2.02.2020

Super Chiefs

Ho.ly. Cow.

As Kates and I lay down with the girls tonight and put them to bed, the party is only beginning in Kansas City.

For the first time in 50 years, the Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl champions.

It’s been a glorious day. The kind that you want to cherish every sight and sound for decades to come. We went to church the morning — Kates, Phoebe and I wore various forms of red, but Faye abstained — and I was overcome with glee when I walked into the sanctuary and saw the sea of congregants dressed in red. I had never seen anything like it at church and thought, “Wow. This is really cool.”

Our adult Sunday School class, where Kates and I enjoy conversing each week with some of our closest friends, spent most of the time reflecting on our relationships with the Chiefs through the years. Our friends Tim and Jenni, who hail from St. Louis and are diehard Cardinals fans, wore their red Cardinals pullovers, pledging that the Redbirds’ 13 world championships might provide positive vibes for the Chiefs. After Sunday school, I was restless and wanted to get home to begin watching the pregame. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I left the girls, as Kates had driven separately for her pre-worship choir rehearsal, and drove home by myself. The sun was shining brightly. The temperature was up to 52 degrees. And I drove with my windows down as the ice that has tortured us the last couple weeks melted away from roads.

But truth be told, as we left our annual Super Bowl gathering with friends near the end of the third quarter — because it’s a school night and we wanted to get the girls to bed — with the Chiefs trailing 10-20, I thought the 49ers were putting the game away. The memories weren’t going to matter, I figured.

I didn’t think that three weeks ago when the Chiefs were down by 24 against the Texans in the second quarter. But the 49ers, I thought, were too good.

When we got home, I immediately headed downstairs to the game-watching room. The plan was for Kates to put Faye to bed, and we were going to allow Phoebe to stay up to watch the rest of the game. A few minutes later, Faye was the first one down to join me on the couch. “Mommy said I could stay up,” she said in her little voice.

Kates came down a couple minutes later and we hooped and hollered as we watched the Chiefs score to trim the 49ers lead to 17-20. Finally, Phoebe joined us, and there we were together, watching the Chiefs doing what I had dreamed of all week.

They scored again. And again. And won the Super Bowl, 31-20. ... The four of us erupting in pure elation — me leaping from my chair and jumping around the room — when Damien Williams scored the final touchdown to put the game away will be my favorite lasting memory from tonight.

Just like those unbelievable Royals of 2014 and 2015, this Kansas City team could turn things around and put up points in a hurry.

Just like the Royals, watching these Chiefs conjures warm memories of my youth and the heartbreak when things didn’t go the their way.

When it comes to NFL football, no team has my loyalty more than the Packers. Spending the first 12 years of my life in Wisconsin and virtually every fall Sunday afternoon in front of the TV — often at my grandparents’ house with a bowl of popcorn in my lap — cheering on the green and gold is one of my favorite childhood memories.

But I’ve lived a life of two halves. One in Wisconsin. The other half in the Kansas City area. The 1980s in Wisconsin. The 1990s in Kansas City. The 2000s back in Wisconsin. And then back to Kansas City for the 2010s. My split personality when it comes to rooting for my “hometown” teams is well-documented.

And the Packers were horrible in the 1980s. So imagine what it was like for me moving to Kansas City at a time when the Marty Schottenheimer-led Chiefs were on the rise, with guys like Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, and Christian Okoye.

While a visit to Lambeau Field for a Packers game remains elusive for me, the one and only NFL game I’ve ever attended was a Chiefs game — I believe it was against the New Orleans Saints in 1991 — as part of a group outing with my dad’s employer. It was a warm fall day early in the season, and we sat near the top of Arrowhead Stadium. Steve DeBerg was the Chiefs quarterback then.

(I don’t count this, but I also attended a Chiefs game against the Buffalo Bills in 1997. It wasn’t as a fan because I went as a concession worker for a fundraiser with a student group at my college. I spent the first half of the game marching up and down the aisles of Arrowhead Stadium with a cart of water bottles strapped around my shoulders, serving any fan who flagged me down. I got to keep the $20 or so that I made in tips. As well as the Chiefs hat that went with my uniform. Our bus left after halftime. And the thing I remember more than anything about that day is how awful my back and shoulders felt afterward, and how I went to bed as soon as I returned to my dorm room later that afternoon. Back to 1991 ...)

Suddenly, my family was watching the Chiefs on Sunday afternoons. I remember the fun and excitement of watching them beat the Raiders in the first round of the playoffs in January of 1992 — with my mom in our house that was so new it had that new-carpet smell.

Things got really exciting in Kansas City, of course, in 1993 when the Chiefs somehow swung a deal and snagged the legendary Joe Montana after the 49ers had kicked him to the curb because of what they assumed was a career-ending injury, a la Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos. To make things even more magical, the Chiefs added a legendary running back by getting Marcus Allen from the Raiders. It was unbelievable, and the Chiefs seemed destined for the Super Bowl that season. One of my favorite stories to tell from that time is of a Sunday morning when our pastor opened the church service by sharing with the congregation that a member told him he needed to keep the sermon short that day “because Pastor Joe preaches at noon.” I remember the thrill of the Chiefs beating the Steelers in overtime in the first round at Arrowhead and coming from behind to stun the Oilers in the second round in Houston, and the heartbreaking loss to the Billswho went on to lose the last of their four straight Super Bowl losses — in the AFC Championship game. (Full disclosure, I loved those Buffalo Bills teams, too, but that’s another lengthy post.)

The Chiefs weren’t the same the next year when injuries finally did get the best of Montana. ... And the Packers gradually drew my family back to them with some kid named Brett Favre. The Chiefs were an afterthought when the Packers were going to Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998.

My memories of following the Chiefs during the late 90s and the remainder of my college years amount to the revolving door of quarterbacks, the shock of losing Derrick Thomas, and my roommate — a diehard fan — pounding the table or throwing things when the team erred.

Graduating from college, my first real job and my soon-to-be wife pulled me back to Wisconsin. I lost touch with the Chiefs as their fast starts to the regular seasons always seemed to fade when the playoffs came around. And the Packers still had Brett Favre.

Not much had changed for the Chiefs when we relocated to The ‘Ville in 2010. Except for the fact that the Packers had transitioned to Aaron Rodgers, and here we were in 2011 celebrating another Super Bowl championship for Green Bay.

But there was a sense that maybe, just maybe, Kansas City had something brewing with Andy Reid. Following the Packers still occupies my time during the regular season, but I’ve made a point in recent years to tune into the Chiefs’ playoff games, hoping that maybe one of these years they’d bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Kansas City, because now they have Patrick Mahomes. ...

Tonight they finally did.


Good reads ...

The sight of my news feed bursting with stories and my social media feeds flooded photos of with friends celebrating the big win has been priceless. Here is just a sampling of the stuff that caught my eyes ...

1.30.2020

Democracy or not

This.