With the 2022 season clearly in sight, we take you on a trip to one of the most hallowed experiences in all of sports: a game-day at Arrowhead Stadium.
Today is a great day. Not just because it’s Friday, or that it’s payday for much of the Kingdom, or even that I’m playing golf at Lake of the Ozarks this weekend and almost assuredly taking money from some of my best friends from college. It’s a great day because it represents only two (2) more Fridays that we have to wait until we have actual NFL regular season football, and three (3) more Fridays until we have Kansas City Chiefs regular season football to go absolutely ballistic over.
The offseason grind is nearly behind us. This week, the Chiefs made a round of cuts to get the roster to 85 and are inching closer to the final 53-man roster that they will ride into the regular season with.
If you haven’t started your Red Friday tradition yet, go ahead and change clothes. I don’t care if you’re in the office already, go back home and put on your Chiefs gear. Start prepping yourself for what your game-day routine and outfit are going to look like. After all, we’re getting so close to the beginning of the regular season that failing to prepare is inevitably preparing to fail.
But do me a favor for just a second: Close your eyes. Take a couple of deep breaths, in and out. Smell the flowers. Blow out the candles. Repeat 3-4 times.
Take yourself to a place in your mind that is familiar yet seems like a distant memory based on how last season ended. The frigid, miserable January evening where we all congregated and collectively had our hearts ripped out is a thing of the past. We’ve seen spring come and go. We are now in the twilight of summer at the moment as we prepare for a football renaissance like none other we’ve witnessed.
It’s a place that many of us have visited on numerous occasions throughout the years. Some of us have only been once or twice. Some never, but even seeing the atmosphere on a TV broadcast is enough to electrify the senses and bring goosebumps to the most hardened football fan. The place that you’re taking yourself to is Arrowhead Stadium. Iif you’ve never been, let me be your Sherpa of visualization for a standard NFL Sunday at the Mecca of Football.
It all begins on Friday morning when you choose your Red Friday fit of the day. From there, on Saturday, you plan out your tailgate. Do we do brats this week? Maybe wings: Either way, you check off the list of all of the things you need to ensure that the parking lot experience is up to snuff for the greatest tailgate on Earth:
- Tailgate tote packed with plates, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, grill utensils, and coozies? Check.
- Are the folding chairs and the tent packed away? Check.
- Did you remember the Bluetooth speaker? Check.
- Is the Chiefs flag properly folded and ready to go on display for hours on end in Lot F? Check.
- Propane? Check.
- Numerous coolers loaded down with your favorite adult beverages or soft drinks, condiments, or anything else that could spoil? Of course, check.
As the planning phase transitions to the execution phase, you try to get some rest on Saturday night. Can you? Well, that all depends on whether or not you’re a normal person or a psychopath. I lean more towards the latter, so waking up at 3 AM on a game-day morning and not being able to force myself back to sleep is a regular occurrence.
For the rabid tailgaters, your pilgrimage to Football Mecca begins early—for the most part before the sun even kisses the top of Arrowhead Stadium so mystically and so beautifully. For noon games, gates are supposed to open at 7 AM. The problem? Traffic begins to back up on the arterial inways of 435 and I-70, as well as the many smaller entrance roads well before that 7 AM alarm goes off. So the influx typically begins around 6:30.
As vehicles pile in to claim their familiar territory in the parking lot, fans rush to set up their grills, tents, and chairs. Some have been doing this for 40+ years; others are getting their first taste of the Arrowhead Experience. You begin to see clouds of smoke rise from everything from portable Weber grills to industrial sized pull behind smokers. Ribs, burgers, brisket, wings—everything is on the menu depending on where you find yourself in the parking lot of football’s truest home-field advantage.
You congregate. You speculate on what today’s matchup might bring. How many yards will Patrick Mahomes throw for today? How many tackles will Nick Bolton rack up? Will Sack Nation do Sack Nation things to the opposing QB? You begin to fuel the fire that will inevitably ring through the Jackson County air over the course of the next 7-8 hours. As you near game time, you pack up your tailgate and allow its utensils and equipment to rest until it is next called upon. Next up? The journey into the gates.
