When I think of my love for the Chiefs, a Sunday afternoon in 2009 comes to mind.
The first sentiment I felt as a new football fan, circa 2009, was an intense hatred for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The root of that hatred still escapes me. Maybe it’s because they were hard to beat on Madden, or perhaps a kid I didn’t like from school was a big fan. Regardless, I was 13, and for whatever reason, hated the Steelers.
I didn’t really have a favorite team at this point. I’m from Chicago, so my default preference should have been the Chicago Bears. But, again, for mysterious reasons, I was never big on the Chicago squad. Maybe my inner hipster was steering me away from my hometown team. In 2009, after fancying myself an elite backyard receiver, I decided to start watching the NFL consistently. At first, I was a fan of football, in a general sense. Each week of the 2009-2010 season found me planted on my couch, mesmerized in a wide-eyed, wondrous way. My viewing experience did not center on the teams on the screen, but rather, the brutish ballet of the action at work. I remember thinking, “I want to spend every Sunday for the rest of my life doing this.”
You might say, at the age of 13, I was a free agent fan, looking for a unit to attach my fandom to. One Sunday afternoon, I caught the tail-end of a Chiefs-Steelers game. Thanks to my hatred of the Steelers, I was firmly behind the outfit from Kansas City. The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers were expected to do away with the Chiefs, who were 2-7 at the time. It was an example of that undying sports narrative: the underdog vs. the lauded, championship-caliber team.
The game was tight late. The Chiefs tied the game late thanks to a touchdown pass from Matt Cassel to a young Jamaal Charles. After forcing overtime, Cassel connecting with Chris Chambers for a blistering catch and run, which set up the eventual go-ahead game-winning kick from Ryan Succop.
I struggle to come up with reasons as to why watching that came inspired love and deep fandom of the Chiefs, one that has lasted over a decade. It was an impressive win, but it wasn’t a game that will be archived amongst the greatest ever. Jamaal Charles, my favorite Chief ever, was still hardly known to me following that 2009 game. All I knew was that I wanted to keep watching the Chiefs.
Maybe fandom works in steps. First, for whatever reason, you start liking a team. Call it magic. As you keep watching, you get a sense of your favorite players. Soon enough, you’re concocting mock drafts, critiquing or praising various team hires, looking out for the team like it’s a family member. Before you know it, you’re writing a reflection piece like this, trying to map out exactly why/ when you fell for your team.
For me, I look back at that afternoon in 2009, when a below-average Chiefs team got a big win. I remember feeling happy and strangely proud as they dismantled the Steelers. Every moment of fandom followed from that moment. The smile on my face as the Chiefs won the Super Bowl was a callback to that afternoon in 2009.
It was the same smile.