I was walking the other day when I came across something remarkable—a fellow Chiefs fan. This is why it was a big deal.
It was a warm, sunny day the other week and I was out for walk. I had just spent the morning watching the Chiefs game and I was off to get a celebratory coffee from the local hot spot before carrying on with the rest of my day.
As I was walking down the road, I could see a man heading in my direction. Initially I didn’t pay him much notice, but as he got nearer, something caught my eye. He was wearing a hat. But not just any hat, it was a Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LIV Champions hat, and I could not believe it.
You see, I live in Melbourne, Australia and here, Chiefs fans are rare. And I mean really rare.
I have been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and over my 26 years I can count on two hands the number of fellow Chiefs supporters I’ve met here in Australia. One of those fans is my mother. So to come across someone in Chiefs gear—and Super Bowl champions gear, no less—was absolutely astonishing.
It was too rare of an encounter to pass up. I waved as we neared and said hello, and after a brief hesitation he stopped. I said I liked his hat and I told him that I was a Chiefs fan too, and then the conversation really got flowing.
We started with the big one, the Super Bowl. We chatted about the whole game—our pre-game nerves, our mid-game nerves, 2-3 Jet Chip Wasp. We talked about Damien Williams reaching for the end zone and his game-sealing run, watching the team lift the Lombardi Trophy and how happy we were for Andy Reid. We also spoke about the season so far and discussed what we thought of that day’s game—a 35-9 win over the New York Jets.
After the reminiscing was done, the conversation shifted to an intriguing topic – how did someone in Australia become not just a fan of the NFL, but the Chiefs?
Generally, most Australians haven’t really heard of Kansas City before, and even if they have, they fall for all the classic traps. Most think Kansas City is in Kansas, a few know it is in Missouri, and pretty much all are confused as to how it can be in both.
Jokes about the Wizard of Oz are often made, and questions are asked over how the pronunciation of Kansas and Arkansas can be so different. News reporters get muddled too, often referring to the team as the “Kansas Chiefs”.
But even in sporting circles, KC doesn’t tend to get a lot of attention. American football (yep, that’s what it’s called here) wouldn’t even crack the top-five most popular sports in Australia. It’s popularity is growing, but as you’d expect, most people go for the big market teams. The Patriots, 49ers, Steelers, Packers and Cowboys are generally the most popular, while Seahawks and Eagles fans are common as well.
There are five Aussies currently in the NFL – Jordan Mailata, Adam Gotsis, Cameron Johnston, Mitch Wishnowsky and Michael Dickson. A majority of those are punters, a positions Australians generally are quite adept at thanks to their backgrounds in either Australian rules football or rugby (both totally different to American football). But even then, this doesn’t generate a whole lot of hype here.
In general, the only people in Australia who go for Kansas City—either the Chiefs, Royals or Sporting—are people with some sort of connection to the town. As it turned out, my new friend fit into this category. Back when he was in high school he had a buddy who was from Kansas City and gave him a Chiefs hat as gift, and he’d supported the team ever since.
He watches as many games as he can—a sometimes quite difficult task given the time difference—and he’s even been to Arrowhead Stadium once, watching the Chiefs take on the Broncos. Some 30 years after he first started following the Chiefs, after KC won the Super Bowl, his friend from high school—now back living in Kansas City—sent him the championship hat he’d been wearing when I met him on my walk.
Eventually though, we had to move on. My new friend carried on with his morning walk, while I continued on my journey to the local coffee shop. But as I walked away and even throughout the rest of the day, I kept thinking about the significance of the encounter while marvelling about the sheer luck of it all.
What had initially meant to be just a quick trip to the coffee shop had turned into something much, much more. We chatted for at least 20 minutes, but it easily could have been for hours. It was a remarkable chance encounter between two strangers, brought together by a sports team in a random city on the other side of the world.
The power of sport truly is remarkable. It has the ability to bring people together, people who may have otherwise never met or interacted. The Kansas City Chiefs have this power too, and it truly extends around the world.