Whew . . . as I write this, it has now been four days since the Chiefs took their latest thumping, this time at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. I’m not going to recap the game, because it basically went like this: Buffalo handed off to C.J. Spiller who scored. Chiefs get the ball, go three and out. Repeat. That’s pretty tough to watch, folks. It’s pretty tough to watch four quarters of the defense not being able to stop the run, the offense struggling to pick up first downs,and the quarterback getting sacked, fumbling the ball,and throwing an interception. Let’s go ahead and throw in allowing a punt return for a touchdown, while we’re at it. For the second week in a row, the Chiefs failed at all three phases of the game. And watching them play is supposed to be the highlight of my week?
The problem with being a true fan is that you’re committed to your team — win or lose. My obsession comes from my childhood, where I started actively watching them play in 1992 at the tender age of 8. Then it got serious the following year when we signed Joe Montana, a football legend I had read about in various books, complete with pictures of his Super Bowl heroics. That year, the Chiefs went 11-5 and beat the Steelers and the Oilers en route to the AFC Championship game where they were beaten rather handily by the Bills. I remember being anxious and upset because my parents thought it wise to take us to a Sunday brunch, which resulted in my missing the first half of the game. Bad luck!
Throughout the ’90s, the Chiefs were one of the winningest teams in the NFL and downright dominant at home. We had one of the best linebackers to play the game in the late Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith was a terror at defensive end. Twice, we finished at 13-3 with a first round bye and homefield advantage in the playoffs, and twice, were beaten in our first playoff game (in 1995 to the Colts and in 1997 to the Broncos). I remember those games well, and the horrible feeling in my gut and in my chest when I realized we wouldn’t be advancing any further.
In the 15 years since that 1997 season, the Chiefs have basically been a disaster and the laughingstock of the league. We did have a couple of decent seasons, most notably in 2003 when we again finished 13-3 with homefield advantage and a first round bye, but were once again beaten by the Colts in the second round. I was lucky enough to go to that game, and even though we matched the Peyton Manning-led Colts score for score, we just couldn’t stop them. Again, I had that horrible feeling coupled with the long drive back to Lincoln, Nebraska. The Chiefs have yet to win a playoff game since Joe Montana donned the red and gold back in 1993, an astonishing 19 years in the making (which also happened to be his number as a Chief).
So why is it that I put myself through this frustration and misery year after year after disappointing year? I don’t have a good answer for that, other than the Chiefs are kind of like a drug, like heroin or crack. During the offseason, when I can’t get a fix, it’s horrible. When the season starts, and I see those shiny red helmets on the green playing field, it’s like getting that fix, or that high. It feels good for awhile, especially when they win. When they lose, I just have to wait a week to get another high. When the season ends in defeat, I go through withdrawals. And finally when the following season kicks off, I relapse. I know it’s not good for me, but I don’t care.
The missus will ask me, “why don’t you just change teams?” Oh, if only it were that easy. How sweet would it be to be a fan of the Patriots or the Steelers? They are models of consistency, never really worried about making the playoffs, and appearing in Super Bowls year in and year out. But the honest truth is, if John Elway himself offered me a million dollars to burn all my Chiefs gear and become a faithful fan of his Broncos, I’d have to respectfully decline, because even though the money would be nice, I just wouldn’t be able to have that passion for that putrid team. Or any other team for that matter. I wouldn’t even be able to look at myself in the mirror. I can’t stand flip-flopping fans or the ones that say that they have “two” favorite teams. I look at them like they’re from Mars and they’re quoting Aristotle to me in Greek. I just don’t understand.
For better or for worse, the Chiefs are my team for life and my poor daughter who is just over a year old will have the misfortune of inheriting them as her team as well. Maybe you’ve noticed that I reference the Chiefs as “we” or “us.” They really are a part of me. And when they win, I feel like I’ve won as well. And when we lose, I really take it hard. I’m usually in a bad mood until Thursday, when I can start looking forward to the weekend again. But a true fan will hang in there, because eventually, the team will win, and it will be that much sweeter knowing that you were there during the bad years.
For the 28 years that I’ve been walking this planet, I’ve waited 20 for the Chiefs to win it all. It’s been 42 years since they last did it. And unfortunately for me, I’ll be willing to wait another 42 if that’s what it takes.
*If your favorite team sucks, comment below so we can share in each other misery!