone name them anymore? There used to be player interviews and coaches show during the week; now all we get is the weekly same ole same ole press conferences.

The Royals make me feel like a part of their family, like I’m a part of the game and a part of what they are doing. The Chiefs make me feel like an employee in a bad company. I should do my job, show up to games and pay for all their stuff. Everything else is on a need to know basis and I don’t need to know. Trust them because we are too dumb to understand what’s really going on because football is too complicated for us. And the lack of trust in their players and coaches to be able to do interviews without supervision should be insulting to them. I know it’s the NFL and it’s how most NFL teams do it, but we are K.C. and we don’t do things the way others do.

Next: When is the time to make lineup changes?

We are smart fans in K.C. We don’t need to be treated like kids by our franchise. We all love our team and we just want them to love us back. The Royals love K.C. and it’s very obvious. It’s so obvious that when a players like Jarrod Dyson and Kendrys Morales leave and come back, they get standing ovations and it brings them to tears. Same thing happened with Billy Butler and Greg Holland and will happen multiple times this upcoming season when whoever left returns to Kauffman Stadium. Across the lot, the relationship is so different that when Jamaal Charles leaves he talks smack on the city and gets a warm but not great reaction when he comes home. It’s because there is no connection.

Chiefs’ fans desperately want the Chiefs to love them the way we do. They want to feel like their opinion’s matter and that the team respects their opinions. But at this point, those feelings are not being returned. While the Royals and their fans have become that cute old married couple that is always last on the kiss cam, the Chiefs have put all of us in the friend zone.