The Arrowhead Experience
You walk past others doing the exact same thing you came to do. A dozen plus “How bout those…?” will undoubtedly come your way. The correct response? A bellowing “CHIEEEEEEFFFFS”. Use your big boy or big girl voices when you do this—that is the key. As you enter the gates for the first time you hear and participate in the timeless tradition of the Tomahawk Chop as you wait to pass through security. You then make your way to the seats.
If you’re in the upper deck, you bang in unison on the sheet metal coverings that line the sides of the spiral walkways. If you’re in the lower deck, you continue to chop, dole out sporadic “CHIIIEEEEFS” salutations to your cohorts, and make your way to your usual concession stop for an in-stadium beverage and probably a much-needed snack to help soak up some of the liquid enthusiasm you may or may not have consumed in the parking lot.
Over the next three hours, you participate in something that has become bigger than simply watching a football game. You become the Arrowhead Advantage, a part of the 142.2 decibels that makes Arrowhead Stadium the loudest outdoor sports venue in the world. You’ll start by declaring Arrowhead the “home of the CHIEFS!” at the end of the national anthem. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get the full-body chills and swelling pride that comes with a military flyover. Good luck not tearing up.
“Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones will play as the player intros commence, and you’ll begin the process of losing your voice as you bellow from your seat for your favorite offensive or defensive players—whichever group is announced that day—as they begin feeding off of the raucous atmosphere that began brewing around 6:30 that same morning in the parking lot.
You’ll develop an instant camaraderie with those around you, assuming they’re also Chiefs fans, and a playful rivalry with fans of the opposing team who have the misfortune of being castaways in the Sea of Red. As the budding best friendships begin to unfold, you’ll join the drum deck in the official opening rendition of the Tomahawk Chop, led by a Chiefs legend or one of Kansas City’s finest. The problems for the opposing team don’t start here, but they go from a 10 to an 11 quickly.
When the action commences, you follow the signals of those who have set the tone for decades in the loudest place on Earth. Mahomes and the offense take the field first? Quiet, offense at work. If Chris Jones and the defense begin the action, don’t count on taking a seat any time soon, unless of course, you’re fortunate enough to experience an opening series 3-and-out.
You will lose your voice from contributing to the noise. Your voice will elevate to volume levels you previously didn’t know were possible. You will blister your palms from beating on the seat in front of you as the opposing offense attempts to operate amid the chaos around them. Your will crank up the intensity of all of the things mentioned above when you hear public address announcer Dale Carter say, “It’s THIIIIIIIIIIRD DOWN”. You will almost certainly curse refs at a given point. You will also thank them for calls that go the Chiefs’ way. This is the epitome of a love/hate relationship.
You’ll experience some of the highest of highs and, at times, some of the lowest of lows, depending on the game you attend and how that contest unfolds in front of you. But regardless of what happens, you will be a part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you’re experiencing this with your child for the first time. Maybe you’re taking a parent who has been a long-standing fan but never had the means to make it to Arrowhead for a game. Maybe you’re with the same gameday crew with which you’ve been to dozens, maybe even hundreds, of Chiefs games.
No matter your circumstance, when you’re there you are a part of the greatest home-field advantage in all of professional sports: The Arrowhead Advantage.
Whether you’re watching from home or in person 23 days from now when the Chiefs kick off their season in Arizona, or 27 days from now when they open the gates of Arrowhead for the first time this year, take pride in the fact that you are a part of something that is unique to not just football, but to all of sports. You are a part of a fanbase that not only supports their team in a manic way but does it—for the most part—with sportsmanship and class.
We support an organization that from the top down is run the right way. We support a team that has continued to outwork and outperform its competition at an unprecedented level over the course of the last near-decade.
We are all a part of Chiefs Kingdom, and that is something to be proud of. Let the countdown to football begin.